BWF Fuzhou China Open 2019: Kento Momota defeats Chou Tien Chen in hard-fought duel to regain title

In one of the best matches of the year, Kento Momota fought off a determined Chou Tien Chen to regain his title.

Fuzhou China Open
Momota and Chen with their trophies Hotstar screengrab

Kento Momota was the favourite going into the final of BWF World Tour Super 750 Fuzhou China Open. But what was witnessed was an incredible encounter where the World champion was pushed to his limit. In one of matches of the year, Momota triumphed 21-15, 17-21, 21-18. The uncharacteristic exultation that the champion displayed was a proof of how hard he had to work today.

In an interesting move, Chou decided to engage in long rallies with Momota. This did not deter the world no. 1 as it is the style he is used to. He patiently responded to all the shots and, using his smash and other weapons, maintained his lead through the game. On various occasions, though, it was simply a case of Chou losing the battle of attrition.

Unlike the quarter final of this event, when Momota faced Viktor Axelsen, the World champion showed a little more initiative. Still, the Taiwanese player just couldn't keep up with the marathon runner-like stamina of Momota. Apart from the odd good smash, Chou couldn't trouble the Japanese as the latter eased his way, without any hustle, to the first game.

In the second game, things changed as Chou decided to become more aggressive and look for winners rather than try to wear Momota down. He had success in the early stages of the game and started putting his much more fancied rival in some sort of difficulty. At the mid-game interval, the Chinese Taipei player was ahead 11-6.

Through some brilliant smashes of his own and good defence against those of Momota, Chou got a 15-11 lead at one stage. One thing was very clear, the longer the rally went, the more likely it was to end in Momota's favour.

Kento Momota
Momota had to dig deep for this win Twitter/BWF

As the second-seed got close to winning the second game, the two-time World champion upped his ante. But Chou used his brilliant forehand smash down the line on various occasions to keep his lead going and, eventually, seal the second game.

The decider started with three errors from the Taiwanese player that gave Momota a 3-0 head start. The top-seed was also looking more energetic and purposeful. He followed up the first three points with two good smashes down the line to go 5-0 up. But Chou Tien Chen player fought back to score three points in a row.

What was working in Chou's favour was the fact that he was having the better of his opponent at the net and wasn't allowing Momota many points from his smash. Suddenly, Momota was looking vulnerable and points were being scored a little more easily by the second-seeded player. It was neck-and-neck at the mid-game break with the world no. 1 leading 11-9.

After the break, Momota started to play some good smashes and increased his lead to 15-11. Chou fought back with vengeance and levelled the score. Noticeably, whenever Momota tried to attack from the front court with body smashes, Chou had his measure.

Now, Momota decided to try a new tactic – playing at the net. This worked for him on a couple of crucial moments. At 18-17, Momota leading, Chou pushed the shuttle long and Momota followed up with a brilliant cross-court smash to gain three match points. After losing one, he converted the next to win the Super 750 event.

This is Momota's tenth title this year but he has probably not fought as hard for any of the other nine as he did for this one.