My Top 10 Badminton Players of All-Time – Epilogue

If you’re just joining in, I’ve written a short series of posts related to my top badminton players of all-time, an entirely personal list of who I think rule the roost in the world of badminton.

If you want to get up to speed, the other posts are as follows:

In writing this series of posts I thought of a few things.

First is the evolution in sports and how it distorts any reasonable attempts at deciding who’s the ‘best’.  Not just in badminton, but in almost any sport you care to name.  I don’t know about you, but whenever I watch athletes today I wonder constantly how the the greats of yesteryears compare to the greats of today.  As time passes, so many things have changed.  The training methods and tools have improved, the diet that top athletes are being put through now is much more carefully planned, replete with supplements the best technology can produce.  Also on technology, the gear that the athletes have available for them now are far and away much better than before.  The Speedo LZR Racer, for instance, is an example – where of the 77 world records broken to date since its introduction in Feb 2008, 72 of them were by swimmers wearing the hi-tech swimsuit.

Consider how these changes affect sports: for football, the technique in controlling a modern ball is surely different than the old one.  Would Pele be able to compete in today’s game?  Consider Navratilova or Evert with someone like Venus or Serena Williams – how could their games compare?  Remember Navratilova has more titles that both of them combined, but I would think that Navratilova’s game in her prime could not match the powerplay of either of the Williams sisters.  Would you still pick Navratilova?  People have pondered how Tiger would have performed with Nicklaus or Palmer in their prime.  Who is ultimately the better tennis player, Federer, or Sampras?

The point is, there really isn’t a satisfactory answer.

When I started compiling this list, I kept thinking about the most quantifiable way to justify my list.  Questions similar to the ones I illustrated above come up again and again.  Turns out that there really isn’t a foolproof way of doing it, and the list remains subjective, emotional and cannot be proved by empirical evidence (pretty much what I said in the prologue).

Having said that, I believe the standards for the sport are being pushed higher and higher as we go along.  The shuttlers train harder, run further, play stronger, jump higher.  It is this believe I think that so many of the modern players dominate my list.

So anyway, I wanted to use this ‘epilogue’, of sorts, to acknowledge some of the players that I left out, some who will elicit screams of rage from badminton fans at large.

1. Morten Frost Hansen

For me, it was a toss-up between Yang Yang and Frost.  Frost had a longer and more decorated career, and was certainly not a pushover as a top singles badminton player.  He won practically everything there is to win during his playing days, with the notable exception of the World Championships.  To top it off, he is a brilliant coach, and did wonders for the teams he tenured with (the same could be said of Yang Yang as well, now that I think of it).

If I were blessed with a better memory, I would remember more of Frost’s battles, but as it is, it’s more Yang Yang than Frost, and to top it off, when he did win a match I remembered, it was against Misbun during the All-England final, breaking my young heart and irrevocably screwed my mental image of him as a bad, bad man.

2. Rudy Hartono

I suppose the only reason he’s not in my list is because I’ve never seen him play.  He dominated All-England for 8 years, and is considered pretty much The Man in Indonesia.  He was also successful in men’s doubles, which something that you don’t see nowadays at all.

He’s in this list because in the course of my research his record pretty much awed me.

3. Zhao Jianhua

Yang Yang is starting to look like a strange choice, doesn’t it?  Not only has he edged out Frost, he was also chosen ahead of this gentlemen.  Zhao Jianhua, for all who remembered him, is widely (and I mean widely) regarded to be the best player of all time.  Even now.  His claim to fame: incredibly tricky player with an arsenal of skills.  He’s fast, deceptive and deadly.  Unfortunately, he is equally as well known for his inconsistency.  This mercurial player is more unpredictable than Dennis Rodman’s hairstyles – you’ll never know when he’s going to lose.  My most vivid memory of him was his match against Rashid Sidek in 1992 as first singles in the Thomas Cup semi-finals, which Zhao lost.  I remember a dodgy line call that settled the first set for the Malaysian (Zhao was very unhappy with the call), but despite Rashid playing a superbly boring game to neutralize Zhao’s attacking, Zhao couldn’t get his act together to win.

(Actually, perhaps I should say Rashid won in spite of playing a superbly boring game.)

Taufik was also tagged as being inconsistent.  But Zhao Jianhua in my mind seemed even more so.

4. Ge Fei/Gu Jun

Women’s doubles pair.  China.  Unbeatable.  Dynamic duo.  Won practically every match I’ve seen them play.  Could be me, but sometimes I see the boredom in both their eyes when playing in finals of international tournaments. “Sigh, Ge Fei, how I wish they’d just give us the medal now.”  “Sigh, look at her, Gu Jun, her hair is in a mess after that body smash I just did.”  “Sigh, I wonder what’s on TV now?”

And it’s so creepy (and weirdly funny) watching Ge Fei, who hardly needs to catch her breath throughout matches.  You’ll never see her huffing and puffing like Bao Chunlai (who looks like he’s run a marathon after just 3 points).  She’s as cool as they come.  “Oh, another point.  Yawn…”

I was most impressed with Ge Fei at the time, as she was the one who could partner a guy in mixed doubles and win loads of trophies too.  She was pretty much installed as my most impressive female player until Gao Ling came along.  But even then, I don’t think even Gao Ling had the unmistakable air of invincibility that Ge Fei and Gu Jun had during those days.

Before I close out this series I want to mention that we’re living very enabled times.  The internet has transformed our daily lives, and will continue to encompass more and more aspects of our lives.  This holds true to the true blue badminton fan as well.  If you’ve ever missed a match you wanted to see, or, more importantly, you want to watch an evergreen player whom you’ve never seen before to see how they used to play the game, the internet is a fantastic resource.  The BadmintonCentral forum holds more ba
dminton freaks in one place than anywhere I know, and Youtube has a great selection of clips of great players.  Badmintontorrents can point you the way to even more downloads of matches.

Agree or disagree with either my train of thoughts, or my choice of players?  Let me know in the comments!

See also:


4 Comments

  1. Thanks so much for the links to badminton forums and videos. I enjoyed reading all the posts. Freestyler, wow… i’ve gotta watch that. As for who is the best – Navratilova or William sister, Federer or Sampras and etc, I believe it’s unfair to compare since it’s not an apple to apple comparison, unless they had the similar type of training or resources. We human are smart creatures, we evolve and improve all the time to achieve the best. Therefore, comparing Frost, Yang Yang with young players now is like comparing the antiques/vintage with the modern/high-tech things. That does not mean the young ones are better badminton player. Let’s have a weird imagination that we have a time-machine. We transfer still-born baby Chong Wei or Lin Dan back in time and they receive the same training as the old badminton players, how would they fare? Would they play like they play right now?

  2. That’s exactly it, mysugoi. There’s really no way of knowing. So we’ll just have to make do and evaluate based on the way they are playing now, which is why so many of my picks are current players.
    I will say, though, that Ge Fei/Gu Jun or Susi Susanti would rule today if they were playing now… 🙂
    Thanks so much for your kind feedback, mysugoi! 🙂
    p.s. Baby Lin Dan is now an image I can’t get out of my head. 😉

  3. Krishnakant Prasad

    The name of Erland Kops is missing from your list. In my opuinion he has a claim for the title of All Time Best.

    • donny

      I’m a little ashamed not to have heard of Erland Kops, I have to say. A quick jaunt to Wikipedia shows he was dominant in the 60s, which is way before my time. While the list is not intended to the badminton’s best of the best, as I’ve mentioned in the first of the series of posts, but it’s always good to learn of new players.

      Thanks, Krishnakant!

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