Women’s singles badminton: Who is the most successful shuttler in the last 12 years?

The exclusive list featured two Indians, three Chinese and one shuttler each from Japan, Spain and Chinese Taipei. Only the Olympics and BWF World Championships' performances have been considered.

PV Sindhu (Left) and Carolina Marin (Right) after Rio 2016 badminton final.

World badminton has entered a new era in 2021 in the post-pandemic era. After the Badminton World Federation (BWF) had to cancel the 2020 season and half of the 2021 season due to the raging COVID-19 pandemic, world badminton completed a decade of play at the Tokyo Olympics.

As the 2021 season nears its end and BWF has announced a revamped calendar for the 2022 season, FirstSportz takes a concise look to find out the most successful shuttler of the decade went by.

Notable performances from 2010 to 2021

Carolina Marin6 Superseries titles, 1 Olympic gold, 3 WC gold, Highest ranking 1
Li Xuerui14 Superseries titles, 1 Olympic gold, 2 WC silver, Highest ranking 1
Chen Yufei1 Olympic gold, 2 WC bronze, Highest ranking 1
PV Sindhu3 Superseries titles, Olympic silver & bronze, 5 WC medals – 1 gold, 2 silver, 2 bronze, Highest ranking 2
Nozomi Okuhara4 Superseries titles, 1 Olympic bronze, WC gold & silver, Highest ranking 1
Wang Yihan4 Superseries premier titles, 9 Superseries titles, 1 Olympic silver, 1 WC gold, Highest ranking 1
Tai Tzu Ying12 Superseries titles, 1 Olympic silver, Highest ranking 1
Saina Nehwal9 Superseries titles, 1 Olympic bronze, WC silver & bronze, Highest ranking 1

PV Sindhu – India

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India’s double Olympic medallist PV Sindhu won five World Championships medals in the last 10 years.

One of the most consistent shuttlers on the BWF calendar, India’s PV Sindhu has an outstanding record at both the Olympic Games and the BWF World Championships. She is known for bringing out her best on the two biggest events of the game.

To date, the world No. 7, Sindhu is the only Indian athlete to win two Olympic medals in a row – silver in Rio 2016 and bronze in Tokyo 2020.

PV Sindhu is also considered one of the most successful women’s singles players on the BWF World Championships circuit. She won a record five medals at the annual event. After winning bronze in 2013 and 2014, she bettered her own performance with back to back silver in 2017 and 2018. In 2019, she eventually won the gold medal thrashing Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara 21-7, 21-7 in the final.

In terms of medals, the 26-year-old was the most successful shuttler in the last decade.

Her overall winning percentage of 69.6 is not that great, but her performance level at the BWF World Championships and Olympics shot up to 81.08 per cent, making her India’s best and fourth most successful women’s singles shuttler in the world.

Carolina Marin – Spain

Carolina Marin has been one of the most successful shuttlers in recent times
Carolina Marin celebrating after winning the 2016 Rio Olympics gold medal in badminton women’s singles.

The Spanish shuttler is one of the most successful women’s singles players on the all-time list. She still has pretty much left to add to her illustrious career. With three BWF World Championships gold (2014, 2015 and 2018), and Rio 2016 gold medal, Carolina Marin was the most successful women’s singles shuttler in the last 12 years.

The world No. 4 shared a healthy rivalry with India’s Sindhu with the Spaniard winning two mega finals against her Indian opponent. In the 2016 Rio Olympics final, Carolina Marin defeated Sindhu 19-21, 21-12, 21-15 and then again in the 2018 World Championships final, she trounced the Indian in straight games (21-19, 21-10).

The 28-year-old left-hander is not known for being elegant, but tactically very astute and she knows how to make use of the wrong urn.

Marin enjoyed an overwhelming winning percentage of 87.50 in the BWF World Championships and the Olympics in this period.

Li Xuerui – China

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2012 London Olympics gold medallist Li Xuerui of China.

Last played in 2019, Li Xuerui is China’s second most successful player after Wang Yihan. The 30-year-old former shuttler won fourteen Superseries titles. She is the London Olympics gold medallist in women’s singles and won two silver medals at the BWF World Championships in 2013 and 2014. She held the no. 1 ranking for 124 weeks.

She maintained an 80.68 winning percentage on the BWF World Tour tournaments and 86.36 per cent in the Olympics and World Championships, making her the second most successful shuttler on the chart.

