PETALING JAYA: The world badminton men’s singles field is wide open and many challengers will be eyeing titles with Kento Momota out in the sidelines. But the World No 1 spot remains firmly with the Japanese superstar.

The Japanese media are speculating that the 25-year-old may not play in any tournament until the Tokyo Olympics in July following his latest setback.

Momota is out for three months after having undergone a surgery last Saturday to fix an orbital floor fracture on his right eye.

He was having double vision on the first day of his training after recovering from minor injuries sustained during a fatal road accident in Malaysia on Jan 13.

Momota’s pain, however, could be his rivals’ gain as many of them finding it hard to win the top-flight World Tour tournaments with him around.

The Japanese won an astonishing 11 titles last year, including the World Championships, All-England, China Open and World Tour Finals, regarded as the most prestigious tournaments in the Badminton World Tour (BWF) calendar.

He then picked up where he left off this year, winning the season-opening Malaysian Masters before misfortune struck hours later while he was on his way to the airport.

The likes of Taiwan’s Chou Tien-chen, Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen, China’s Chen Long and Indonesia’s Anthony Ginting, the next four highest-ranked competitors, will be hoping to make the most of Momota’s absence starting with the All-England from March 11-15.

Japanese sports news portal Nikkan Sports reported that Momota would only rejoin the national team in early June and will spend the remaining time he has to prepare for the Olympics.

Japan head coach Park Joo-bong told the reporters before leaving to Manila for the Asia Team Championships last Sunday that Momota’s recovery was their top priority.

“Momota contacted me after the surgery. I told him eyes are very important for an athlete. So, I can only tell him not to be impatient, the first thing he needs to do is to let it heal fully. He still has a long career ahead.”

Momota, however, will not be missing much action leading to the Olympics.

The five notable events he will not be playing are the All-England, Malaysian Open, Asian Badminton Championships, Thomas Cup Finals and Indonesian Open.

Still, his outstanding performance last year has secured him enough points to remain as the world No. 1 for at least another six months and he will go into the Olympics as the top seed.

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