Japan's world No. 1 Kento Momota secured his third straight national badminton men's singles title on Sunday in his first tournament since he was hurt in a fatal traffic accident in January.
The two-time reigning world champion, 26, had his back against the wall in the final after losing the first game to 24-year-old Kanta Tsuneyama but recovered to claim an 18-21, 21-12, 21-17 win for his fourth career title at Japan's national championships.
"Lots of things have happened this year," said Momota, who played his first match of the tournament on Wednesday. "I gave everything I had. At the end, I had nothing left in my locker."
"Tsuneyama reached the final in almost perfect fashion and I honestly thought it was going to be difficult. But I went onto the court determined not to have any regrets, and that factored into managing to concentrate and pick up each point toward the end."
The Tokyo Olympics gold medal hopeful had the lead in the first game before Tsuneyama tied it at 18 and won the next three points. But Momota eased to the second game and also took control of the final game, finishing with a crosscourt smash.
In January, hours after he won the Malaysia Masters, a van carrying Momota crashed into a truck, killing the driver and causing non-life-threatening injuries to three other passengers. Momota suffered lacerations to his face, heavy bruising across his body and was later diagnosed with a broken right eye socket.
He resumed practicing in late February after undergoing facial surgery but was unable to compete as the novel coronavirus pandemic forced changes to sporting schedules worldwide including the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
"I had the accident and tough times thereafter but I feel everyone had a tough year, forced to live lives they weren't hoping for," Momota said. "I believe there have been people longing for tournaments like this and hopefully I can continue to provide positive news through sports."
In the women's singles final, world No. 4 and 2016 Rio de Janeiro bronze medalist Nozomi Okuhara beat world No. 3 Akane Yamaguchi 17-21, 21-14, 22-20.
"There's always a high-level, insightful gamesmanship on display when I face Akane and I really enjoyed playing," Okuhara said of her second straight national title and fourth overall. "I've been working on my footwork during the pandemic and that showed in reacting to her tricky returns."
The world No. 2 pair of Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota won their third women's doubles title in another battle of Olympic medal hopefuls, beating No. 3 Mayu Matsumoto and Wakana Nagahara 21-17, 21-12.
World No. 5 Hiroyuki Endo and Yuta Watanabe won their third men's doubles title, crowned for the second straight year after downing Takuro Hoki and Yugo Kobayashi 21-19, 21-9.
In mixed doubles, Misaki Matsutomo, a 2016 Olympic women's doubles champion, and her partner Yuki Kaneko finished runners-up as the world No. 5 pair of Watanabe and Arisa Higashino eased to a 21-11, 21-9 win to capture their fourth straight championship, and the first of two Watanabe won Sunday.
Ayaka Takahashi, who partnered Matsutomo to the Olympic title in 2016, announced her retirement in August.