Fourth seed Kento Momota sailed into the second round of the world championships in Indonesia on Monday, declaring he only has one goal in mind at badminton’s most prestigious tournament — the winners crown.
The Japanese wunderkind never looked in trouble as he eased past Germany’s Dieter Domke 21-17, 21-8 in Jakarta, the very same arena where the 20-year-old emerged victorious from the Indonesian Open just two months ago.
Momota said winning that title had given him great mental confidence and he was not feeling any pressure chasing his first world crown, despite carrying Japan’s hopes on his shoulders after Kenichi Tago withdrew due to injury.
When asked what he expects to achieve in Jakarta, the confident young shuttler didn’t hide his ambitions.
“To be champion,” he told reporters via a translator.
But he’ll face a slew of formidable players all with their eyes on the top prize, with world number one Chen Long, five-time world champion Lin Dan and Malaysian superstar Lee Chong Wei posing the biggest hurdles.
Taiwan’s Chou Tien Chen is no longer in contention, becoming the first seeded casualty of the championships when he crashed out in the opening round.
The sixth-seed didn’t last 40 minutes against Malaysia’s Zulfadli Zulkiffli, who demolished him 21-5, 22-20.
Chou’s shock exit comes just weeks after he staged a major upset of his own at the Taiwan Open, where he dismissed world number two Jan O. Jorgensen before prevailing over five-time world champion Lin Dan in a marathon contest.
None of that impressive form was on display in Jakarta as Zulkiffli — a former world junior champion 30 rankings behind his Taiwanese opponent — ended his title dreams.
Zulkiffli, 22, had not been expected to survive his opening match and approached his formidable opponent with low expectations.
“I just played as an underdog. The pressure was on him,” he told reporters after his stunning upset.
– ‘I rushed to attack’ –
Home favourite Tommy Sugiarto earlier cruised into the second round of the world championships with a two-set win over European Games victor Pablo Abian as the tournament got under way in Jakarta.
Sugiarto, Indonesia’s top medal hopeful, defeated the Spaniard 21-16, 21-13 and will now face unseeded Hong Kong shuttler Wei Nan.
The 15th seed looked a little unsteady in the first set, with Abian taking an early lead and threatening to upstage the Indonesian champion before a rowdy home crowd.
But Sugiarto recovered with a string of quick points to claim the first set, before overpowering the visitor in routine fashion in the second.
“I rushed to attack early on, and did not relax,” he told a post-match press conference.
“I tried to get the confidence back to reverse the situation.”
Hong Kong’s Wei Nan had to fight hard to secure his second-round showdown against Sugiarto, only just prevailing over American Howard Shu in a three-set cliffhanger that ended 21-19, 24-26, 21-18.
Elsewhere 10th-seeded Indian shuttler Parupalli Kashyap made light work of Holland’s Erik Meijs, while fellow countryman and 11th seed H.S. Prannoy trounced Brazil’s Alex Yuwan Tjong.
Seventh-seed Viktor Axelsen wasted no time with Petr Koukal, thrashing him 21-14, 21-11.
Bigger names, including China’s Lin Dan and Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei, are due to play their opening matches on Tuesday. – Agence France-Presse