Which Country is the best at Badminton in 2020?
The badminton scene in recent years has been really exciting to watch because of the wide diversity of strong nations. As you can see in the diagram, there are 13 (thirteen!) different countries with contenders in the top 10 of all of the disciplines.
Unsurprisingly, the top 4 nations are Japan, Indonesia, China, and South Korea. Historically, they have been badminton power houses, churning out extremely strong players and even legends. The other countries tend to rely on 1 or 2 top players to keep them competitive in the scene. Since these countries have fewer top players, the players won’t have sparring partners that would push them as hard and it may be more difficult to improve during training sessions. This may make the top players in these countries to look toward international tournaments for more difficult matches. Hopefully, the top players in these nations can help increase the strength of other players in their home nations so we can see even more diversity in top international badminton play.
Here, we see how strong each nation stacks up in each discipline:
|Country||Men’s Singles||Women’s Singles||Men’s Doubles||Women’s Doubles||Mixed Doubles|
|Japan||Extremely Strong||Very Strong||Very Strong||Extremely Strong||Moderately Strong|
|Indonesia||Very Strong||Weak||Extremely Strong||Moderately Strong||Very Strong|
|China||Moderately Strong||Very Strong||Moderately Strong||Very Strong||Extremely Strong|
|South Korea||Moderately Strong||Very Strong||Moderately Strong||Very Strong||Moderately Strong|
|Taiwan||Moderately Strong||Very Strong||Moderately Strong||Weak||Weak|
|Malaysia||Moderately Strong||Weak||Moderately Strong||Weak||Moderately Strong|
|Thailand||Weak||Very Strong||Weak||Weak||Extremely Strong|
|Hong Kong||Moderately Strong||Weak||Weak||Weak||Weak|
Japan is very well rounded in all disciplines. They will likely be the favorite to win any team based matches in the near future as they have a decent chance at winning in every discipline.
Their men’s singles is anchored by Kento Momota, who has been nearly untouchable in 2018 and 2019. He has been the man to beat and has single handedly made Japan a big threat in the men’s singles category. However, he got into a severe car accident recently and is still in the process of recovering. All of us badminton fans wish him a speedy recovery and hope that it doesn’t affect his amazing performance.
Japan’s women’s singles is held up by Akane Yamaguchi and ex world champion Nozomi Okuhara, both of whom are very solid – but do have quite a bit of trouble against other top contenders. They’re both great at retrieving shots but don’t have particularly lethal shots against other top players. If they want to find consistent ways of winning points, they will need to find new ways to apply pressure onto their opponents.
The men’s doubles feature the veteran pair Takeshi Kamura and Keigo Sonoda as well as a veteran and young partnership between Hiroyuki Endo and Yuta Watanabe. Takeshi and Keigo are known for their fast paced style of play and can usually hold their own against most players. Endo and Watanabe have improved rapidly within the last year and have recently won the prestigious All England Open (a Super 1000 tournament) in 2020, letting the world know that they are a force to be reckoned with. They are one of the only pairs whose defense can hold up against the attack of other top pairs long enough for a counter attack.
Japan has 3 amazing women’s doubles pairs ranked in the top 10 – all 3 of which, on any given day, may be able to beat the other pairs. The 3 pairs are Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi, Yuki Fukushima/Sayaka Hirota, and Mayu Matsumoto/Wakana Nagahara. Matsutomo and Takahashi are the reigning 2016 Rio Olympic champions who have nerves of steel when it comes to high pressure situations. Fukushima and Hirota are 2018 and 2019 World Champion silver medalists, losing to their compatriots Matsumoto and Nagahara both times in extremely close and tense matches. They’re all practically evenly matched and cement Japan as the leading nation in women’s doubles.
Mixed doubles is Japan’s weakest area, where they rely on the youngster Yuta Watanabe (who also plays men’s doubles) and Arisa Higashino. They do decently well in tournaments but usually find themselves exiting tournaments when facing the onslaught of the top mixed doubles pairs from China, Thailand, or Indonesia.
Indonesia is quite strong in the men’s disciplines but lacks severely in the women’s singles and doubles disciplines – having no women singles player and only 1 women’s doubles pair in the top 10.
Men’s singles is led by the explosive Anthony Sinisuka Ginting and the calm but fast Jonatan Christie. Ginting’s peak game play can put any player off balance – even Kento Momota’s rock solid defense – but he has problems with consistency, thus giving away easy points every so often. Christie is solid in all areas around the court but has problem putting pressure against opponents consistently as he can be predictable. Both have decent chances at beating other top players on any given day but are not particularly dominant.
