HONG KONG (AFP) – World number one Kento Momota unexpectedly withdrew from badminton’s Hong Kong Open on Tuesday night – without playing a match – leaving Indian challenger Kidambi Srikanth to advance to the second round.
The shock departure comes only a few days after the 24-year-old beat Taiwan’s world number two Chou Tien-chen to claim his 10th title of the year at the Fuzhou China Open.
Momota and Srikanth – who have played each other 15 times, with the Japanese player winning 12 games – were set to clash yesterday, but there was no indication why he had withdrawn from his first match.
Srikanth will now face either compatriot Sourabh Verma or Frenchman Brice Leverdez to reach the quarterfinal. The 26-year-old has been on mixed form after crashing out of the Denmark Open in October.
Momota, with over 300 wins under his belt, saw his career descend into controversy in 2016 when he was suspended for more than a year and was denied a spot at the Rio Olympics.