They came with No 1 rankings in the world and lived up to their top billing with dominating performances to walk away with their first-ever singles titles in Malaysia as the 2020 BWF World Tour calendar got underway with the Perodua Malaysia Masters which ended at the Axiata Arena, Bukit Jalil in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday.
Men’s singles world No 1 Kento Momota of Japan and women’s singles world No 1 Chen Yufei of China took off from where they left in December when they won their respective events in the season-ending lucrative World Tour Finals in Guangzhou, China.
In the Malaysia Masters final, Momota teased and tormented European hope, Viktor Axelsen of Denmark, although he was stretched in the first game in his 24-22, 21-11 win in 54 minutes. He was richer by USD30,000 that came with the title.
The Japanese ace celebrated his win with delight as it is his first title in Malaysia after years of trying, including embarrassing defeats in earlier rounds.
“Frankly, I am not in the best of physical shape but I am sharp and confident with my play,” said Momota after his win, pleased that he won the first tournament of the year to keep his momentum for the Tokyo Olympics later this year.
The win over Axelsen showed that Momota has been dominant against the lanky Dane who had a head start that soon fizzled out as the match progressed. In the end, Momota showed who is the real master on the court as he took his head-to-head record to 14-1 in 15 meetings.
For Yufei it was the opposite in head-to-records with Tai Tzu Ying standing at the top with figures of 14-2 in favor of the 25-year-old from Chinese Taipei before Sunday’s final.
The 21-year-old Yufei left Tzu Ying frustrated as she had an answer to all that was thrown against her in the 37-minute final – pocketing USD30,000 in prize money in her 21-17, 21-10 win.
”I learned from my previous defeats and played without pressure. Enjoying my game was another factor that contributed to my win. It is my first title in Malaysia and I will remember this win,” said Yufei who is China’s hope for a medal in Tokyo.
For the record Tzu Ying, the former world No 1 who has now slipped a rung in rankings, had won 14 of the 16 meetings. However, all that changed at the Axiata Arena on Sunday.
It was also a first for Koreans Kim Gi Jung-Lee Yong Dae who had a fairy tale run in the Malaysia Masters. There was no stopping the men’s doubles pair from the time they were promoted from the qualifying rounds.
They beat fifth seeds Fajar Alfian-Muhammad Rian Ardianto (14-21, 21-19, 21-15) in the semi-finals. In the final, the Koreans turned the tables on former world No 1 and third seeds Li Junhui-Liu Yuchen of China with a 21-14, 21-16 win in 40 minutes for their first-ever Super 500 title.
For the record, no Korean pair had won the men’s doubles in the Malaysia Masters. Their win made them USD31,600 richer while the losers took home USD15,200.
However, China ended the day with three titles. The Chinese also won the women’s doubles which were an all-Chinese affair between unseeded Li Wen Mei-Zheng Yu and seventh seeds Du Yue-Li Yinhui.
It was third-time lucky Wen Mei-Zheng Yu who upset their opponents 21-19, 16-21, 21-19 in a marathon 82-minute thriller in their third final in their badminton career.
The mixed doubles were also an all-Chinese affair with top seeds Zheng Siwei-Huang Yaqiong outplaying second seeds Wang Yilyu-Huang Dongping 21-19, 21-12 in 35 minutes – Badminton Asia
RESULTS (All Finals)
Kento Momota (JPN) beat Viktor Axelsen (DEN) 24-22, 21-11
Kim Gi Jung-Lee Yong Dae (KOR) beat Li Junhui-Liu Yuchen (CHN) 21-14, 21-16
Chen Yufei (CHN) beat Tai Tzu Ying (TPE) 21-17, 21-10
Li Wen Mei-Zeng Yu (CHN) beat Du Yue-Li Yinhui (CHN) 21-19, 16-21, 21-19
Zheng Siwei-Huang Yaqiong (CHN) beat Wang Yilyu-Huang Dongping (CHN) 21-19, 21-12