Our Top Picks for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics Men’s Singles Badminton Gold Medalist

Introduction

Badminton was first introduced as an official sport in the 1992 Summer Olympics, with only 4 disciplines – Men’s Singles, Women’s Singles, Men’s Doubles and Women’s Doubles. It wasn’t until the 1996 Summer Olympics, where the Mixed Doubles discipline was added as an event. The sport of badminton has changed through its lifetime as a sport, from the equipment, to the regulations, down to the game play.

The landscape for the Men’s Singles discipline is stacked with distinguished contenders for the 2020 Olympic Gold, each with accolades to back their name. The competitors range from the reigning 2016 Olympic Gold Medalist, to prior World Championship winners, to contributors to the prestigious Uber and Thomas team victories, to the residing World Champion with a record-breaking number of titles won in a single season and more!

Who will win the Tokyo 2020 Olympics gold medal in men’s singles? While no one knows yet, here’s our top list of contenders we think will win gold. Check out the head to head statistics we compiled at the bottom of the article. See the author’s pick on who will clench the title and leave a comment below to let us know if you agree with our choice!

Kento Momota

Kento Momota

Kento Momota is the reigning world champion going into the 2020 Olympics and is our #1 pick to win the gold medal. His playstyle is quite defensive, where he tries to move his opponent around to tire them out and only attacks when he has a good opportunity to win the point. He is capable of doing this because he has one of the best – if not the best – defenses in the world as well as great endurance and is extremely consistent in producing high quality shots. Because of his consistency, he doesn’t give away easy points often and makes his opponents work hard. For many opponents, he can simply move them around and win while conserving his energy for future matches. However, if needed, he is capable of increasing the pace and going on the attack. He also has a strong mental game and keeps calm in most high pressure situations.

Kento’s achievements include gold at the 2018 and 2019 World Championship, 2018 Indonesia Open (Super 1000), 2019 All England and China Open (both Super 1000), as well as many other gold medals at lower level BWF World Tour tournaments. Kento Momota has placed so highly in many tournaments in recent times that he actually set a record for the first player to win over $500,000 USD in prize money in a calendar year. Due to his amazing track record in recent history and home court advantage in Tokyo, Kento Momota is our top pick for winning gold at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Strengths: Consistent, strong defense, good endurance, excellent footwork
Weaknesses: Sometimes too defensive

Anthony Sinisuka Ginting

Anthony Ginting

Anthony Ginting is a rising star who has shown that he is a force to be reckoned with since 2018. He’s known for his explosive attack and swift agility which makes him fun to watch. Due to his fierce and unrelenting attack, Anthony is the only player who can consistently force Kento Momota to lose his balance. Anthony typically reaches the shuttlecock early, which allows him to add deception to his gameplay and keep his opponents guessing where he will hit.

Anthony won the prestigious China Open (Super 1000) in 2018 by defeating the reigning world champion, Kento Momota. He earned the nickname of “Giant Slayer” during this exceptional performance since he beat Lin Dan, Viktor Axelsen, Chen Long, Chou Tien Chen and Kento Momota in succession. In 2019, he won a slew of silver medals in BWF World Tour tournaments, losing mostly to Kento Momota in the finals. He has yet to win a major badminton tournament, but can certainly put up a strong fight in any match so can’t be counted out.

Strengths: Explosive, can maintain a high paced attack, unconventional attacking patterns
Weaknesses: Sometimes inconsistent and gives away easy points, endurance in long matches

Viktor Axelsen

Viktor Axelsen

Viktor Axelsen is known for his ability to produce very steep angled smashes, his use of backhand smashes, and his unconventional trick shots. Viktor has good court coverage and lethal attacks when given the chance. Much of his abilities are enabled due to his tall height of 6 ft 4 in (193 cm), which allows him to take fewer steps around the court and cut off shots easier.

Viktor’s first sign of becoming a badminton icon came when he won the 2010 boy’s singles World Junior champion at the age of 16. Fast forward 6 years and he becomes the 2016 Olympic bronze medalist by defeating the legendary Lin Dan. The year after, he becomes the 2017 World Champion, once again defeating Lin Dan in the finals. With these major titles under Viktor’s belt, he is certainly under everyone’s radar as someone to look out for.

