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

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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 competitive stage for Women’s singles is arguably more fascinating than its men’s singles counterpart as there is not a standout athlete who can undeniably seal the deal in winning the Olympic gold. In the running for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games’ gold medal include the reigning 2016 Olympic gold and silver medalist, current world No. 1, the reigning World Champion, the youngest player to have ever won a Superseries title, and an individual who has held the highest ranking for the longest stretch of time in BWF history!

Who will win the Tokyo 2020 Olympics gold medal in women’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!

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Chen Yufei


Chen Yu Fei has a relaxed but lethal playstyle. Her most recent demonstrations of badminton skill, power, and technique against her opponents cement her place as the author’s #1 pick to win the gold medal at the 2020 Olympics Games. She relies on her efficient footwork to move her around the court but also has good agility, allowing her to increase the pace when needed to defend a smash or go for a kill. Chen has good power and angle in her smashes and keeps her opponent guessing by mixing up between cross and straight smashes. She is also capable of jump smashing shots when she get in position to make her shots even more deadly. Chen is able to put pressure on her opponents with high quality shots because she’s willing to aim close to the lines or close to the net. This keeps opponents on their toes but it also gives her a small margin for error, often leading her to give easy points to her opponents by hitting out. Another observation about Chen is that she tends to use her backhand stroke in favor of an around the head stroke more so than other players do. This saves energy but can be a potential weakness if opponents use it to try to get an attacking opportunity.

Chen won gold in the World Junior Championship in just 2016 and has risen quickly to become one of the top women’s singles badminton players in the world. She has really stepped up her game in 2019, winning 8 World Tour titles – including the prestigious All England Open (Super 1000), Fuzhou China Open (Super 750), and BWF World Tour Finals. Her growth in the past few years has been tremendous and she is definitely one to look out for in the upcoming Olympics.

Strengths: Steep and powerful smashes, efficient footwork
Weaknesses: Shots to the deep backhand corner may cause weak/defensive replies, can give away easy points – especially in the early game

Tai Tzu Ying

Tai Tzu Ying is a player representing Chinese Taipei, who has a very decorated badminton career. In 2012, was when Tai Tzu Ying first made history by clinching the title of the Japan Open and marking herself as the youngest player to win a Superseries title up to that point. Since then, that record had been broken by Ratchanok Intanon and Akane Yamaguchi in the 2013 India Open and 2013 Japan Open, respectively. Other accolades include holding the record for the longest duration at No. 1 in BWF history, as well as the longest streak of consecutive matches won at 31 matches!

In 2019, Tai Tzu Ying pulled off some great showings, by winning the Malaysia Open (Super 750), Singapore Open (Super 500) and Denmark Open (Super 750), while falling just short in settling for silver in the HSBC World Tour Finals, China Open (Super 1000), Malaysia Open (Super 750) and All England Open (Super 1000).

Tai Tzu Ying is known for her calm and relaxed style of playing. She is notorious for being spontaneous and unpredictable in the shots she chooses to hit, and seems to be able to return shots from any position or angle. The variety of shots in her arsenal are packed with strong cross court smashes, straight smashes that thread the line and tight spinning net shots that force a weak return by her opponents. Among Tai Tzu Ying’s signature shots include a drop shot from the back of the court that looks like a clear and punch clear that look like they can be net drops. Due to her calm demeanor, Tai Tzu Ying is able to also add deception to her game. One of her favorite shots is on her forehand side as she approaches the net, where she sends the shuttle deep into the opposite corner of her opponent’s court. Pairing her top notch technical skills with the idea of never know what shot Tai Tzu Ying is going to play, she is truly a formidable opponent in the Women’s Singles discipline.

One of Tai Tzu Ying’s major drawbacks is the number of unforced errors that are seen in her game. This appears to contradict the aforementioned technical skills that she possess. The explanation to this is that Tai Tzu Ying may lose her concentration during a match and end up playing too casual. This ends up costing Tai Tzu Ying points to her opponents benefit that should have been hers to gain. Other times, she simply tries to execute a shot that is too fancy, causing the shuttle to fault and gift the point to her opponent. An example is when she places a tight spinning net shot and then tries to follow it up with a perfectly impossible to return cross-court net drop that is hit into the net on her own side.

Focus is the name of the game. Will Tai Tzu Ying be able to train her mental game and rise to the occasion to deliver the first gold medal at the Olympic Games for Chinese Taipei in 2020?

