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Badminton: Japan's Momota reaches men's singles final at worlds

Kento Momota (Kyodo)

NANJING, China (Kyodo) -- Japan's Kento Momota advanced to the men's singles final at the badminton world championships Saturday, after beating Malaysia's Daren Liew in straight games.

The world No. 7 Momota defeated the No. 39 Liew 21-16, 21-5 in just 38 minutes, and became the first Japanese to reach the men's single final at the world championships or the Olympic Games.

"I thought I had a chance at winning if I have strong defense. I was able to take command of the match," he said.

The 23-year-old Momota will face China's Shi Yuqi in Sunday's final.

Liew opened the match by claiming the first five points. But Momota gradually picked up his rhythm and dragged Liew across the court with his precise shots. Momota bagged nine points in a row in the second game to seal the win.

With a bronze medal in 2015, Momota became the first Japanese man to win a singles medal at the worlds. However, he missed the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics when he was suspended for gambling at an illegal casino. He was reinstated to the national team this past January.

World No. 2 Akane Yamaguchi finished with a bronze medal here after losing 21-16, 24-22 to India's Pusarla Sindhu, ranked No. 3, in the women's singles. Sindhu, the Rio Olympic silver medalist, beat Japan's defending champion Nozomi Okuhara in Friday's quarterfinals.

Japanese pairs also booked their spots in the men's and women's doubles final at the seven-day event. Wakana Nagahara and Mayu Matsumoto beat Indonesia's Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu 21-12, 23-21 to set up an all-Japanese women's doubles final against last year's runners-up, Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota.

"I always get stiff when I play a Japanese pair," Matsumoto said. "But I just want to us to play like we always do without focusing on the fact that our opponents are Japanese."

Fukushima and Hirota, the second seeds, beat Japanese compatriots Koharu Yonemoto and Shiho Tanaka 21-19, 21-15 in Saturday's other semifinal.

In the men's event, Japanese duo of Takeshi Kamura and Keigo Sonoda defeated Taiwan's Chen Hung Ling and Wang Chi-Lin 21-17, 21-10.

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