Viktor’s greatest strength is his ability to produce very steep smashes when he is in the correct position, often hitting outright winners. However, it is a double edged sword as he expends lots of energy to do so and his endurance may not hold up if it goes to the third game. This was most notably observed in the recent 2019 French Open, where Axelsen’s endurance gave out on him, blowing a 19-10 lead in the third game to lose 19-21 in a 3-game match to Jonatan Christie in the semi-finals. Drawn out 3-game matches early in a tournament will sap Viktor’s energy and make it difficult for him to take out opponents further in the bracket. Viktor is also recovering from a back injury, which sidelined him from several major tournaments in the 2019 world tour circuit – the Indonesia Open, the Japan Open, the China Open and the World Championships. Viktor has historically had problems defeating Kento Momota, having a lifetime record of 2-13. His best chance at winning gold would be if Kento Momota was eliminated by another opponent who he has a better chance of beating.

Strengths: Can produce very steep smashes, court coverage, cutting off low shots
Weaknesses: Endurance

Jonatan Christie

Jonatan Christie

Jonatan Christie is one of the youngest players (tied with Anders Antonsen) on the professional scene at the moment at just 22 years old and is known for being really fast on his feet and punishing loose net shots. He is a patient player who doesn’t rush to end the rally right away, but rather likes to work his opponent until they make a bad quality shot – which he is then able to punish due to his speed. The shots he typically looks for are bad lifts and loose shots near the net, which he tries to force with tight spinning net shots and steep jump smashes. While Jonatan is able to force mistakes from his opponents with his attack, he also gives away points easily sometimes. It’s not uncommon for his tight, straight net drop to hit into the net or for his shot quality to go down later in a match. He is a good front runner but may have some mental blocks when he is losing by a significant margin.

Jonatan’s biggest accomplishment is winning gold in the prestigious Asian Games in 2018 when he was just 20 years old. More recently, he won the 2019 New Zealand and Australian Opens (both Super Series 300) followed by silver medals at the 2019 Japan and French Opens (both Super Series 750). While he lacks gold medals from super series tournaments higher than 300 and still has much to prove, he has shown he has the skills capable of taking games off of top players.

Strengths: Fast, good punishes, tight net drops, efficient footwork
Weaknesses: Shot quality consistency, mental toughness

Shi Yuqi

Shi Yuqi

Shi Yuqi is China’s up and coming star, poised to take China’s top spot after compatriot reigning Olympic gold medalist Chen Long retires. He is a well balanced player with an arsenal of offensive and defensive shots. From the lens of offense, Shi Yuqi produces game winners through his ability to execute tight net drops which can force inadequately short lifts from his opponents. Shi Yuqi can be seen capitalizing on these short lifts by delivering powerful smashes aimed at the body of his opponents, or in his signature cross-court smash from Shi Yuqi’s handhand side of the court. Shi Yuqi’s smashes are accurately placed near the edges of the single’s court, pushing his opponents to extend themselves fully to retrieve his shots. From a defense perspective, Shi Yuqi has the ability to withstand offensive pressure from his opponents, as he is able to sustain their attacking shots well.

An area of opportunity in Shi Yuqi’s gameplay is observed through the unforced errors that are made on the attack. When Shi Yuqi becomes impatient towards ending a rally, the quality of his game becomes prone to mistakes. Additionally Shi Yuqi can have difficulty in recovering pressuring shots to his backhand, such as smashes or drives, that force him to dig.

Shi Yuqi gained attention on the badminton big stages in 2016 by winning his first BWF Superseries tournament in the form of the French Open. Since then, he has collected several other prestigious titles such as winning the 2018 India Open (Super 500), 2018 All England Open (Super 1000), 2018 BWF World Tour Finals and the 2019 Swiss Open (Super 300). He competed as part of the winning Chinese delegation in the Thomas and Sudirman CUps in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

Shi Yuqi is recovering from an ankle injury during the 2019 Indonesia Open, resulting in pulling out of the 2019 BWF World Championships, where he was the runner-up in 2018 to Kento Momota. While at peak health, Shi Yuqi went toe-to-toe with Kento Momota in 2019, the crowd favorite to win gold at the 2020 Olympics, with a 1-1 record. Shi Yuqi will need to balance recovery against participation in BWF tournaments to ensure he stays qualified for the 2020 Olympics as China’s #2 contender for Men’s Singles.

