Kenta Nishimoto ( 西本拳太 )

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Nishimoto is tenacious, hard-working, a good receiver/retriever and seems to have momentum on his side. But, as far as I am concerned (and I am heavily biased, of course), I do not find his playing style particularly exciting; nor his form as aesthetically pleasing as Momota’s. But then, there are very few players who can match Momota regarding poise and beauty of movement.

What irks me most about Nishimoto, and this is not his fault, is the fact that although he, too, confessed to entering an illegal casino (on two occasions, although apparently did not place any bets), he was subjected to nowhere near the same gravity of punishment or social censure that was afforded to Momota,.. and almost destroyed the latter’s badminton career. Even now, Japanese newspapers, when mentioning Momota, invariably start with, “Momota Kento, whose suspension for illegal betting was lifted in May 2017….” As for Nishimoto, you would never even know that he was involved in the scandal. That absence of public/mass media scrutiny no doubt helps with regard to freedom of movement and confidence.

That aside, it is good to see that Japan has an MS player who has twice beaten LCW. It is something that Momota never managed. However, Momota, for his part, has never been defeated by Nishimoto, even after the suspension.

As far as general sentiment in Japan is concerned, Nishimoto plays a distant second fiddle. Needless to say, his achievement in the Malaysia Masters did not make national television here, nor was it picked up in any depth by the newspapers. It looks like, at least for the time being, the outside world may be more interested in Nishimoto’s accomplishments than is Japan.

I do not know if Nishimoto has improved that dramatically. In the All Japan Championships of Nov/Dec 2017, he was defeated by Takeshita (as was Momota). And, although he had a good run at the French Open, he was defeated in R1 by Anders Antonsen in the China Open, and didn’t even make it past the qualifier in the Hong Kong Open (both November 2017). He is hardly consistent.

Hmmm…. maybe with the demise of the LD and LCW, the world of badminton has weakened, and in this general vacuum players like Nishimoto can actually make it to (former) SS finals.