No Kento Momota, no problem.
Japan’s men’s singles fans aggrieved by the two-time world champion’s withdrawal on the eve of PETRONAS Malaysia Open 2023 will now get to watch not one, but two shuttlers representing them in tomorrow’s semifinals.
Kodai Naraoka, winner of the Eddy Choong Most Promising Player of the Year Award just last month, showed no signs of slowing down as he booked his spot first, overcoming an exhausted Prannoy H. S. 21-16 19-21 21-10.
“I stuck to the same plan in the first two games. I could sense he was getting tired in the decider so I became more front-footed,” said the 21-year-old.
Tiredness however, has not been a reason to wobble for Naraoka, who won all his matches at Axiata Arena in rubber games. This week, every bout of his took more than an hour to conclude. In total, he spent a whopping 249 minutes on court across three rounds.
“I try to be mentally strong,” said Naraoka about his durability. “Mental fortitude is important because when I tire physically, I can keep going. I don’t hurry my shots while I get to maintain my speed.
“The exposure I gain by playing the top pros has also made me tougher.”
Older compatriot Tsuneyama joined Naraoka in the last four shortly after, acing his sixth meeting with Anthony Sinisuka Ginting in straight games, 21-14 21-16.
“I’m happy to win but I have another match tomorrow so I must rest, recover and get ready for that. It’s great we have two Japanese (in the last four),” said the 26-year-old, who like his junior, will contest his first Super 1000 semifinal.
Asked if he’d like to play Naraoka in the title match, Tsuneyama, whose next opponent is top seed Viktor Axelsen, said: “As a Japanese, I hope that’s the case. I will try my best.”
The other man standing in the way of an all-Japanese battle is Thailand’s Kunlavut Vitidsarn.
The most recent men’s singles final at the competition involving players from the same nation came in 2015. It was won by Chen Long against five-time world champion Lin Dan.
WHAT OTHERS SAID: