The Best Badminton Players in the World – Ranking the Top 11 Badminton Athletes of All Time
Did you know there are more than 220-million people worldwide who enjoy playing a game of badminton from time to time? It’s a popular sport across Asia, with countries like China, India, and South Korea hosting the biggest badminton leagues with the best badminton players.
As an Olympic sport, badminton has some incredibly talented athletes. These individuals showcase their skillsets on the international stage for high stakes. The competitive nature of badminton means that there are thousands of players looking to claim the title of world number one.
Right now, Kento Momota (Japan) leads the BWF world rankings as the world number one. However, there are plenty of other outstanding players from many countries. This post looks at the best badminton players of all time.
We’ll make our recommendations, but it’s not a definitive list; it’s just how we see it. Let us know what you think of our choices in the comments!
Our List of the Best Badminton Players of All Time:
The GOAT – Lee Chong Wei
- Kento Momota – World Number One
- Lin Dan
- Chen Long
- Viktor Axelsen
- Carolina Marin
- Wang Yihan
- Li Xuerui
- Ratchanok Intanon
- Tai Tzu-Ying
- Jan O Jorgensen
Honorable Mentions – Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo and Marcus Fernaldi Gideon
Table of Contents
- 1 The GOAT – Lee Chong Wei (Malaysia)
- 2 #1 Kento Momota – World Number One
- 3 #2 Lin Dan (China)
- 4 Yonex Duora Z Strike Badminton Racket Review
- 5 #3 Chen Long (China)
- 6 #4 Viktor Axelsen (Denmark)
- 7 Yonex Duora Z Strike Badminton Racket Review
- 8 #5 Carolina Marin (Spain)
- 9 #6 Wang Yihan (China)
- 10 #7 Li Xuerui (China)
- 11 #8 Ratchanok Intanon (Thailand)
- 12 #9 Tai Tzu-Ying (Taiwan)
- 13 #10 Jan O Jorgensen (Denmark)
- 14 Honorable Mentions
The GOAT – Lee Chong Wei (Malaysia)
As possibly the most outstanding badminton talent of all time, we have to give Lee Chong Wei the title of the GOAT. Bearing the title of the Greatest of All Time means you need some serious credentials. Lee Chong Wei has a career filled with impressive highlights.
His contribution to the game earned him the moniker of “Datuk,” with the Malaysian Prime Minister declaring the player a national hero.
As a former world number one, Lee Chong Wei has a stack of gold medals in his trophy cabinet. He’s known for his impressive victories at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi and the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.
Lee Chong Wei also claimed back-to-back Yonex All England Open titles in 2010 and 2011. He also went on to secure his tenth Malaysian open title in 2014. Lee Chong Wei retired in 2019, publishing his autobiography, which is a best-seller in Malaysia.
#1 Kento Momota – World Number One
As the current BWF world number one, Kento Momota is having a difficult time in 2021. The athlete contracted COVID-19 in early January, forcing him to skip out on the Yonex Thailand Open, Toyota Thailand Open, and World Tour Finals.
Unfortunately, he was then injured in a car accident, causing a delay in his return. However, he managed to play in the All England Open, where Lee Zii Jia beat him in the quarterfinals.
Regardless of his current performance, Kento Momota is still one of the best badminton players in the world. Kento has two World Championships titles, two Asian Championships titles, and one All England title. In 2019, Momota entered the Guinness Book of World Records for winning the most men’s singles titles in a single competitive season.
#2 Lin Dan (China)
Lin Dan is a close runner-up for the number one spot and another contender for the title of the Greatest of All Time. In fact, some hardcore fans out there are probably seething right now because we gave him the number-two spot.
That’s understandable. Lin Dan is the most decorated badminton player of all time. Some of the man’s accolades include two Olympic gold medals, five World Championship titles, four Asian Championship golds, six Thomas Cup golds, five Sudirman Cup golds, two World Cup golds, and six All England titles.
Lin Dan is also the only competitor to win all major titles, giving him the only Super Grand Slam in the sport’s history. Over his career, Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei had many encounters. Lin Dan’s favourite racket is the Yonex Duora Z Strike which is one of the best badminton rackets.
#3 Chen Long (China)
Chen Long is another world-class player from China, with a sterling record across many different leagues and competitions.
Chen took home gold medals at the 2010 Asian Games, going on to win three gold medals at the Thomas Cup, five gold medals at the Uber Cup, and two World Championships.
However, Chen Long’s most notable win comes from his performance at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. He went on to beat the GOAT – Lee Chong Wei in the finals.
Chen Long has more than 40-titles spread out through his illustrious career, with the promise of more in the future.
#4 Viktor Axelsen (Denmark)
This 27-year old badminton player hails from Denmark in the European Union. In 2010, Viktor Axelsen became the first European to win the World Junior Championships, winning five out of his six games. The athlete still considers this win as one of his most memorable.
Viktor is the tallest badminton player in the world, measuring a lofty 6-foot, 4-inches. He’s one of the rare talents in the sport from outside of Asia, and he’s the current world number two.
As one of the youngest players in the sport, he already has several championships under his belt, including wins at the Thomas Cup gold and the 2017 Glasgow World Championships.
He narrowly lost to the GOAT Lee Chong Wei in the 2016 Rio Olympics but settled for bronze by beating Lin Dan for the third-place playoff.
Before the pandemic went global in 2020, Axelsen locked up the All England Open, beating Chou Tien-Chen in the final. Axelsen struggled to beat Lee Chong Wei in their matchups, but he has a surprisingly good record against Lin Dan, winning six out of nine meetings between the athletes.
