Kento Momota has faced a lot of roadblocks in the last 12 to 14 months. After the car accident, he had surgery on his right eye and it took a long time for him to recover fully. His return to international tournaments was again delayed as he caught the Covid-19 virus.
All England 2021 was a new chapter for Momota but that did not go smoothly either. He was beaten by an unexpected opponent in the quarter-finals, the tournament champion Lee Zii Jia.
Momota’s coach, Yosuke Nakanishi, when interviewed by Yahoo, said Momota did not have any problems from a physical point of view.
The problem in the match against Lee Zii Jia, according to Nakanishi, is that Momota played with an “I cannot lose” attitude, rather than his usual “I want to win” attitude.
Momota enjoyed competing in an international tournament after a long time, but the pressure of expectation was also huge, coach Nakanishi said.
Opponents are getting better
Kento Momota is the world no. 1 and he is the player to beat for all other men’s singles players in the circuit. As a result, Momota’s gameplay and tactics are heavily studied by all his opponents – Viktor Axelsen, Shi Yu Qi, Anthony Ginting, Lee Zii Jia, Anders Antonsen.
And some of them have come up with new tactics to counter Momota’s rallying play style.
According to Nakanishi, his opponents now concentrate on playing short and very fast attacking rallies in the first game of a match when the physical energy levels are high. Using this tactical plan, they try to steal the first game from Momota and get ahead of him in the match.
This is a challenge that Momota and Nakanishi are looking to solve in the next three months.
“We have to play against them with a little more speed, whether we attack or defend. I think the challenge is to change the game plan so that we can take the initiative in the rally even when there is speed,” said Nakanishi.
Plans before the Olympics
Three major tournaments remain before the Olympic Games in Tokyo – the India Open in May, the Malaysia Open and the Singapore Open in June. Coach Nakanishi’s goal is to secure wins for Momota in these tournaments.
“I would like him to correct the issues and hopefully win the championships. Even if you play well, if you don’t win, you won’t be confident. And there’s nothing that gives you more confidence than your titles, so I want him to start winning ahead of the Olympics,” said the coach.