Years of dominance on the court by the Four Heavenly Kings have ended with Lin Dan’s retirement. Last year, when Lee Chong Wei announced his retirement, the world looked at Lin Dan as the last man standing to carry on with the Legends’ era. On July 4, this came to an end.
There is an empty space left open by the retirement of badminton’s two biggest stars. Now, the race is on to fill it. A Kingis not only defined by his dominance on court, but his attraction outside of court. His appeal to promote the sport worldwide is just as important as dominating the court.
Here are four players that can become the next Kings of badminton.
1. Kento Momota, 25, Japan.
Current ranking 1
Many regard Kento Momota as the new King of badminton after Lin Dan. Momota has successfully taken his rightful place in the space left open by Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei. His natural talent and playing style are often compared to Lin Dan’s. It helps that both are left-handed as well. His titles and his achievements have certainly put him at the top to being called the next King of badminton.
Momota has overcome a lot in his career, from a ban to a car accident. He goes into any match as the favourite and often does not disappoint the expectations on him.
He is stylish and likes to look good. We often see him with immaculate hair on court. And off the court, he wears designer clothes like Givenchy and spends on accessories like watches. He has a star quality about him. He has the same aura and the swagger that Lin Dan has, although in his own subtle style.
2. Shi Yu Qi, 24, China.
Current ranking 9
Shi Yu Qi is the new flag bearer of Chinese badminton. With Chen Long advancing in age, Yu Qi has managed to stand his ground and proven himself to be worthy of carrying the legacy of Chinese badminton with major titles such as the All England and the World Tour Finals. He is the best investment China has at the moment.
Yu Qi, 24, has a good balance of attack and defence, which is often compared to his coach Xia Xuanze. He was a big help for China in claiming back the Thomas Cup in 2018 and winning the Sudirman Cup in 2019.
His ankle injury back in July 2019 came at an unfortunate time. Perhaps, the COVID-19 break from international badminton will be a blessing in disguise for him.
3. Viktor Axelsen, 26, Denmark.
Current ranking 4
Viktor Axelsen is the biggest player to emerge out of Europe after Peter Gade in the men’s singles discipline. He is the first European player to become a world junior champion. He is certainly the most ideal candidate to succeed King Peter Gade.
In 2017, Axelsen became the third Danish to become world champion after defeating Lin Dan in the final in Glasgow. He won the Super Series Finals the same year.
However, Axelsen has been marred by a series of injuries for the past two years, including groin, ankle and leg. He has had his ups and downs.
Lifting the All England title earlier this year must have certainly boosted his confidence. A bronze medalist at the 2016 Rio Olympics, he is sure to capitalize on his experience of playing at the Olympics next year at Tokyo.
4. Anthony Sinisuka Ginting, 23, Indonesia.
Current ranking 6
With Taufik Hidayat’s retirement in 2013; Indonesian badminton fans were looking for the next player to fill his shoes. Then, Anthony Ginting arrived.
Ginting is fast, he is attacking and his playstyle can only be described as explosive. He is quite possibly the only player in the circuit to give the two-time world champion Momota a run for his money in every match they play. Many badminton experts attribute this to Ginting’s speed, which Momota finds difficult to control.
Although Momota has an 11- 4 head-to-head record against him, their rivalry on court is often compared to the Lin Dan-Lee Chong Wei rivalry.
One criticism that Ginting has is his inability to convert his wins into titles. It is often remarked by BWF commentator Steen Pedersen that Ginting has the ability to defeat anyone on any day, but his lack of consistency often disappoints him.
Lee Zii Jia, 22, Malaysia
Current ranking 10
Even though Lee Zii Jia’s entry in this list is without much experience at the international stage, he certainly has qualities befitting a King. In a short amount of time, he has climbed to the top 10 rankings.
Lee’s rise to stardom has been a steep flight and his growth has been exponential. His fame shot up as soon as Lee Chong Wei retired. His semi-final encounter against Viktor Axelsen at the 2020 All England was a match worthy of a final.
Lee has a big shoe to fill. Following the success and the status achieved by Lee Chong Wei will certainly not be a walk in the park.