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Following Japan's loss to Malaysia in the quarter-finals of the Thomas and Uber Cup in Chengdu, China, two-time world champion Kento Momota retired from international badminton without playing a single match on Thursday.

At the age of 29, Momota, formerly hailed as badminton's unrivalled champion, secured 11 titles in 2019, with only six losses out of the 73 matches he competed in that year. 

However, in January 2020, following his victory at the Malaysia Masters, Momota's journey to Kuala Lumpur airport was disrupted by a vehicle accident, an event he acknowledges has had a lasting impact on him, altering his performance thereafter. Tragically, the driver lost their life in the accident, while Momota underwent surgery to mend a fractured eye socket as a result of the crash. 

Upon his return following a year-long hiatus, Momota grappled with double vision and struggled to recapture the dazzling form that had propelled him to the pinnacle of world rankings, despite clinching two additional titles. Currently positioned at 52nd in the rankings and having missed securing a spot in the Paris Olympics, Momota announced last month his intention to step down from Japan's national team following his participation in the Thomas and Uber Cup.

In Chengdu on Thursday, Momota's Japanese men's team suffered a 3-1 defeat against Malaysia in a tightly contested best-of-five tie. Consequently, the former superstar, slated to compete in the fifth and final match, did not even have the opportunity to step onto the court.

Badminton star Momota is set to call it a day at international level. GETTY IMAGES
Badminton star Momota is set to call it a day at international level. GETTY IMAGES

The opening match saw Malaysia's Lee Zii Jia secure a comfortable victory over Japan's Kenta Nishimoto with a score of 21-13, 21-3. Subsequently, in the doubles event, Takuro Hoki and Yugo Kobayashi triumphed over Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik with a score of 18-21, 21-14, 21-19, thus levelling the contest.

Leong Jun Hao secured Malaysia's lead by defeating Koki Watanabe with a score of 21-13, 21-10. Following this, the doubles pair of Goh Sze Fei and Nur Izzuddin sealed their victory and the tie by defeating the Japanese duo of Akira Koga and Taichi Saito, prompting jubilant celebrations on the court.

Momota's departure from international competition ended on a subdued note. Following his team's loss in Chengdu, Momota will restrict his participation to domestic tournaments in Japan, opting out of the international badminton circuit.

He had set his sights on competing in the Paris Olympics this summer, but his national ranking fell short of securing him a place on Japan's team. Momota previously faced exclusion from consideration for the 2016 Rio Olympics due to his involvement in gambling at an unauthorised casino.

In a significant upset, Momota suffered a defeat in the first round of the Tokyo Games in 2021, an experience he referred to as "nothing but a frustrating memory". "I don't think I was fully prepared for it but I had dreamed of playing at the Olympics for a long time so in that sense it was a good experience," he said last month.