"I talk to myself during matches" - Momota Kento shares a top tip on return to court

Two-time defending champion reveals how mindfulness strategy is helping him on comeback trail and journey to Tokyo Games in 2021.

By Shintaro Kano and James Pratt ·

Talking to yourself is seen by some as "the first sign of madness," and by others as a valuable mindfulness tool.

For the world number 1 men's badminton player it's a top tactic for sporting success.

Momota Kento revealed that self-talk is one of the key mental strategies he uses during a game, saying: "I talk to myself during matches. I try to picture myself objectively and that’s how I tell whether I’m nervous or not."

The Japanese star shared the information to media including the Olympic Channel after reaching the All Japan Championships quarter-finals on Thursday (24 December), a day after saying he felt nervous and "had the butterflies" in his first game back on court after a tragic car crash at the start of the year.

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Momota said he is still some way from recapturing the form - both mentally and physically - that won him a record 11 titles on the BWF World Tour last season.

He hopes to have his game instincts razor-sharp again by the time he heads off to Bangkok for the Thailand Open next month.

"The World Tour is restarting next year and I need to get my feel back at this competition," said the 26-year-old.

"When I play overseas, I want to play as the best player in Japan." - Momota Kento

Huffing and puffing

Two-time defending champion Momota broke a good sweat in his Thursday win over 19-year-old Hatano Riku.

At one point in the first game, Momota was behind 6-3 and did not have his first lead until 9-8 against the aggressive Hatano.

Unafraid of the No. 1 seed, the taller Hatano attacked, testing the defense of the gold-medal hope for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

It wasn't until Momota scored three successive points to pull away 15-12 that he could finally exhale, before going on to capitalise on the first point for the game.

Momota came alive for the second game and was in the driver's seat throughout, luring Hatano to the net with deft drop shots.

Six consecutive points gave Momota a 9-4 advantage and by then, Hatano seemed to have lost any kind of edge.

It finished 21-15, 21-9, to see Momota into the final eight of the competition.

"I made a lot of mistakes yesterday, so for today, I tried to move my feet to cut down on the errors," Momota said during the post-match interview.

"But I couldn’t get off to the start I was hoping for in the first game and was all over the place. I managed to win in the end, but I have more adjustments to make for tomorrow."

"It can be nerve-wracking going against players who are a lot younger than you. But as someone with the experience, I’ve got pride and I think I managed to show that." - Momota Kento

"Yesterday I was trying to locate way too much. Today I just focused on keeping my shots in play - and persevering."

"I want to win the title here but at the same time, I’m not getting ahead of myself. The focus is on tomorrow’s match for now."

Momota will face Shimono Hashiru in the quarters on Friday.

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Many other Olympic and Paralympic athletes use self-talk and mindfulness as part of their training and competition strategy.

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