On a semifinals day that saw several exciting matches, it was Kento Momota – despite retiring early in the third game – who got the loudest cheers.
Each of Momota’s three previous matches this week at the YONEX French Open 2021 has seen him soldier on despite his exhaustion at the tail end of month-long European campaign. After his second round match he was even unsure if he’d turn up for the quarterfinal against Shesar Hiren Rhustavito.
From the beginning of his semifinal against compatriot Kanta Tsuneyama, it was apparent that Momota was weary and in pain. Yet the world No.1 showed great character in staying the course. His pace was off but he still showed immaculate control and opportunism to take the opening game; his back started to play up in the second game and required medical attention; yet, Momota threw everything he had in a desperate last stand. It was only after his coach came over and had a word with him that he finally called it quits.
Both men’s doubles semifinals were thrillers.Ko Sung Hyun and Shin Baekcheol, who have barely made a ripple on the circuit in recent years, made their first final since the US Open of 2019 beating Olympic bronze medallists Aaron Chia/Soh Wooi Yik after coming back from an improbably position in the third.
The 2014 world champions were 13-18 down and saved three match points before winning 14-21 21-10 24-22.
They will face Marcus Fernaldi Gideon/Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo, who too saved three match points before beating compatriots Fajar Alfian/Muhammad Rian Ardianto 21-19 12-21 26-24.
This is the Minions’ first final since the Indonesia Masters in January 2020.
The mixed doubles final will feature Denmark Open champions Yuta Watanabe/Arisa Higashino against Mathias Christiansen/Alexandra Boje, who are in their career’s biggest final.
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