Indonesia’s men’s doubles is where they really excel. They take up the number 1 and 2 spots with Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo, aka “The Minions”, with the top spot and veterans Hendra Setiawan and Mohammad Ahsan, also known as “The Daddies” in the second spot. In the number 6 ranking is Indonesia’s Fajar Alfian and Muhammad Rian Ardianto – who are also quite deadly on court. All three pairs are extremely good at drives and have access to ample practice with each other, making Indonesia the scariest country in men’s doubles.
Indonesia’s sole hope in women’s doubles is Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu at rank 8. They have faired decently well against everyone ranked below them but can rarely beat any of the top pairs. There isn’t much hope in winning big tournaments in this discipline unless they really step up their game.
In mixed doubles, Indonesia has the well built pair of Praveen Jordan and Melati Daeva Oktavianti in rank 4. They have grown very fast in a short period of time and have shown that they can take out the other top pairs on a good day. Definitely a pair to look out for in the future. The other mixed pair, Hafiz Faizal and Gloria Emanuella Widjaja, rank at 8 and will need additional practice in order to have a chance when competing at the highest level.
China, as of 2020, is relying on the reigning 2016 Rio Olympic champion, Chen Long, and upcoming star Shi Yu Qi to bring home titles in men’s singles. While Chen Long is known for his incredible defense and reach, his age is starting to show and it is difficult for him to keep up with younger players. He hasn’t been posting great results lately but still has a decent (albeit probably not the favorite) chance against other top players. Shi Yu Qi showed lots of promise a few years back but ever since he got injured, he hasn’t been in great form. These two players, while great in many ways, struggle against other top players due to the issues stated, making China no longer dominant – or even a top country – in the men’s singles discipline.
In women’s singles, China has the composed and consistent Chen Yu Fei as world number 2. Chen Yu Fei is on everyone’s watchlist as a top competitor in the women’s singles discipline as she is a well rounded player with excellent court coverage, defense, and offense. At world number 8, He Bing Jiao is China’s number 2 women’s singles player. She is quite an explosive player with a deadly attack when given the chance. She does, however, struggle against top players as she can end up being inconsistent when going for high paced attacks.
China only has a single men’s doubles pair in the top 10 ranking – Li Jun Hui and Liu Yu Chen, also known as the “Twin Towers” due to their heights. While they are former world champions, they have not been posting great results since then. They have great pace and power but really struggle against pairs who either have a good flat game (all the Indonesian pairs) or pairs who have a good enough defense to weather the storm of smashes and counter attack (most top pairs).
China has top pair Chen Qing Chen and Jia Yi Fan as world number 1 and upcoming pair Du Yue and Li Yin Hui. Both are very strong pairs and can beat any of the other pairs on their day. However, the competition in women’s doubles is extremely high and there is little margin for error – making it uncertain whether China will continue to hold the world number 1 spot for long.
Mixed doubles is where China really shines – taking up the top 2 spots in the world rankings. The extremely explosive pair of Zheng Si Wei and Huang Ya Qiong take up the top spot while the consistent but deadly Wang Yi Lyu and Huang Dong Ping take up the second spot. These 2 pairs have dominated the mixed doubles discipline in the past year or two but have shown cracks recently. The rise of Thailand’s and Indonesia’s top mixed pairs have halted China’s dominance in the field but most would still consider China the favorite in any given tournament.
While Indonesia lacks in the women’s categories, South Korea lacks in the men’s categories. South Korea has no men’s singles player in the top 10 and relies on Seo Seung Jae in both men’s doubles and mixed doubles. They will really need more high level men players to become well rounded.
South Korea’s sole hope in women’s singles is the young and brilliant An Se Young. An Se Young burst into the women’‘s singles scene by defeating some of the giants when she was just 17 years old. She has amazing net play and even a signature around the head cross court half smash shot which has won her many points in her matches. Keep an eye on this one.
South Korea relies on Choi SolGyu and Seo Seung Jae in men’s doubles. They’re solid but have not posted great results in major tournaments as they have a very low chance against the top players.
In women’s doubles, South Korea actually takes up 4 spots in the top 10 – Lee So Hee/Shin Seung Chan, Kim So Yeong/Kong Hee Yong, Chang Ye Na/Kim Hye Rin, and Baek Ha Na/Jung Kyung Eun. They’re certainly quite strong but only the top 2 pairs have a chance at the top China and Japanese pairs – of which the China and Japan pairs are probably favored to win. However, the South Korean pairs put up quite a fight and are typically very vocal on court. Don’t count them out.
Mixed doubles is reliant on Seo Sung Jae and Chae YuJung at rank 6 in the world. I consider them to be a level lower than the top 4 pairs in the world but otherwise high tier players. To get to the next level though, they will really need to step up their game and pace.
We see a fairly steep drop in number of top ranked players now that we step outside the top 4 badminton countries. Taiwan really depends on the performance of 4 players overall, which covers 3 disciplines. Their presence in women’s doubles and mixed doubles are nonexistent but their other disciplines are actually quite strong.
