Like many other sports, badminton is extremely competitive with many prestigious tournaments that can bring money and fame. But not everyone can be number 1, so who is the greatest of all time (GOAT) in each discipline? While this question may be highly subjective, we must still decide! We’ll cover who we think is the GOAT in each discipline, who a close second place is, and also who is an up and coming challenger for grabbing this title.
The greatest badminton players of all time are Lin Dan in men’s singles, Fu Haifeng and Cai Yun in men’s doubles, Zhang Ning in women’s singles, Yu Yang and Du Jing in women’s doubles, and Zhao Yunlei and Zhang Nan in mixed doubles.
Who is the Greatest Men’s Singles Badminton Player of All Time?
Lin Dan is the greatest men’s singles badminton player of all time. If you’ve watched professional badminton, you probably know him. He’s won it all and is the most decorated badminton player in the 21st century. His major titles include 2 Olympic gold medals, 5 World Championship titles, 4 Asian Championship golds, 6 Thomas Cup golds, 5 Sudirman Cup golds, 2 World Cup golds, and 6 All England titles. And these only include the major tournament wins – not even including silver or bronze medals! He is the only person in any discipline to have won all major titles, which is called the Super Grand Slam, cementing himself as the best badminton player – across all disciplines – of all time.
If you’re confused about what these tournaments and titles are, make sure to check out What are the Most Prestigious Badminton Tournaments? where we break down each of the badminton tournaments in a way that is easy to understand.
Lin Dan is also famous for his rivalry with Lee Chong Wei, the honorable mention below. His lifetime record against Lee Chong Wei is 28 wins and 12 losses, a dominating 70% win rate!
Lee Chong Wei is the honorable mention and close second best men’s singles player of all time after Lin Dan. Lee Chong Wei has won the most super series titles out of any men’s singles player at 57 titles but does not have any Olympic or World Championship titles under his belt as he has mostly gotten denied by Lin Dan. His results in those tournaments include 3 Olympic silver medals, 3 World Championship silver medals, and 1 World Championship bronze medal. He has since retired on June 13, 2019 due to his fight with nose cancer but has left his mark in badminton history by producing arguably the most exciting rivalry in badminton history with Lin Dan and will be remembered as a legend.
Up and Coming
Kento Momota is the current (as of May 2020) best player in the world and has been dominant in the last year. He has 2 World Championship titles and is looking to the 2021 Tokyo Olympics – where he will have home court advantage – for his first Olympic gold. He is, in fact, our pick for the Olympic gold, and you can see who his competitors are in our post, Our Top Picks for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics Men’s Singles Badminton Gold Medalist. Keep an eye out for him in the coming years to see if he can become a new legend of badminton.
Unfortunately, Kento Momota got into a major car accident after his victory in the Malaysia Masters in January 2020 which caused him to suffer facial injuries and bone fractures. We hope that Kento Momota will make a fast recovery and that there is little to no effect on his future game play.
Who is the Greatest Men’s Doubles Badminton Team of All Time?
Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng are the greatest men’s doubles badminton team of all time. Both Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng are retired now but have shown the world that their teamwork and skills were the best in the world. Cai Yun was known for his lightning fast front court reflexes while Fu Haifeng was known for his thunderous smash. They are arguably the best front and back court players ever, only rivaled by other greats like Lee Yong Dae, Jung Jae Sung, and Hendra Setiawan – all of whom are in the honorable mention section below.
Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng’s accomplishments are astonishing, including 4 World Championship titles, 5 Thomas Cup golds, 6 Sudirman Cup golds, a 2008 Olympic silver medal, a 2012 Olympic gold medal, and 17 Superseries wins – which includes 2 All England titles! Quite an impressive resume. However, Fu Haifeng actually continued playing with another partner after the 2012 Olympics because Cai Yun retired. His new partner being Zhang Nan, who was also a 2012 Olympic gold medalist in mixed doubles. Together with Zhang Nan, Fu Haifeng won several more Superseries titles and more importantly, also the 2016 Olympic gold medal, making him the only player in badminton history to have reached 3 consecutive Olympic finals and also the only player to have won 2 Olympic gold medals in the men’s doubles discipline.
