In less than a fortnight's time, the year 2019 is going to be a thing of the past. However, it is leaving a mark in the world of badminton history that will be remembered for years in the future.
It is the monumental achievements of Japanese ace shuttler Momota, who won a record-breaking eleven BWF Super Series Titles in a calendar year. He erased the record win of ten supertitles standing in the name of Malaysia player Lee Chang Wei, achieved in the year 2010.
15th December 2019 witnessed the new champion scripting a new record in the history of world badminton with an unbelievable feat of registering the eleventh super series title in one year. Kento Momota, a 25-year-old 5 ft 9 in left-hander lad from Japan, achieved this with his unnerving talent in the sport.
It is not a total surprise for those badminton lovers/followers, who witnessed the men's finals of 2018 World championships, Asian championships, and BWF World tour tournaments. He gave a hint in those finals that he is unstoppable and would make this achievement possible. He embraced both the titles (2018) World championships and Asian championships with straight games, 2-0, wins in the finals.
In the year 2019 Momota participated in seventeen BWF super series tournaments. In these tourneys, he played a total number of 73 matches out of which he was victorious in 67 .i.e. 90 + % success rate and the failure rate is less than 10%.
He reached the finals of twelve super series tournaments during the year. however, he recorded a title loss to Anders Antonsen of Denmark in the Indonesia Masters final, securing runner-up position. He was also defeated in the first round of Malaysia masters.
An early first-round elimination in this tourney made him realize his strengths and weaknesses and stand firm on the ground that secured him two Super 1000; three Super 750; two Super 500; one Super 300; and a world championship titles during the year.
He gave a walkover to Kidambi Srikanth in the first round of Hong Kong Open tourney only to make himself fit for the BWF super series title.
His first title in 2019 is German Open, a super 300 tournament in March 2019 defeating Kenta Nishimoto in straight games, 21-10 and 21-16.
In March he won his first and the most coveted and craved badminton title - the all England Open beating Victor Axelsen of Denmark in a three sets final, with scores of 21- 11, 15 - 21 and 21 - 15. It is the dream of every shuttler to lift this super 1000 title, as it is considered as prestigious as a Wimbledon title for a tennis player. Momota is the first Japanese shuttler to win this championship.
In April 2019 the badminton world saw him bagging his second Asian championship beating Shi Yugi in three games final with scores 12-21, 21-18 and 21-8.
His next two titles during the year were Singapore open (Super 500 tournament) and Japan open (Super 750 tournament) getting past Anthony S Giting and Jonathan Christie respectively in the finals.
In August, Momota reclaimed his world championship title taking sweet revenge on Anders Antonsen for his win in the final of Indonesia Masters earlier in the year. During this world championship final Antonsen had found no match to Momota and lost meekly in straight sets, with the scores at 21-9 and 21-3. In the entire match, Momota lost 12 points, showing his total control of the game.
Later with the World Championship title for a second successive year, Momota became the fourth player ever to win Back-to-Titles on a short (Asian championship, Singapore open, Japan open and world championship), earlier players all being Chinese.
Further, he bagged his first titles at China Open defeating A S Ginting (19-21, 21-17, and 21-19) and Korea Open beating Chou Tien-chan in straight games (21-19, 21-17).
Momota defended his titles at Denmark Open and Fuzhou China Open and overpowered Chen Long (21-14, 21-12) and Chou Tien-chan (21-15, 17-21 and 21-18) respectively only to increase his calendar year titles count to ten.
The final mega BWF super series title is his eleventh title of the year making him the undisputed king of badminton. On 15th December 2019, Momota broke the 10 year-old record of ten super series titles set by Lee Chong Wei, in the three-set final match defeating A Ginting with scores 17-21, 21-17 and 21-14.
The tremendous aggressive fightback shown by Momota in the third game when he was trailing at 5-12 is indeed worth rewarding. He not only leveled the scores but also went on to win the game and match by shedding only a mere two points to the surprise if his opponent Ginting. Ginting tried his best to stop Momota's aggression but in vain. Ginting could not come in the way of creation of history though he needed only seven points to clinch the title. Ginting will try to forget this defeat as early as possible when Momota would like to cherish this win as long as possible.
Momota's impeccable defense and netplay is a feast for the viewers. He was trailing one game down and managed and maintained his nerves to get back into the game by winning the second game at the same score he lost the first game i.e 21-17. The magnificent recovery shown by Momota in the third game will be recalled for long by the coaches in the game and also in personality development classes to make it clear "Trailing is Not Losing", it is only a situation, which you can overcome and invert with your attitude and determination.
Though Ginting failed to come back into rhythm in the third game after the initial lead of 12-5, he will go into records as the only player who extended the finals matches, three games on three occasions against Momota during this golden record year 2019.
At the end of the badminton season, 2019 Momota lived on the large canvas of the Japanese badminton arena with many firsts. He is the first Japanese player - to win the All England open; to win back-to-back titles in six super series tournaments; the only player to reach 12 super series finals in a calendar year; only badminton player ever to win half-a-million US dollars prize money in a calendar year.
He is cool and composed in the court, be it lead or trail. He has the art of putting his best to come back into the game. This surprised many of his opponents who were about to win the game but ended up losing it. He is the master of realizing his mistakes and switching over to another strategy when he is trailing. He does not resort to any gimmicks to gain a win over the opponents, he believes in his competency. He displays all the shots, like a warrior using all his weapons in case of need.
Badminton racquet is a magic wand in his hand and it controls the placement of the shuttle to mesmerize the audience, and not to mention, the opponent. There were moments that the opponents were helplessly looking at their coaches for tips to control Momota's supremacy in the court. Coaches of the opponents had no game plan to stop him in the court.
It appears that Momota does no homework before facing a particular player. He just plays his game and it is for the opponent to try all his plans before getting defeated.
Consistency is a small word to attribute the continued performance of Momota all along the 12 month period,i.e we will run short of superlative words to describe his performance in the court. Down the line shots show confidence; drop shots near the net speak of his perfection and selection of shots; the placing shots show his clearness; the smashes tell his aggression; the capacity to play long rallies depict his stamina and fitness. His control of the shuttle while playing net to net games is marvelous and amusing. When Momota is dominating the game, his opponents forget their original game and fall prey to his excellence.
Every point win by him makes him stronger. One hardly finds a weakness in his game. Coaches and opponents run out of strategies to push him into the lap of defeat. He is a complete player who can bring out his potential to the best, adjusting according to his opponents. Above all, his attitude and determination to win the game is the priceless asset that always pays him at the time of need.
Momota and Japan are looking forward to the Tokyo Olympics 2020, the gold medal/only feather that is due to reach the neck/crown of Momota. It's only a few months away from now for this to happen, which would not be uncertain when Momota, the BWF best male player of 2019, continues his form and winning spree.
Momota must be waiting and planning for the great event of listening to his country's national anthem/song played upon his winning the Olympic Gold, before his favorite home crowd at Tokyo in 2020.