In what is an expected, if disappointing news, World champion Kento Momota has withdrawn from the BWF World Tour Super 500 Hong Kong Open. Two days ago, the Japanese player was involved in an excruciatingly close match with Chou Tien Chen for the Fuzhou China Open title. It comes as no surprise that the world no. 1 now needs some rest.
With him out of the picture, the race for the Hong Kong Open men's singles title is left wide open. Chou Tien Chen, who came tantalizingly close to beating Momota in Fuzhou, now has a golden opportunity to win a major title. He is the top seed remaining in the competition and would be hard to stop.
The biggest challenge to Chou may come from two Chinese players – Shi Yu Qi and Chen Long. The former hasn't been able to regain his form after returning from injury and was forced to retire in his second-round match of Fuzhou China Open last week. More than the results, it would be his fitness that will be in the spotlight. His first-round opponent is a very capable B Sai Praneeth of India. Getting through him won't be easy.
The Olympic champion Chen Long, on the other hand, is struggling with inconsistency. After winning the French Open, his first title in a year since winning the same tournament in 2018, he was knocked out in the second round of the Super 750 event in Fuzhou last week. If he has to successfully defend his Olympic gold next year, or, at least, win a medal, results have to get better.
The legendary Lin Dan is also in the mix after a first-round defeat last week at the hands of Chen Long. With age not on his side, every tournament for the five-time World Champion becomes a test of survival.
The Danes are well represented again. Viktor Axelsen would fancy his chances. The man who has defeated him twelve times in a row – Momota – is out of the way. This is his opportunity. World Championship silver-medallist Anders Antonsen is another player from the country who can play a big part in the tournament.
The Hong Kong Open also presents a great opportunity for the two leading players from Malaysia – Jonatan Christie and Anthony Sinisuka Ginting. Both players have, this year, come close to winning major titles but faltered on the final hurdle. Could it be different this time around? Only time will tell.
Unlike women's singles, where there are more than half-a-dozen players always competing for the top spot, men's singles has been dominated by Momota. The World champion has won 10 titles this year already. It's time to see who the second best is.