Defending champion Kidambi Srikanth failed to claim revenge on Kento Momota as he was beaten yet again by the in-form Japanese star as early as in the first round of Indonesia Open — the World Tour Super 1000 tournament on Wednesday, July 4, in Jakarta.
The agonising defeat — 21-12, 14-21, 15-21 — comes three days after Srikanth lost in straight games in the semi-final of Malaysia Open in Bukit Jalil. This was also his fourth straight loss and seventh overall to Momota in 10 career meetings.
Srikanth had been completely outplayed by Momota in Malaysia as the 23-year-old comeback man, who mixed caution with aggression, had extended his winning streak to 21, which eventually came to an end in the final against Lee Chong Wei.
Srikanth's title defence in Indonesia was in danger as he was drawn against Momota as early as in the opening round in Indonesia.
However, on Wednesday, the Guntur-born shuttler came out all guns blazing and decimated Momota in the first game which lasted only 15 minutes.
Momota, who earned a lot of praise for his netplay last week, was not at his usual best in the first game. At the other end of the net, Srikanth was controlling the frontcourt brilliantly well. The 2015 champion was struggling to control his shots to the backline due to the drift at Istora Gelora Bung Karno as he let Srikanth win eight straight points in a row after they were tied at 8-8.
Srikanth was all ears to head coach Pullela Gopichand, who was constantly giving inputs from the sidelines in Jakarta.
Momota fightback too good for Srikanth
Momota started the second game with a lot of intent and went into the break with a two-point lead. He never looked back from there as he seemingly raised his level of netplay and converted his second game point at 20-14 to force a decider.
The third and final game was an exhibition of netplay from Momota, who controlled the rallies with ease. The Japanese star never let Srikanth catch up with him even as the Indian shuttler kept pushing himself, letting out big roars.
Momota, a cut above the rest!
Momota has been a cut above the rest ever since his comeback in 2017 following a one-year gambling ban that thwarted his dreams of winning an Olympic medal the previous year.
In the ongoing season, the 23-year-old has taken his game to a whole new level, making light work of the likes of Chen Long, Viktor Axelsen, and Srikanth. The hard-fought win on Wednesday should only propel him to win his third title of the year.
Momota will be keen on going the distance in Jakarta, especially after the slip at the final hurdle in Malaysia.
Meanwhile, India's hopes in the men's singles category rest heavily on HS Prannoy, who stunned two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan in the first round yesterday. World number 18 Sameer Verma also won his first-round match and he will face numero uno Viktor Axelsen in the second round.