Representing Taiwan in men’s singles is the passionate and somewhat quirky Chou Tien Chen – currently ranked at world number 2, just behind Kento Momota. His play style is rather unconventional and he doesn’t even have a coach. He really relies on his own studying and experience to improve his gameplay. He does, however, end up losing to weaker players from time to time, making him fairly inconsistent in getting good results at tournaments.
Taiwan’s prize jewel, Tai Tzu Ying, takes up the number one spot in women’s singles and is Taiwan’s best chance at any sort of gold medal at major tournaments. However, women’s singles, as stated earlier, is extremely competitive that contain many players with fairly equal skill level. Tai Tzu Ying may be one of the favorites to win any given match, but only barely.
Taiwan’s men’s doubles contains Lee Yang and Wang Chi-Lin – a combination of great power and speed. They have had decent results but are outshined by the top doubles pairs in the world.
Malaysia has representatives in the men’s singles, men’s doubles, and mixed doubles disciplines while their women’s singles and doubles presence is nowhere to be seen. Unlike Taiwan though, Malaysia has no top contenders in any of the disciplines. They will need to work especially hard to make their presence felt.
Malaysia has one up and coming men’s singles player, Lee Zii Jia, who is rapidly rising in skill level and is one to look out for. He is only 22 years old, is quite strong, and has taken games – and even matches – off of top players. I wouldn’t count him out of making some major upsets in future tournaments.
In men’s doubles, Malaysia has the young pair of Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik at rank number 9. It’s difficult to say how they will do in the future but it doesn’t seem like they have reached their peak potential yet. For now, they should be considered middle to high tier in the scene.
Malaysia’s top mixed pair consists of Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying, the silver medalists at the 2016 Rio Olympics. While they were performing well a couple years back, they have not shown good results since. It’s hard to see them making it to the podium in any major tournament given the top 4 mixed doubles pairs are on another level.
Thailand only has representation in 2 of the 5 disciplines – women’s singles and mixed doubles. However, they are top contenders in both disciplines and certainly cannot be counted out of any tournament.
Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon is tricky and deceptive in the women’s singles department. She plays at the highest level along other top players but tends to be more inconsistent than the others – putting her at a disadvantage in these matchups. If she’s on her game though, Ratchanok Intanon can certainly pull through.
Mixed doubles stars Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai lead the way for Thailand. They sit atop the mixed doubles pedastol – alongside 3 other major contenders. Their games are fast, furious, and extremely entertaining to watch. Don’t miss out on their future games.
India’s biggest thread in the badminton scene is Pusarla Venkata Sindhu in women’s singles. She was the silver medalist in the 2016 Rio Olympics and is known for her reach and steep smashes.
In men’s doubles, India has Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty ranked at number 10. Don’t underestimate them though as they have pulled off some major upsets when they play well.
Men’s singles representative Ng Ka Long is currently ranked 8th. It’s very difficult to see him beating top players consistently as his level is one or two levels lower. He will, however, bring everything he has to a game so don’t expect an easy victory.
Hong Kong has Tang Chun Man and Tse Ying Suet in mixed doubles. It’s difficult seeing them going far in any tournament but they have actually won 3rd place in the 2018 World Championships. Also note that they are both left handed players – perhaps giving them an edge against others who are not used to such a rare combination.
Denmark used to be a more well rounded country with top players in several disciplines. However, they only have top men’s singles players Anders Antonsen and Viktor Axelsen at 3rd and 4th respectively. These tall and strong men hold Denmark’s hopes on their shoulders. They’re both surprisingly agile and flexible and are able to produce steep smashes that most other players can’t. You should count them both as top contenders in any given tournament.
Spain’s sole player is Carolina Marin in the women’s singles department. She is the gold medalist in the 2016 Rio Olympics and has one of, if not the most, lethal attacks in the discipline. Even after a ruptured ACL, she still looks like the fastest women’s singles player out there, allowing her to put on tremendous amounts of pressure on her opponents. Carolina Marin is also widely known for her fearsome screams at the end of rallies to intimidate her opponents as well as push herself harder. She is most definitely a top contender and should not be taken lightly.
England has a single mixed doubles pair of Marcus Ellis and Lauren Smith ranked at number 9. They can occasionally pull off upsets on second tier pairs but it’s difficult to see them beating any of the top 4 pairs.
Canada’s sole representative is Michelle Li in the women’s singles discipline and is currently ranked number 10. Michelle Li can occasionally pull off upsets in tournaments as her skill level can compete with other top players. However, she has difficulty sustaining such a high pace for so long, making it difficult for her to win matches that go to 3 games or to beat multiple top contenders in the same tournament.
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