Wang Yihan – China

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2011 World Championships gold medallist Wang Yihan of China.

The 2011 World Championships gold medallist and 2012 Olympic silver medallist, Wang Yihan became world No. 1 in women’s singles in October 2009. She held the no. 1 ranking for around two years. During her illustrious career, she won 30 titles.

Known for sheer power, speed and fitness, Wang Yihan announced her retirement in 2016 when she lost to PV Sindhu in straight games (22-20, 21-19) in the quarterfinal of the Rio Olympics.

From 2010 to 2016, she won 80.17 per cent of matches on the World Tour. But in the World Championships and the Olympics, she could win only 70.83 per cent of her matches.

In her 12 years long career, starting in 2004, Wang Yihan won whopping 15 Superseries titles, four Superseries premier titles and a World Superseries Finals title. She also won BWF World Championships gold in 2011 and Olympic silver in 2012, making her one of the most successful women’s singles shuttlers in badminton history.

Saina Nehwal – India

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2012 London Olympics bronze medallist Saina Nehwal.

Saina Nehwal is the second Indian women’s singles specialist to feature in this exclusive list. She is India’s first Olympic medallist in badminton. In London 2012, she won bronze after Wang Xin of China retired midway.

With 11 Superseries titles to her credit, Saina is India’s most successful player on the BWF World Tour.

She also won two BWF World Championships medals – a silver in 2015 and a bronze in 2017, making her only the fourth Indian woman to win the Worlds medal.

Saina could maintain only a 68.29 winning percentage in the World Championships and the Olympics which made her the least successful player on the list.

Nozomi Okuhara – Japan

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World Championships and Olympic medallist Nozomi Okuhara of Japan.

Participating in the longest BWF World Championships final ever held in 2017 against PV Sindhu, Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara won the spectacular match that lasted one hour and 50 minutes. She won the encounter 21-19, 20-22, 22-20.

Ranked 3rd in the world, Okuhara followed her 2017 World Championships gold with the silver medal in 2019 when PV Sindhu took sweet revenge beating her in straight games within just 37 minutes.

26-year-old Okuhara won 76.92 per cent of her matches at the World Championships and the Olympics.

She still has the time to improve her record.

Chen Yufei – China

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Chen Yufei is the reigning Olympic gold medallist in women’s singles.

Ranked 2nd in the world, Chen Yufei is the third Chinese shuttler to feature in this list. The 23-year-old has already announced her arrival in the world of badminton, clinching the gold medal at Tokyo 2020. She defeated compatriot He Bingjiao in the semifinal before beating Chinese Taipei’s Tai Tzu Ying in the final.

Before winning the Olympic gold, she won BWF World Championships bronze in 2017 and 2019, when she briefly held the no. 1 ranking.

In 2017, she was conferred with the Eddy Choong Most Promising Player of the Year award.

With an 81.25 per cent winning record, Chen Yufei is the third most successful shuttler on the list after Carolina Marin and Li Xuerui.

Tai Tzu Ying – Chinese Taipei

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World No. 1 women’s singles badminton player Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei.

Known as a trouble maker in world badminton, Tai Tzu Ying has not yet won a BWF World Championships medal. Her biggest achievement so far is a silver in the Olympics that she won in Tokyo 2020 when she lost to Yufei in the final.

Tai Tzu Ying is one of the most deceptive shuttlers in the world. Her straight-games win against Sindhu in the semifinal was a testament to her ability.

But inconsistency is her biggest enemy. She is amazing to watch. But she is yet to justify her potential on the BWF World Tour events.

The world No. 1 shuttler skipped the 2017 BWF World Championships, but she has the potential to make a mark. She has a dismal 72.75 winning percentage at the World Tour events and 70.37 at the Olympics and World Championships.

So, who is the most successful at BWF World Championships and Olympic Games?

  • Carolina Marin – Won 87.50 per cent matches
  • Li Xuerui – Won 86.36 per cent matches
  • Chen Yufei – Won 81.25 per cent matches
  • PV Sindhu – Won 81.08 per cent matches
  • Nozomi Okuhara – Won 76.92 per cent matches
  • Wang Yihan – Won 70.83 per cent matches
  • Tai Tzu Ying – Won 70.37 per cent matches
  • Saina Nehwal – Won 68.29 per cent matches

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