If you haven’t already, I would highly suggest watching some of their matches, especially against Lee Yong Dae and Jung Jae Sung. The matches are fast, furious, and extremely entertaining. Probably the best men’s doubles rivalry of all time. Check it out!
Jung Jae Sung and Lee Yong Dae are the honorable mentions for men’s doubles and are certainly considered legends in their own right. Interestingly, they actually have a winning record against Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng – 12 to 10 in their favor. However, they have never been able to win any gold medals at the Olympics or World Championships – getting a bronze in the 2012 London Olympics and 2 World Championship silver medals. If they were able to perform better in these tournaments, they could very likely have taken the title for best men’s doubles team of all time.
An interesting fact is that Lee Yong Dae actually continued playing men’s doubles after Jung Jae Sung retired – teaming up with 2 other partners – Ko Sung Hyun and Yoo Yeung-Seong. He was world number 1 with all 3 of his partners at some point in time and is the only person to have ever done so – a very difficult feat to pull off! Not only that, but before he played men’s doubles, Lee Yong Dae played mixed doubles and actually won an Olympic gold medal in 2008 when he was only 19 years old! This is why so many consider Lee Yong Dae to be a legend of badminton and there will likely never be another player like him.
Hendra Setiawan is another honorable mention in the all time greats of badminton men’s doubles. He has been world number 1 with two different partners – Markis Kido and Mohammad Ahsan – and is STILL playing (in 2020) at the top of international competition at the age of 35 with Mohammad Ahsan (nicknamed “The Daddies”), who is 32 years old. He has 4 World Championship golds under his belt (the current reigning world champion!) and even an Olympic gold from 2008 (where he beat Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng in the finals)! Absolutely amazing. It will be a sad day when he announces his retirement from the badminton world.
Up and Coming
Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo and Marcus Fernaldi Gideon, who are nicknamed “The Minions”, are the current world number 1 pair and have been nearly untouchable for the last 2 years, winning nearly every Super Series tournament. However, they’ve been having lots of trouble against the Japanese pair of Hiroyuki Endo and Yuta Watanabe and also don’t do well in major tournaments. If you’re interested in modern men’s doubles badminton, Everything Badminton’s article about Why Endo / Watanabe can consistently beat the minions is a fascinating read and can give you a deeper insight into your own badminton games. In any case, if Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo and Marcus Fernaldi Gideon can continue to perform well, overcome their weakness to Hiroyuki Endo and Yuta Watanabe, and also perform better at future major tournaments, then they have a good chance to become some of the best badminton players of all time.
Who is the Greatest Women’s Singles Badminton Player of All Time?
Zhang Ning is the best women’s singles badminton player of all time. Zhang Ning’s accomplishments include 2 Olympic gold medals (in 2004 and 2008, which as of 2020, is still the only women’s singles player to have achieved this), 1 World Championship gold, and 19 big tournament wins (which would now be considered as part of the Super Series). She was best known for her consistency, control, and ability to put constant pressure on her opponents. Her most dominant years were surprisingly in her late 20s to early 30s as she won her second Olympic gold when she was 33 years old. Nonetheless, Zhang Ning remains one of the most accomplished women’s singles badminton players of all time, making history as the only 2 time Olympic gold medalist in the discipline.
Wang Yihan is the honorable mention and has had a very successful career herself. Her titles include an Olympic silver medal, a World Championship gold, a World Cup gold, and 27 Super Series titles. She was quite dominant alongside her compatriots but had problems winning many big tournaments – often just losing out to some of her teammates.
Up and Coming
The current women’s singles scene is extremely competitive and fierce, with many top players trading wins back and forth. It’s difficult to specify just a single name so I’ll just put a list of several promising players in the current scene.
- Tai Tzu Ying
- Chen Yufei
- Carolina Marin
- Pusarla Venkata Sindhu
- An Se Young
- Akane Yamaguchi
- Nozomi Okuhara
- Ratchanok Intanon
Wow, that’s a lot of very strong players! There’s too much to talk about for each of them in this post, but if you want to learn more as to what makes each of these players special, check out our post on Our Top Picks for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics Women’s Singles Badminton Gold Medalist.