Strengths: Phenomenal technical skills, deception
Weaknesses: Breaks in focus and concentration that cause unforced errors

Carolina Marin

Carolina Marin

Carolina Marin is the reigning Olympic champion and a major contender for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She is the only leftie in this list and typically plays a very fast game with many attacking shots. She is known for her ability to put pressure on her opponents through powerful smashes and quick follow ups to the net, giving her many options for shots – her favorite being the cross court net drop.

Carolina has had an amazing career thus far, winning (among many others) the 2018 China Open (Super 750), 2018 and 2019 China Open (Super 1000), the prestigious All England in 2015, the World Championship in 2014, 2015, and 2018, and of course the gold in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Unfortunately, Carolina ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the 2019 Indonesia Masters on January 27, 2019 – forcing her to take an unprecedented break from tournaments and training. However, she proved that she still has lots of fight in her as she won the 2019 China Open immediately after she returned, showing she is still a force to be reckoned with.

Strengths: Quick on her feet, powerful offense
Weaknesses: Emotional player, demoralized when losing

Akane Yamaguchi

Akane Yamaguchi

Akane Yamaguchi is one of two Japanese Women’s Singles contenders for the 2020 Olympic Gold. Akane’s claim to fame came early in 2013 when she was the youngest player to win the BWF Super Series tournament of the Japan Open, at the age of 16 – this was a historical moment as it was the first time a Japanese woman had won the women’s singles event at this tournament. Fast-forward 6 years, 2019 was a volatile year for Akane, as she reached the pinnacle of the Women’s Singles stage as #1 in the world. She claimed victory in the 2019 German Open (Super 300), Badminton Asia Championships, Japan Open (Super 750) and Indonesia Open (Super 1000). However, inconsistent performance plagued Akane’s game as she bowed out in the first round of several tournaments, such as the 2019 Fuzhou China Open (Super 750), Denmark Open (Super 750), Korea Open (Super 500), Victor China Open (Super 1000) and Malaysia Masters (Super 500).

Akane Yamaguchi is recognized for her ability to retrieve and return the shuttle. Due to her short stature of 5 ft 1 in (156 cm), she must work tirelessly to cover the entire singles court. However, she is miraculously able to outlast many of her opponents through her practiced endurance. Akane willingly dives and digs at shots delivered by her opponents, and is able to recover masterfully even when returning shots off-balance. The inability to get through her defense can be frustrating for opponents to play against. Her top notch spinning net drops are tight, forcing her opponents to respond with short lifts which Akane punishes. While retrieval is the name of her game, Akane has the ability to turn up the pace as she is fast on her feet, even when the match gets drawn to a 3rd game. She can add offensive pressure by continually attacking and moving up at her opponents.

While Akane plays with a reserved composure, her body language after making silly unforced errors illustrate on-court factors can affect her resolve. Consistency is observed in Akane’s typical game, but getting into her own head can result in multiple points being lost in succession.

Will the youngster have what it takes to claim the gold on home court advantage?

Strengths: Endurance, Retrieval
Weaknesses: Shakable resolve, loss of focus

Pusarla Venkata (P.V.) Sindhu

PV Sindhu

Pusarla Venkata Sindhu (also known as P. V. Sindhu) is a patient player who is known for her great reach and ability to cut shots off and produce steep angles. She typically likes playing a retrieval game where she mostly defends unless she gets a good opportunity to smash. When she does go on the attack, she has good power when smashing straight and good angle when smashing cross court – especially from her backhand side in the around the head position. On the flip side, Pusarla struggles with flat shots to her body and sometimes with her defense on her backhand side, both of which are common tactics employed by her opponents. She can typically keep her opponents at bay with her defensive shots but has trouble if her opponents are able to follow up with several high paced shots in a row.

P. V. Sindhu is a very accomplished player and is actually tied at 13th place in highest paid female athletes, with total earnings of $5.5 million dollars. She first made a big appearance on the badminton scene in 2013 and 2014 where she won bronze in the World Championships at just 18 and 19 years old. She then went on to get an Olympic silver medal in 2016, losing out to Carolina Marin. She then went on to win 2 more silver medals at the 2017 and 2018 World Championships, losing to Nozomi Okuhara and Carolina Marin again but finally got her long overdue gold in the 2019 World Championships. She has been struggling a bit in 2019 but will certainly still be one to look out for during the Tokyo Olympics.

