Momota shrugs off pressure to beat Hu Yun
THE men's singles final at the OUE Singapore Open yesterday pitted youth against experience and past victories against current form.
But in the 80-minute clash between Japan's Kento Momota and Hong Kong's Hu Yun, it was the former's patience and guts that were rewarded.
Momota prevailed 21-17, 16-21, 21-15 against his Hong Kong counterpart, the young 20-year-old becoming the first badminton player from Japan to win a Superseries men's singles title.
Having met seven times on the professional circuit since 2012, both players were familiar with each other's game. And for much of the first game, world No. 10 Momota looked on course to extend his superior 4-3 record against Hu, who is 13 years his senior.
But just as how he had rallied from behind so many times this Singapore Open en route to the final - taking out world No. 1 Chen Long along the way - Hu soon found a second wind and raised his game.
The see-saw battle saw gutsy shots and sublime net flicks from both players, but a successful challenge by Momota at 15-15 in the rubber game completely shifted the momentum the Japanese player's way. He went on to win the next six points - and the title.
Momota admitted that at 7-11 down in the deciding game, he had thought the title was beyond him.
He said: "Hu Yun was playing really aggressively at that point and it felt really difficult to beat him.
"But the draught was to my advantage after we changed sides. I just tried to keep pushing him to the back of the court, be patient, use my legs and make him run around."
Even as the 2012 world junior champion who had helped Japan to a historic triumph at the Thomas Cup last year, Momota said he had felt weighed down by pressure before the match.
"I knew I had a chance to be the first Japanese to win a Superseries men's singles title, so I felt some pressure coming in. I was really concerned about it...but I just tried to turn it into motivation."
Hu, meanwhile, could only rue what could have been.
Said the world No. 13: "I wanted to win so much towards the end that I didn't really put much thought into how I was going to win. I tensed up and didn't do what I'm usually able to do well."
In the women's singles, a first-time finalist also had a taste of victory after staging a late comeback.
China's Sun Yu fought off three match points against Chinese Taipei's Tai Tzu-ying to win 21-13, 19-21, 22-20.
The world No. 11 used her 1.83m frame to her advantage in her attack.
Said the 2013 semi-finalist: "I think I was bolder in my play and stuck closer to my strategy.
"I made the last four the first time I played here, and now I've gone on to win the title. Singapore seems to be a pretty lucky place for me. I'll probably be back next year."
Tai, meanwhile, ran out of steam.
"I was surprised to even be able to get to a third game. I was worn out and forced myself to hang on, but just couldn't find the strength in the end," said the world No. 6.
In the mixed doubles, China's Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei won the title without lifting a racket after teammates Lu Kai and Huang Yaqiong handed them a walkover.
Lu cited an aggravation to a longstanding problem with a cyst in his left knee, which caused him to be unable to flex it, as the reason.
Zhang and his men's doubles partner Fu Haifeng were beaten 21-15, 11-21, 21-14 by Indonesia's Angga Pratama and Ricky Karanda Suwardi.