World No 1 Kento Momota proved too hot to handle for defending champion Srikanth Kidambi at the Denmark Open Super 750 tournament, winning the semi-final encounter in straight games on Saturday in Odense.
Momota, triumphing 21-16, 21-12 in just 42 minutes, extended his winning run against Srikanth to six consecutive matches. The overall head-to-head now reads 9-3 in favour of the Japanese shuttler.
Srikanth came into the match in good form but was stretched in the second round by Lin Dan and in the quarter-final by compatriot Sameer Verma, both games lasting more than a hour and going the distance. Momota, on the other hand, dropped just one game in the first round of the tournament and looked in prime form.
It was a confident, dynamic start by the reigning world champion but Srikanth stayed within touching distance in the early part of the first game with a couple of powerful smashes, trailing 3-4 and then 4-5 before winning a long rally to make it 5-5. A backhand flick from Srikanth was a highlight of that phase of play as he opened up a 9-6 lead.
From there on, Momota started imposing himself on the game and dictated the tempo of the rallies. Srikanth’s power advantage was soon taken out of the equation with Momota quickening the pace and keeping the Indian on his toes and on the back-foot. From 6-9, the world No 1 won 8 of the next 9 points before taking a 19-13 lead with a brilliant inside out smash. Momota then had seven match points, three of which were saved by Srikanth. The Japanese eventually converted the fourth game point.
The second game was once again off to a tight start with both players trading serves. With Srikanth now needing to find another gear, it was Momota who upped the ante with some deft net-play and extra-ordinary retrieving skills, frustrating the seventh seed Indian into committing errors. In one instance, a rally that was dominated by Srikanth saw Momota return everything thrown at him and the former ended up netting a smash in an attempt to close out the point. That rally summed up the hold Momota had on the proceedings.
After taking a 11-7 lead in the mid-game interval, it seemed to be a matter of time for Momota and he closed out the game 21-12, in no time.
Srikanth, who won the tournament in 2017, showed flashes of his brilliance but this win for Momota is another reminder that the 24-year-old Japanese shuttler is on a different level compared to his peers at the moment. He will play his eighth final of 2018 on Sunday.
In the women’s singles, Saina Nehwal defeated Gregoria Tunjung in the semifinal on Saturday.