Kento Momota returned victorious from the scene of a famous setback 12 months ago, capturing the HSBC BWF World Tour Finals 2019 with a gritty fightback against Anthony Ginting.
In doing so, Momota set a new record in men’s singles of 11 titles in a season, overtaking Lee Chong Wei’s 2010 record of 10.
It was in the title clash last year, against Shi Yu Qi, that Momota unravelled in spectacular fashion. Today, faced with an opponent playing at a scorching pace, Momota seemed headed for another defeat until he turned it around.
Until the homestretch, it looked like Anthony Ginting’s speed and searing attack would wear down the world champion. The Indonesian came out of the blocks at a dizzying pace that caught Momota off-guard. The attacking pressure was sustained and precise, and even the normally unflappable Momota was forced into errors.
Having taken the opening game, and with seven straight points to 12-9 in the second, Ginting was riding a wave. Momota hung on grimly, staying in the game by pegging away to the far corners, forcing Ginting to run the extra step. A contentious second game was his after an intense battle, but Ginting shot ahead in the third to 12-5 and once again Momota had his back to the wall.
Two things happened at this point. Ginting, playing from the more difficult end after the changeover, struggled to control his lifts. The sheer physical effort he had put in started to hurt him, and he took a medical break to address a blister in his right toe. From that point, Momota staked his territory. Now he was in his home range, and he only needed to stay the court. Ginting needed to win the sprint, but Momota succeeded in turning the contest into a marathon.
“It took me some time to come to terms with his speed,” said Momota. “By the third game I knew he would be tired. This is the most difficult of all the tournaments, since all the top players were here, so I’m really happy to win this. I’m also happy that I’ve won 11 tournaments this year, it’s a great memory. Now I must look forward and continue to get better.”
Ginting said his only chance was to try and finish the match in two games, as he wasn’t sure of lasting the distance.
“I can’t do better than what I did today. The blister was painful yesterday. I didn’t want to give up the chance of playing the final. I had to win in straight games and I tried my best in the second, but I wasn’t able to control the shuttle and move him around. I really wanted to win this, but I feel happy that I could finish the year as runner-up at the Finals.”