Who is the Greatest Women’s Doubles Badminton Team of All Time?
Yu Yang and Du Jing are the greatest women’s doubles badminton team of all time. However, credit must also be given to Wang Xiaoli as well, who was Yu Yang’s doubles partner after Du Jing. These three players essentially dominated the women’s doubles scene during their time where the players collectively won the 2008 Beijing Olympic gold medal, 3 World Championship golds and 41 Super Series titles – including 4 All England titles. Yu Yang and Wang Xiaoli were practically guaranteed to win a second Olympic gold at the 2012 London Olympics but was famously disqualified alongside 3 other pairs for attempting to throw matches to get a better position during the single elimination phase. Even without the extra Olympic gold, Yu Yang, Du Jing, and Wang Xiaoli were the strongest and most accomplished women’s doubles pairs to ever set foot in the professional badminton scene.
Zhao Yunlei and Tian Qing are the honorable mentions who have quite a few accomplishments under their belts as well. They won the 2012 London Olympics after their compatriots Yu Yang and Wang Xiaoli (above) were disqualified and have also won 2 World Championship titles and 10 Super Series titles together.
Up and Coming
Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan are rising stars in the current women’s doubles badminton discipline and are the current world number 1 pair. The already have a World Championship title and show lots of promise for the future. The women’s doubles discipline is very competitive though so it will be a challenge for them to retrieve many more major titles.
Who is the Greatest Mixed Doubles Badminton Team of All Time?
Zhao Yunlei and Zhang Nan are the greatest mixed doubles badminton team of all time. Their list of accomplishments include the 2012 London Olympic gold, 2016 Rio Olympic bronze, 3 World Championship golds, and 27 Super Series titles as a team. They practically dominated the mixed doubles scene for quite some years and was only rivaled by the honorable mentions – Lilyana Natsir and Tontowi Ahmad.
While Zhao Yunlei and Zhang Nan have seen great success as a mixed doubles pair, they have also done quite well in women’s doubles and men’s doubles respectively. Zhao Yunlei partnered with Tian Qing and was one of the top women’s doubles pairs, winning the 2012 London Olympics and 2 World Championship golds and 10 Super Series titles. As mentioned earlier as well, Zhang Nan partnered with Fu Haifeng to win the 2016 Rio Olympics gold. He also partnered with Liu Cheng to win the 2017 World Championship.
Another interesting note about Zhao Yunlei and Zhang Nan is that they used to be in a relationship together for quite some time! They made their relationship public in 2010 but then announced that they were breaking up right before the 2016 Rio Olympics – potentially affecting their performance. What makes it even more interesting is that Zhang Nan ended up marrying Tian Qing (Zhao Yunlei’s women’s doubles partner!!) in 2018 – scandalous!
With all drama set aside, Zhao Yunlei and Zhang Nan have proven that they were some of the greatest players of all time, seeing great success in mixed, women’s, and men’s doubles – something that no other players in recent history have been able to accomplish.
Lilyana Natsir and Tontowi Ahmad are the honorable mentions and are considered legends themselves. Together, they have obtained many titles, including the 2016 Rio Olympic gold, 2 World Championship titles, and 16 Super Series titles, which include 3 prestigious All England titles.
Lilyana Natsir has had even more accomplished as she used to partner with Nova Widianto in mixed before partnering with Tontowi Ahmad. With Nova Widianto, she won the 2008 Beijing Olympics silver medal as well as 2 more World Championship golds, bringing her total World Championship golds to 4. She has certainly had a very successful badminton career and is considered one of the best mixed players of all time.
Up and Coming
Huang Yaqiong and Zheng Siwei are the current world number 1 mixed team as for 2020 and have already won 2 World Championships and 18 Super Series titles before the ages of 25 and 22 respectively. They are the favorite to win any tournament they enter but sometimes lose out early due to inconsistencies. However, at their best, Huang Yaqiong and Zheng Siwei is unmatched by anyone else in the world currently. They’ll be looking towards the 2021 Tokyo Olympics for their next big win.
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