Strengths: Tight net drop, power body smashes, well-balanced
Weaknesses: Unforced errors on the attack / trying to end the rally, backhand defense

Chen Long

Chen Long

Chen Long is known for his rock solid defense and stability as well as his calm demeanor and mild temperament. He has great court coverage due to his strong legs and tall height (6 ft 2 in, 188 cm). His play style is very standard and he can typically control the pace really well to his liking. He typically opts for safe shots that have a low chance of error, which makes it difficult for opponents to get easy points off of him. While Chen Long’s strong shot consistency and standard playstyle is his strength, it also makes him more predictable than most, which may allow players to anticipate and capitalize on where he will hit.

Patience is a key part of Chen Long’s game, as he is able to withstand a majority of his opponents’ shots. However, this can become a detriment if Chen Long isn’t able to hit point-winners on his own and his opponents can outlast him. In a constantly growing and changing badminton landscape, Chen Long will need to be wary of the young blood that are joining the scene. Failure to adapt to explosive-style players or unorthodox game play may prove to be a big threat to his style of play.

Chen Long is the reigning Olympic Champion and has many years of experience on his side. His accomplishments include being the 2014 and 2015 World Champion as well as being part of the teams that won the prestigious Sudirman and Thomas cups in 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2019 and 2010, 2012, 2018 respectively. While he hasn’t won many titles since the 2016 Olympic Games, he should not be underestimated as he has an advantage from his previous experiences on the big stages.

Strengths: Rock solid defense, consistent
Weaknesses: Predictable shots and pace, too defensive

Chou Tien Chen

Chou Tien Chen

Chou Tien Chen is known for his passion on court after winning long and hard rallies. In terms of play style, he is a patient player that likes to wait for clearly good opportunities before firing down smashes. He has good mix-up in his rallies where he will try different strategies to keep his opponents guessing. For example, he will try continuous net play for one rally and then in the next rally, he may try more drives or aggressive play. Moreover, he will throw in some lifts while defending a smash instead of a traditional straight drop or may do a punch clear instead of a smash when on the attack. While Chou has good mix up, he sometimes does not capitalize when his opponents are off balance and so gives them an opportunity back into a rally which can prove costly. In these situations, it may be better if Chou can up the pace to continue adding pressure to his opponents without letting them off the hook that easily. Chou also struggles with high intensity rallies where an opponent attacks several shots in a row in quick succession. He will need to find a way to diffuse his opponent’s initiative if he wants a better chance at winning matches against the top players.

An interesting note is that Chou’s unorthodox strategies and playstyle is perhaps due to the fact that he actually doesn’t have a coach, but rather does his own studies while off court and has his physiotherapist support him while on court. He trains using the Gyrotonic method – which is a training method based off of yoga, dance, and tai chi that emphasizes rotation and range of motion.

Chou’s accomplishments include winning gold at the 2018 Korea and Singapore Opens (both Super 500), the 2019 Thailand Open (Super 500), and the 2019 Indonesia Open (Super 1000). Chou has historically struggled in major tournaments and hasn’t really been able to make it past quarter finals, typically losing to other players on this list. However, on a good day, Chou is capable of taking down a top player…except for maybe Chen Long who he is 0-9 down in their all time head to head matches.

Strengths: Mix-up, patient
Weaknesses: Not seizing or pressing good opportunities, high pressure situations

Anders Antonsen

Anders Antonsen

Anders Antonsen is one of the youngest men’s singles players (tied with Jonatan Christie) on the scene at the age of 22. He has an aggressive attacking style with good court coverage and solid defense. His height of 6 ft 2 in (188 cm) gives him the ability to play steep and lethal smashes, while demanding his opponents to play quality shots that would fall outside his long range. Despite his lanky build, Anders does not particularly suffer from being unable to return body shots by his opponents, a generally observed weakness for taller badminton players. Anders likes to play drawn out rallies, incorporating smashes when he finds an opportune moment. However, Anders’ blocks and net drops are not consistently tight, which allows opponents to punish his shots that are returned loosely over the net.

In 2019, Antonsen improved his world rankings to become one of the top 10 in the men’s singles discipline. He proved that he is capable of beating top players on a good day as he beat the crowd favorite Kento Momota in the finals of the 2019 Indonesia Masters. Further achievements in 2019 include being the runner-up in the 2019 BWF World Championships and Indonesia Open (Super 1000).

