Japan's Kento Momota suffered a heavy defeat in the Malaysia Open final Sunday against world number one Viktor Axelsen, the latest disappointing performance from the once undisputed king of badminton.
The tournament marked the first time Momota has played in Malaysia since he was involved in a car crash there two years ago, which sent his career into free fall.
Denmark's Axelsen, the reigning Olympic champion, outplayed the Japanese star from start to finish, taking only 34 minutes to win 21-4, 21-7.
Momota – playing in his first final of the year after a torrid run of form – received a rapturous welcome as he arrived at the arena in Kuala Lumpur.
But it was a one-sided game, with Axelsen immediately taking control, racking up points with a series of explosive smashes.
The first game was over quickly, and in the second Axelsen maintained the high tempo to force Momota into numerous unforced errors.
After the match, world number two Momota said that Axelsen's "level was higher than I expected”.
"I thought I was getting better in this tournament, but it was a bit too much for me today. But I will use the experience of playing in this big final for upcoming tournaments," the 27-year-old added.
Axelsen said he was surprised he managed to play so well.
"I was surprised with my levels today especially that I managed to find explosiveness in my game," he said.
"I was expecting a tough match, but it was great to play Momota in another major final.”
It marked Axelsen's fifth victory of the season. The Dane had already won the All England, European Championships and two titles in Indonesia.
Momota was involved in a car crash that killed his driver on the way to the airport after winning the Malaysia Masters in January 2020. This year's edition of the Masters takes place next week.
It left Momota with a fractured eye socket and double vision. When he did return after a year out of action, the Japanese star was a shadow of his former self.
He flopped at his home Tokyo Olympics last year and lost in the first round in four of the five singles tournaments he had previously entered this year.
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