Strengths: Good reach, powerful and steep smash, patient
Weaknesses: Defense (recovering from defending multiple shots in a row), being moved around the court, body shots/smashes, flat game

An Se Young

An Se Young

An Se Young made a big splash in the badminton community in 2019 by coming onto the scene and defeating some of the top players in the game – and all while just 17 years old (she will be 18 years old during the 2020 Olympics). Among the players on this list, An Se Young has taken matches off Akane Yamaguchi, Carolina Marin, Pusarla V. Sindhu, and Tai Tzu Ying! So, what makes her so deadly? To begin, she has excellent retrieval skills and great net play, which lets her get on the attack fairly frequently. Moreover, she has a great flat game due to her reflexes and sharpness. Her signature shot however is her around the head steep half court smash. It isn’t particularly fast as it isn’t a full blown smash, but it is quite often a point winner because it seemingly comes out of nowhere (it looks like she can be hitting a clear, straight smash, or cross drop) and it’s really accurate and steep, making it quite lethal. Despite being a rising star in the badminton scene and being able to take out some of the best players in the game, An Se Young is not all that consistent and can still be beaten by some lower ranked players at times. In order for her to increase her chances at the Olympics, she will have to increase her consistency as well as be comfortable playing in many high paced matches in a row.

An Se Young has had a phenomenal 2019, winning 5 world tour golds (2 Super 100s, 2 Super 300s, and 1 Super 750) and 1 world tour silver (Super 100). She shows lots of promise and we can’t wait to see more of her in the upcoming years.

Strengths: Net game, retrieval, around the head shots
Weaknesses: Consistency

Ratchanok Intanon

Ratchanok Intanon

Ratchanok Intanon is the first player from Thailand to reach the world No. 1 ranking in the Women’s Singles event. Ratchanok entered the spotlight back in 2013, where at the young age of 18 won the BWF World Championships. Beating her opponent Li Xuerui, the then world No. 1 and reigning Olympic gold medallist, Ratchanok established herself as the youngest player to have won the BWF World Championships in a singles event.

Ratchanok has been observed to have a spellbinding and graceful style of play when she is on the court. Her efficient footwork carries her elegantly to the shuttle, with commentators making comparisons of her to a ballerina. Ratchanok is able to deliver accurate shots and has developed a signature cross-court net drop from her back hand. She is able to add deception to her game by holding her racket until the last second before executing a shot. Pairing this ability with great racket control and controlled touch of the shuttle makes Ratchanok a threat on the court. In recent play, Ratchanok has strengthened her ability to deliver winners from taking on the offensive, sending the shuttle downwards at a sharp angle and quick speeds.

While Ratchanok is keen on deception, this strength of hers can backfire. When attempting to play a fancy shot, Ratchanok will at times make unforced errors and give away points that she should have actually won. An example of this is when she arrives at the shuttle early, but ends up hitting it into the net or out. Under the circumstances in which Ratchanok seeks to close a match, she opens her game up to making more unforced errors than normal. This was observed in the Korean Open, where Ratchanok attempted to rush the end of the match and blew 4 match-point opportunities against her opponent, where she ended up losing the game, and subsequently the match.

2019 was a trying year for Ratchanok. While she was able to clench the victory for the India Open (Super 500) and Malaysia Masters (Super 500), Ratchanok fell short in the finals in several other BWF Tournaments: Hong Kong Open (Super 500), Korea Open (Super 500), Thailand Open (Super 500) and German Open (Super 300). With Ratchanok bowing out of the 2020 Malaysia Masters tournament as the defending champion, will she be able to defy the odds and reach the Olympic podium as supreme?

Strengths: Good Racket Control/Touch, Deception
Weaknesses: Inconsistency

Nozomi Okuhara

Nozomi Okuhara

Nozomi Okuhara is a hard working player who runs around the court quickly and has good endurance. She likes to play a fast paced game and move her opponents around. She likes using punch clears and tight net drops to set herself up for attacking opportunities. Her signature shot is a reverse slice drop shot, which is quite deceptive because it can look like a smash or a punch clear. She has some difficulties when playing against players who can keep up with her pace. She tends to make unforced errors when she can’t get through since she ends up trying to go for shots that are really close to the line – which usually ends up with her hitting out (usually from clears). Her attack is not as lethal as some other players so she has a hard time winning points from sheer power, which is why she relies on moving her opponents around a lot. Overall, she is a well rounded player that plays really well at the standard badminton game but will need to be more creative and consistent if she wants to beat the other top players in the world consistently.

