Indian badminton’s remarkable rise in 2017
India’s badminton record has never been as good as it has been this year, with an Indian featuring in the top five players of the world among men as well as among women, according to rankings data published by the Badminton World Federation. Kidambi Srikanth at fourth position among men and P.V. Sindhu at third place among women have powered India’s rise to the top of the charts this year.
The median singles rank of the top five Indian players has risen from 28 to 17 for men, the biggest rise since 2010. The rise in the median singles rank of the top five players for women has been slower, from 57 last year to 49 this year.
The rise in rankings follows impressive performances by top-ranked players such as Srikanth and Prannoy H.S., as well as by relatively lower-ranked players such as Ajay Jayaram and B. Sai Praneeth. The Singapore Open had an all-India male finish this year. Prannoy beat both Olympic silver medallist Lee Chong and gold medallist Chen Long in the Indonesian Open this year. Srikanth went on to win the title after Prannoy lost in the semi-final to Japan’s Kazumasa Sakai.
Srikanth and Prannoy’s performances have been especially impressive. The former has risen nine positions to finish at fourth this year while the latter has risen 19 rungs to finish at 10th.
This year has also been great for P.V. Sindhu, who has risen from the 10th rank at the start of the year to finish third. Saina Nehwal, who has been recovering from injury, slipped one place from ninth to 10th.
However, unlike in the case of men, there seems to be a stark difference in rankings between the top two women players and the rest. The rankings gap between the third best and the best women player—46—is far wider than the corresponding gap for men at 13.
The difference in rankings seems to be driven at least in part by the number of tournaments played.
The Badminton World Federation has recently mandated minimum tournaments for top players. The top 15 singles players have to play at least a dozen tournaments every year. It remains to be seen if this increased play for top players will trickle down to the lower rungs.
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