September 20, 2019
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Momota cruises into 2nd round of badminton World Championships

Basel, Switzerland, Aug 19 (efe-epa).- Japanese world No. 1 Kento Momota breezed into the second round of the 2019 BWF World Championships with a 21-9, 21-10 victory here Monday over Vietnam's Cao Cuong Pham.

The reigning badminton men's singles world champion headed up a group of seeded players who advanced with straight-game wins on the first day of action in Basel.

The 105th-ranked Pham had his best stretch of the match in the early going at St. Jakobshalle arena, tying the first game at 6-6 when Momota sent a down-the-line smash well wide of the sideline.

But the 24-year-old Japanese superstar then methodically seized full control of the contest by winning 11 of the next 12 points, with the Vietnamese player unable to move quickly enough to cover the court and helping his opponent's cause with a series of mistakes.

Momota then easily wrapped up the first game with a smash that Pham was unable to handle.

Clearly intent on saving energy for battles later in this week-long tournament, the top seed remained focused at the start of the second game to grab a commanding 11-4 lead at the mid-game interval.

Although the opponent did not offer a severe test, Momota showcased his deft touch at the net and outstanding defensive skills over that span.

He then continued his dominance down the final stretch, clinching the victory when Pham missed a forehand in the net.

Next up for the Japanese player in Tuesday second-round action will be 87th-ranked Spaniard Luis Enrique Peñalver, a 21-15, 21-14 winner over Belgium's Maxime Moreels.

Momota is the clear favorite to defend his title especially due to the absence of injured world No. 3 Shi Yu Qi, who convincingly beat the world's top player to clinch China's 3-0 victory over Japan in the Sudirman Cup final in May.

Momota easily defeated Shi 21-11, 21-13 in the final of last year's World Championships, which was held in Nanjing, China.

Two other Chinese veteran greats, however, could pose a threat to Momota later in the tournament: 30-year-old Chen Long, the 2014 and 2015 world champion and reigning Olympic men's singles gold medalist; and 35-year-old Lin Dan, a five-time world champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist.

Although Chen and Lin are not as consistent as they were earlier in their careers, both figure to be at their best at the biggest tournament of the 2019 badminton season.

The third-seeded Chen moved through to the second round on Monday with a 21-14, 21-17 win over Russia's Vladimir Malkov.

In other action Monday involving men's singles players, sixth-seeded Indonesian Anthony Sinisuka Ginting topped Mauritius' Georges Julien Paul 21-15, 21-15 and eight-seeded Japanese player Kenta Nishimoto routed Finland's Kalle Koljonen 21-11, 21-14.

Two Japanese leading contenders for the women's singles title - top seed and world No. 1 Akane Yamaguchi and the 2017 world champion, third-seeded Nozomi Okuhara - will play their opening matches on Tuesday. EFE-EPA

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