Nozomi has had some impressive results in the past, including winning the 2016 All England Open, the 2017 World Championship, and the 2018 Uber Cup. She recently got silver in the 2019 World Championship where she lost only to Pusarla V. Sindhu.

Strengths: Retrieval, speed, endurance
Weaknesses: Consistency in clearing and lifting when against top tier opponents, has a hard time winning points with smashes


All the below tables are until 12/18/2019. These are based off The Badminton World Federation (BWF) Fan Zone. 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

Akane YamaguchiAn Se YoungCarolina MarinChen YufeiNozomi OkuharaPusarla V. SindhuRatchanok IntanonTai Tzu YingTotal ScoreWin Percent
Akane YamaguchiN/A0 – 25 – 510 – 88 – 117 – 1013 – 108 – 1051 – 5449%
An Se Young2 – 0N/A1 – 1 0 – 30 – 01 – 00 – 11 – 05 – 550%
Carolina Marin5 – 51 – 1N/A3 – 18 – 78 – 64 – 66 – 835 – 3451%
Chen Yufei8 – 103 – 01 – 3N/A4 – 44 – 611 – 22 – 1433 – 3946%
Nozomi Okuhara11 – 80 – 07 – 84 – 4N/A7 – 99 – 66 – 744 – 4251%
Pusarla V. Sindhu10 – 70 – 16 – 86 – 49 – 7N/A4 – 45 – 1140 – 4249%
Ratchanok Intanon10 – 131 – 06 – 42 – 116 – 94 – 4N/A14 – 1343 – 5444%
Tai Tzu Ying10 – 80 – 18 – 614 – 27 – 611 – 513 – 14N/A63 – 4260%

2017 to 2019 Head-to-Head Matchups

Akane YamaguchiAn Se YoungCarolina MarinChen YufeiNozomi OkuharaPusarla V. SindhuRatchanok IntanonTai Tzu YingTotal ScoreWin Percent
Akane YamaguchiN/A0 – 22 – 29 – 86 – 56 – 77 – 54 – 734 – 3649%
An Se Young2 – 0N/A1 – 10 – 30 – 01 – 00 – 11 – 04 – 544%
Carolina Marin2 – 21 – 1N/A3 – 16 – 33 – 23 – 22 – 520 – 1656%
Chen Yufei8 – 93 – 01 – 3N/A4 – 24 – 510 – 22 – 1432 – 3548%
Nozomi Okuhara5 – 60 – 03 – 62 – 4N/A4 – 75 – 33 – 422 – 3042%
Pusarla V. Sindhu7 – 60 – 12 – 35 – 47 – 4N/A3 – 02 – 626 – 2452%
Ratchanok Intanon5 – 71 – 02 – 32 – 103 – 50 – 3N/A7 – 720 – 3536%
Tai Tzu Ying7 – 40 – 15 – 214 – 24 – 36 – 27 – 7N/A43 – 2167%

2019 Head-to-Head Matchups

Akane YamaguchiAn Se YoungCarolina MarinChen YufeiNozomi OkuharaPusarla V. SindhuRatchanok IntanonTai Tzu YingTotal Score Win Percent
Akane YamaguchiN/A0 – 20 – 02 – 32 – 03 – 02 – 11 – 310 – 953%
An Se Young2 – 0N/A1 – 10 – 20 – 01 – 00 – 11 – 05 – 456%
Carolina Marin0 – 01 – 1N/A1 – 02 – 11 – 01 – 12 – 18 – 467%
Chen Yufei3 – 22 – 00 – 1N/A3 – 01 – 24 – 02 – 315 – 865%
Nozomi Okuhara0 – 20 – 01 – 20 – 3N/A1 – 23 – 22 – 37 – 1433%
Pusarla V. Sindhu0 – 30 – 10 – 12 – 12 – 1N/A0 – 01 – 15 – 838%
Ratchanok Intanon1 – 21 – 01 – 10 – 42 – 30 – 0N/A2 – 37 – 1335%
Tai Tzu Ying3 – 10 – 11 – 23 – 23 – 21 – 13 – 2N/A14 – 1156%

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