Kento Momota captured his first title of 2020 by emphatically winning the Malaysia Masters men's singles final after the Japanese tamed Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen 24-22, 21-11.
In doing so, Momota also went some way to erasing the darkest moment of his career in Malaysia when he was suspended by the Japanese Badminton Association for illegal gambling.
The world champion was competing at the 2016 Malaysia Open when he learned his fate and returned to Japan where he was sentenced to a one-year suspension.
Momota had a chance to make amends in 2018 at the Malaysia Open, but he lost to Lee Chong Wei who won his last professional title.
On Sunday, Momota finally triumphed here, and in some style after displaying a masterclass performance in front of a packed Axiata Arena.
The 25-year-old said he was focused on winning in Malaysia.
"My condition was not perfect coming into this tournament, but I was focused this week and was able to play calmly.
"I am confident and sharp, especially after winning the World Tour Finals [in December]. I do not dwell much if I lose a point, and I think that has been the crucial for me here,” said Momota, who also took home RM122,000 for the win.
With a 13-1 losing record against him, Axelsen started aggressively and led 7-1.
He held three match points in the opening set and could have won if not for a racquet infringement at 21-20.
But even taking the lead would not have guaranteed him the title.
"Momota has shown he is stable in three games as well. That is badminton. I tried my best but it wasn’t enough. You have to have a stable game all round. If not, it will be tough to beat him," said Axelsen.
The women’s singles final saw China’s Chen Yu Fei beat top seed Tai Tzu-ying 21-17, 21-10, while South Koreans Kim Gi-jung-Lee Yong-dae emerged victorious in the men’s doubles. final
Kento Momota (JPN) bt Viktor Axelsen (DEN) 24-22, 21-11
Chen Yu Fei (CHN) bt Tai Tzu-ying (TPE) 21-17, 21-10
Kim Gi-jung-Lee Yong-dae (KOR) bt Li Jun Hui/Liu Yu Chen (CHN) 21-14, 21-16
Li Wen Mei/Zheng Yu (CHN) bt Du Yue/Li Yin Hui (CHN) 21-19, 16-21, 21-19
Zheng Si Wei/Huang Ya Qiong (CHN) bt Wang Yi Lyu/Huang Dong Ping (CHN) 21-19, 21-12