#5 Carolina Marin (Spain)
Badminton is also a popular women’s sport, with many talented players. Carolina Marin wins our award for the women’s greatest of all times.
The Spaniard got her claim to fame with an impressive showing at the European Championships.
Caroline claimed the singles gold medal at the World Championships in 2014 and 2015, boosting her to the top of the women’s rankings in mid-2015. She also managed to clinch the gold medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, taking down PV Sindhu of India in the final.
Interestingly, Carolina only started playing badminton late in her youth because her friends were all playing it. She’s also the only left-handed player in the women’s world rankings.
#6 Wang Yihan (China)
Keeping with the women, we have to mention Wang Yihan as another outstanding talent we’ll miss on the badminton circuit. Wang retired at the top of the women’s rankings in 2012. This talent has one of the most impressive records in women’s badminton, with a career littered with medals.
Wangs career highlights include notable performances at the 2012 Olympics and the 2011 World Championships, defeating Taipei’s Cheng Shao-Chieh in the final. She also has medals from the 2006 World Cup and the Asian Championships in 2011 and 2013.
Wang has several Uber Cup and Sudirman Cup medals, and she remains one of the best-ever in the women’s league.
#7 Li Xuerui (China)
Li Xuerui is one of the most successful women’s badminton players of all time and a close runner up for the GOAT title in the women’s division.
Li’s claim to fame in the badminton world was her dominant win at the London Olympics 2012. She was also the runner-up in the 2013 and 2014 World Championships. She doesn’t have as many titles as Wang Yihan in the Sudirman or Uber Cups, and she never managed to win the World Cup or World Championships gold.
However, we add her to the list because of her notable defeat of the Goat, Wang Yihan, in the 2012 London Olympics. Li entered the Rio Olympics in 2016 as the world number-three seed, managing to make it to the semi-finals, losing to Carolina Marin.
With 27 titles to her name, she retired from the sport in 2017 due to complications with injuries.
#8 Ratchanok Intanon (Thailand)
Ratchanok Intanon is the only Thai on our list, but she deserves to be in the top-10 players of all time. She has some of the best footwork in the sport, with a graceful, agile playing style that provides thrilling spectating. She is also the only Thai player to hold the world number-one singles title.
Her wins at the 2010 Asian Games and 2012 Uber Cup gained her a reputation as a competitive force on tour, but Ratchanok Intanon never managed to claim an Olympic medal. In both attempts, she ended up losing in the quarterfinals and the round of 16 at the 2012 and 2016 Olympic games.
In 2013, Ratchanok defeated Li Xuerui in the finals of the World Championships, claiming the gold medal. She also gained the title of the youngest woman ever to win the World Championships. She also made it to the All England Open Badminton Championships final in the same year, marking the peak of her career.
#9 Tai Tzu-Ying (Taiwan)
Tai won the Taiwanese Ranking Competition at the tender age of 16, claiming five Super Series titles in 2016 and 2017. She’s one of the most competitive athletes on the women’s tour, but she’s yet to win a medal at the Olympics or the World Championships
Both her attempts at these competitions saw her eliminated in the round of 16. However, she managed to claw her way to the top of the women’s rankings in 2016, making her the youngest Taiwanese woman to hold the tile.
This hard-working player might choke at the major tournaments, but she’s consistent. She currently holds the record for the most consecutive weeks ranked at the top of the BWF leaderboard, at 148-weeks. That’s nearly three years of dominance.
#10 Jan O Jorgensen (Denmark)
Following along in the shadow of his countrymen, Jan O Jorgensen is another badminton talent out of Denmark. It seems the Danish nation has a habit of breeding some of the sport’s best players. Jorgensen is also a tall athlete, measuring well above 6-foot in height.
His notable wins include the European Championships in 2014, where he took home the gold in a heated final. Jorgensen was part of the gold-winning team that took the honors at the 2016 Thomas Cup. Jorgensen managed to get to the world number-two spot in January 2016, but he couldn’t manage to crack the top spot as the world number one.
Today, he plays in the Denmark Badminton League, representing SIF. One of the highlights of the athlete’s career includes his bronze-medal finish at the World Championships. Jan also has more than ten gold medals in men’s and mixed European Championships.
Taufik Hidayat (Indonesia)
This legend of the game and one of the best badminton players in history deserves an honorable mention in our review of the best talents in the sport. Taufik Hidayat has an impressive career, winning singles gold medals at the Olympics and the World Championships.
Taufik won the gold at the Thomas Cup in 2000 and 2002. He managed impressive wins over Shon Seung-mo in 2000, and he’s one of the few players with a victory over Dan Lin, beating him in the finals of the 2016 World Championships.
With those back-to-back wins, Taufik Hidayat became the only player to ever hold gold medals from the World Championships and the Olympics at the same time. This accomplishment means we have to include him on our list.
He also secured silver at the 2010 Paris World Championships and bronze at the 2006 World Cup. His only prize in the BWF Super Series was winning the 2010 French Open.
Badminton Doubles Champions – Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo and Marcus Fernaldi Gideon
We couldn’t bring this article to a close without mentioning the pair of Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo and Marcus Fernaldi Gideon. Affectionately nicknamed “The Minions,” these world champions are the current world number-one doubles team.
The pair are somewhat untouchable, claiming titles at every Super Series event since 2018. However, the duo doesn’t seem to do well in major tournaments, losing out on more than one occasion to the Japanese team of Yuta Watanabe and Hiroyuki Endo.
However, despite their mortal nemesis beating them in competition, they have a unique and spectacular playing style that deserves mention as some of the best talents in the sport.