Strengths: Steep/angled smashes for good attacks
Weaknesses: Consistency in shot quality

Matchups

All the below tables are until 12/18/2019. These are based off bwfbadminton.com. This means that some tournaments that BWF doesn’t count, like the Asian Games, are not taken into consideration.

All Time Head-to-Head Matchups

Anders AntonsenAnthony Sinisuka GintingChen LongChou Tien ChenJonatan ChristieKento MomotaShi YuqiViktor AxelsenTotal ScoreWin Rate
Anders AntonsenN/A0 – 22 – 51 – 62 – 41 – 51 – 32 – 39 – 2824%
Anthony Sinisuka Ginting2 – 0N/A8 – 46 – 53 – 34 – 110 – 63 – 226 – 3145%
Chen Long5 – 24 – 8N/A9 – 08 – 05 – 55 – 214 – 450 – 2170 %
Chou Tien Chen6 – 15 – 60 – 9N/A2 – 62 – 112 – 52 – 919 – 4629%
Jonatan Christie4 – 23 – 30 – 86 – 2N/A1 – 45 – 32 – 321 – 2545%
Kento Momota5 – 111 – 45 – 511 – 24 – 1N/A4 – 213 – 253 – 1775%
Shi Yuqi3 – 16 – 02 – 55 – 23 – 52 – 4N/A1 – 322 – 2052%
Viktor Axelsen3 – 22 – 34 – 149 – 23 – 22 – 133 – 1N/A26 – 3741%

2017 to 2019 Head-to-Head Matchups

Anders AntonsenAnthony Sinisuka GintingChen LongChou Tien ChenJonatan ChristieKento MomotaShi YuqiViktor AxelsenTotal ScoreWin Rate
Anders AntonsenN/A0 – 22 – 51 – 62 – 41 – 51 – 32 – 39 – 2824%
Anthony Sinisuka Ginting2 – 0N/A7 – 44 – 53 – 33 – 100 – 53 – 222 – 2943%
Chen Long5 – 24 – 7N/A3 – 06 – 01 – 53 – 25 – 327 – 1958%
Chou Tien Chen6 – 15 – 40 – 3N/A2 – 41 – 72 – 51 – 417 – 2837%
Jonatan Christie4 – 23 – 30 – 64 – 2N/A1 – 33 – 12 – 317 – 2045%
Kento Momota5 – 110 – 35 – 17 – 13 – 1N/A4 – 27 – 041 – 982%
Shi Yuqi3 – 15 – 02 – 35 – 21 – 32 – 4N/A1 – 319 – 1654%
Viktor Axelsen3 – 22 – 33 – 54 – 13 – 20 – 73 – 1N/A18 – 2047%

2019 Head-to-Head Matchups

Anders AntonsenAnthony Sinisuka GintingChen LongChou Tien ChenJonatan ChristieKento MomotaShi YuqiViktor AxelsenTotal ScoreWin Rate
Anders AntonsenN/A0 – 11 – 11 – 22 – 41 – 21 -20 – 26 – 1430%
Anthony Sinisuka Ginting1 – 0N/A3 – 22 – 11 – 11 – 60 – 11 – 19 – 1242%
Chen Long1 – 12 – 3N/A2 – 03 – 00 – 20 – 03 – 211 – 857%
Chou Tien Chen2 – 11 – 20 – 2N/A2 – 10 – 20 – 11 – 06 – 940%
Jonatan Christie4 – 21 – 10 – 31 – 2N/A1 – 21 – 02 – 110 – 1147%
Kento Momota2 – 16 – 12 – 02 – 02 – 1N/A1 – 14 – 019 – 482%
Shi Yuqi2 – 11 – 00 – 01 – 00 – 11 – 1N/A0 – 15 – 455%
Viktor Axelsen2 – 01 – 12 – 30 – 11 – 20 – 41 – 0N/A7 – 1138%

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Anu

    Kento momomta is a good top fav. Chinese will do much better in Olympics. I’d give Shi Yuqi and and Chen Long better pick for just being chinese. Indenesians can only play doubles they are no good in singles.

  2. Anu

    Fabulous analysis – It is really an excellent list. What are your picks for men’s doubles for the Olympics?

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