Former number one Momota bids farewell to elite badminton. GETTY IMAGES

On Thursday, 29-year-old two-time world champion Kento Momota announced his retirement from international badminton. Momota cited a serious car accident four years ago as the reason for his decision, admitting that he had not fully recovered from the incident.

Once hailed as the undisputed king of badminton, Kento Momota claimed 11 titles in 2019, suffering just six defeats in 73 matches. A month after winning his 11th title in a year, he was involved in a car accident in January 2020 after winning the Malaysia Masters, which left him with a fractured eye socket that required surgery and claimed the life of the driver.

Returning after a year's absence, Momota faced challenges as he struggled with double vision, which prevented him from regaining the form that had taken him to the top of the badminton world. Despite this, he went on to win two more tournaments. "At the time of the accident, I would be lying if I said I didn't think to myself, 'Why me?'," Momota told reporters in Tokyo on Thursday.

Ranked 52nd in the world and having failed to qualify for the Paris Olympics, the Japanese has announced his retirement from the national badminton team. He will make his last appearance for Japan at the Thomas and Uber Cup in China later this month.

Kento Momota plans to concentrate on domestic tournaments in Japan and will no longer take part in the international badminton circuit. "There were a lot of hard times after the traffic accident. I tried to get back to the way I used to play, but there was a gap between my feelings and my body. I won't be back to a level where I can compete with the best," said Momota.

Denmark's Viktor Axelsen, who replaced Momota as the world's top men's player, wrote on 'X': "It was an absolute pleasure to share the court with you. I feel lucky to have played with a player of your calibre."

Momota was happy to retire from top-level badminton and said he had no regrets about his decision. "There was a lot of hardship and it wore me down, but I didn't want to blame the hard times on the accident. I wanted to come back from it and that attitude, along with the support of the people around me at least allowed me to get a foothold," he said.

There are two dark memories in Momola's career that he would like others to learn from. One is his ban from Rio 2016 for gambling in an illegal casino and the other is his opening round defeat at Tokyo 2020.

I don't think I was fully prepared for it, but I've been dreaming of playing in the Olympics for a long time, so in that sense it was a good experience (playing in Tokyo). I really felt how difficult it was to do the things you normally do, so don't think about the result, just give it your all so you don't have any regrets," Momota concluded.