Tokyo, June 17, 2022 (AFP): Japan’s Kento Momota was once badminton’s undisputed king but his career has gone into free fall ever since a car crash more than two years ago which left him badly hurt.
There are now severe doubts that the 27-year-old former two-times world champion — who was embroiled in a gambling scandal earlier in his career — will ever reach the top again.
Momota’s world was turned upside down in January 2020 when the vehicle taking him to Kuala Lumpur airport crashed hours after he won the Malaysia Masters, killing the driver and leaving the player with a fractured eye socket.
He was out of action for a year and is now a shadow of his former self — the left-handed ace flopped at the Tokyo Olympics and has lost in the first round of four of the five singles tournaments he has entered this year.
“His defence is still a bit dubious, his net game isn’t as strong as it used to be and then of course his self-confidence must have taken a big, big hit,” former Danish national team coach Steen Schleicher Pedersen told AFP.
“Maybe even his life values, after being in a crash like that where the driver died. Maybe he doesn’t have that hunger any more, maybe he doesn’t care, maybe it’s changed him,” added Pedersen, now a badminton commentator.
Pedersen said it looked like Momota’s vision was affecting his play last year, especially his defence.