It was a 56-year wait. Many tried and failed. Two went close but fell at the final hurdle.
In 2019, the ‘English wall’ was finally brought down. And it had to be at the hands of the all-conquering Kento Momota.
The world’s undisputed top men’s singles star accomplished what many of his countrymen could not – become the All England Open winner.
It did not arrive easy as Denmark’s 2017 world champion Viktor Axelsen refused to throw in the towel after giving the first game away but Momota’s sheer will to succeed carried him through despite being stretched to three games. He won the final at Arena Birmingham 21-11 15-21 21-15.
Momota’s victory ended his nation’s long wait to have a men’s singles champ at the tournament. Japan had its first player Yoshio Mokiya at the 1963 edition, then despairingly watched Masao Akiyama and Kenichi Tago finish runner-up in 1966 and 2010 respectively.
Momota outlined his aspiration with utmost conviction afterwards, probably summing up the overwhelming feeling of the Japanese sporting community.
“This title is comparable to the World Championships. However, I don’t want to be satisfied just yet,” said the two-time world champion, who made his All England debut in 2014.
Momota lived up to his word – he ended a stellar season with 11 titles. It marked a new record for men’s singles, surpassing Malaysian Lee Chong Wei’s 2010 haul of 10 triumphs.
An athlete at the absolute peak of his powers, the 25-year-old is set to continue treading the path to sporting greatness when he returns from the sidelines very soon.