Japanese badminton ace Kento Momota narrowly pulled through his first Malaysian match in over two years on Thursday as he recovers from a car accident in 2020 that sent his career spiralling downwards.

In a nail-biting encounter lasting 55 minutes, the World No. 2 beat Hong Kong’s Angus Ng Ka-long 11-21, 21-8, 21-18 in the second round at the Malaysia Open.

Momota walked into Kuala Lumpur’s Axiata Arena the fresher of the pair after his opponent in the first round, Thailand’s Kantaphon Wangcharoen, forfeited their game on Wednesday. Cries of “Momota, Momota” greeted the former two-time world champion from the mostly Malaysian crowd as he and Ng - ranked 13th in the world - took to the court.

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But victory did not come easily for Momota with unforced errors forcing the 27-year-old to tumble 11-21 in the first set. Recovering in the second game, Momota then dominated Ng 21-8 and kept his nerve to win 21-18 in a tight final contest.

Momota’s career took a hit in January 2020 when he was involved in a road accident just hours after his victory at the Malaysia Masters, a tragedy that killed his driver and left Momota with a fractured eye socket. Out of action for a year, the left-hander has found it hard to bounce back from injury, flopping at the Tokyo Olympics and losing in the first round at four of five singles tournaments he has entered this year.

Momota, who last triumphed in Malaysia in 2020, will next face Indonesia’s World No. 26 Shesar Hiren Rhustavito in the last eight.