Sunday’s BWF Denmark Open’s men’s singles finals was supposed to be a one-sided affair favoring Japan’s world no.1 Kento Momota.
The world no.2 Viktor Axelsen has a dismal 14-1 head-to-head record against Momota. The big Dane was playing his maiden Denmark Open final; the odds did not favor him to overcome the barrier and lift the championship.
All their previous encounters are proof that Kento Momota always had an edge against Viktor. But the reigning Olympic gold medalist was there to prove everyone wrong.
The last time these two fine athletes faced each other was at the finals of BWF Malaysia Masters back in January 2020. Soon after the tournament Momota met with an accident and was forced out of contention till complete recovery. The entire world went to a standstill due to the COVID-19 outbreak and BWF halted all the events until further announcement. Since the Covid-19 break, Viktor Axelsen has come back a different player altogether.
Before the Denmark Open, the badminton governing body, the Badminton World Federation in the last two years has announced close to 14 tournaments including the Tokyo Olympics, Sudirman Cup, and Thomas & Uber Cup. Viktor is the only player to be featured in almost ten of the finals and winning close to six tournaments including the Olympics.
Momota’s absence due to an accident and COVID break gave an advantage to Viktor going into the finals of the Denmark Open. The Japanese great was at his best as he took the first game from Viktor who at one point was leading Momota 14-7. The world no.1 read through his opponent’s attacking game and won the first game 22-20.
Viktor who was playing his first Denmark Open finals was under tremendous pressure going into the second game. Through the second game, the Dane made some silly errors and misjudgments but only to bounce back at the right time to take the game 21-18.
In the third and final game, the homeboy was in control of the match. The Japanese great lost his mental strength as he squandered in the decider. On the other side of the court, despite the fatigue, Viktor was pumped up as the frantic home crowd cheered on. Viktor leading 11-6 at the change of ends was more than enough for the Olympic Champion to clinch his first-ever Danish title. Closing the match 22-20, 18-21 & 12-21.
Talking in the post-match interview Viktor said, “After the first set, I was ready to cut off both legs and go away in a wheelchair.”
“It is overwhelming and tiring at the same time. I’m very happy to have won the home tournament by beating someone of Momota’s caliber in the final. He’s a great player. But winning it(Denmark Open title) is a dream come true for me. And to see my friends, family, my amazing girlfriend and dad and mom. It is absolutely fantastic”, the champion concluded.
The last time Viktor Axelsen beat Kento Momota was seven and half years back at the German Open in 2014.
Has Viktor ended his mental-block against Momota and will the Momota-Axelsen rivalry achieve the legendary status in badminton like that of Lee-Lin, time will only tell.
Next stop, Paris for the BWF Super 750 French Open Championship, from 26th-31st October.