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Mens Singles Next Gen – Who will hit the top?

The era of the “Big 4” has ended a few years ago. Lin Dan, Lee Chong Wei, Taufik Hidayat and Peter Gade have spoiled the fans with incredible badminton for almost two decades. 2016 Olympic champion Chen Long has accompanied them for quite some time as well. All of them are retired now and the badminton world is looking for exciting new players.

At the moment, Viktor Axelsen is the undisputed dominator of the mens singles discipline. But there are a few younger players showing their talent at world stage already. Lets have a look at who might take over the crown from the Danish Olympic champion.

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Mens Singles Next Gen - Who will hit the top?
Mens Singles Next Gen – Who will hit the top?

Top 10 Mens Singles Prospects in Badminton

10. Jonathan Christie (Indonesia)

  • Smash: 85%
  • Movement: 92%
  • Athleticism: 82%
  • Mentality: 80%
  • Creativity: 87%
  • Technique: 90%

The good looking guy from Indonesia seems to develop into a team event expert. He is on the tour for quite some time and has not really had many big results. Lately he started to shine in the Thomas Cup event, where he playing extremely well in the second singles, helping his country retain the title in 2021. However, he will probably not fill the foot steps of legendary Taufik Hidayat. His game is very aesthetically pleasing, but not big enough. He has to dig deep in rallies for his points. You need bigger weapons to win big titles.

9. Kantaphon Wangcharoen (Thailand)

  • Smash: 80%
  • Movement: 87%
  • Athleticism: 82%
  • Mentality: 88%
  • Creativity: 70%
  • Technique: 80%

Another rally player with a good allround game, but nothing really special, that will make him become a dominant force. Will probably have some deep runs in Super Series tournaments and World Championships, but nothing more.

8. Li Shi Feng (China)

  • Smash: 85%
  • Movement: 95%
  • Athleticism: 88%
  • Mentality: 90%
  • Creativity: 80%
  • Technique: 85%

Typical Chinese player, very well trained, tactically astute and disciplined. Will always be hard to beat in the future, because he makes you work extremely hard for your points. He is a very straight-forward player, though. With hardly any creativity. Kind of a new Chen Long, but probably will not reach his level. Medals in the most important competitions very possible, though, if the stars align and the draw suits him.

Li Shi Feng - Badminton China
File:2018-10-12 Badminton Boys Singles Final at 2018 Summer Youth Olympics by Sandro Halank–021.jpg” by Sandro Halank, Wikimedia Commons is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

7. Kulavut Vitidsarn (Thailand)

  • Smash: 85%
  • Movement: 95%
  • Athleticism: 88%
  • Mentality: 90%
  • Creativity: 85%
  • Technique: 85%

Similar to his fellow countryman Wangcharoen the big guns are missing in Vitidsarns game. He is still young, though, and will improve. Very good movement and mentality. I can see him develop into a long-time Top 5 player, without ever dominanting the BWF tour.

6. Anthony Ginting (Indonesia)

  • Smash: 80%
  • Movement: 100%
  • Athleticism: 83%
  • Mentality: 77%
  • Creativity: 97%
  • Technique: 100%

What a fantastic player, such a joy to watch him play. He is so fast, has a great net game and cool deceiptions. Even his smash is good and stingy, despite his height. Because he jumps quite high. But somehow…something is missing. To be fair, he quite often runs into a red hot Axelsen, where you cannot expect him to win. And during Momotas domination he was like the only player that was able to trouble the Japanese number 1. So maybe its a little unfair to put him on Nr. 6 only, because he has already shown much more than almost all other players in this list. But he is not that young anymore and will probably never be a dominator. A great player to watch nevertheless!

Anthony Ginting Badminton Mens Singles
Adityadandito, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

5. Brian Yang (Canada)

  • Smash: 87%
  • Movement: 85%
  • Athleticism: 83%
  • Mentality: 95%
  • Creativity: 92%
  • Technique: 93%

The young talent from Canada is still quite raw, but has shown some remarkable displays against topstars. He seems determined to make it to the top of the badminton world, has a great technique and seems to have improved everytime I see him play. Will surely be a consistent Top 10 player soon. How much more…we will see.

4. Anders Antonsen (Denmark)

  • Smash: 85%
  • Movement: 90%
  • Athleticism: 75%
  • Mentality: 97%
  • Creativity: 90%
  • Technique: 95%

The Young Dane called himself “The Next One” a few years ago. This was probably supposed to mean that will follow the big foot steps of teammate Viktor Axelsen and aim for number 1 and the big trophies. Well…this has not happened so far and I do not see it coming anytime soon. If anything, Axelsen has gotten further away from him in terms of performances and titles.

Antonsen still claims that he has a lot of room for improvement and that is certainly true. His stamina comes to mind. Very often we see him taking a rest in second games to be fit for the decider. His movement could be better as well. Everything else is on a really good level already, expecially his tactical awareness. And he has already had some big results, like the silver medals at the world championships. So if he does really improve, there will be trophies coming.

3. Loh Kean Yew (Singapore)

  • Smash: 96%
  • Movement: 99%
  • Athleticism: 99%
  • Mentality: 85%
  • Creativity: 90%
  • Technique: 95%

The reigning world champion of Singapore was the hottest guy on the BWF tour last fall. He won the Dutch Open, the Hylo Open, defeated Lakshya Sen, Kento Momota, Lee Zii Jia and gave Dominator Axelsen some very hard fights. All this started after he attended a seemingly very successful one-month training camp in Dubai with Axelsen, Sen, Young and some others.

So full of confidence he entered the World Championships in Huelva and had to deal with Axelsen in the very first round. In a fantastic match he defeated the Great Dane for the first time (with a stunning score of 21-6 in the decider). And then there was no stopping him. He destroyed Wangchareon with single digit points and won all his matches in straight games.

His speed, movement, powerful jump smashes and retreiving was just mesmerizing in that tournament and he was the well deserved champion. At that point I thought that he might be the “Next Lin Dan”. But in 2023 he has been struggling so far to repeat this kind of performance. He is a top player for sure, but not yet very consistent. That is why he is on number 3 of this ranking.

Loh Kean Yew - Badminton Singapore

2015 SEA Games: Badminton – Men’s Singles (SF) Atif Latif (MAS) vs Loh Kean Yew (SIN)” by VOXSPORTSdotNET is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0 .

2. Lakshya Sen (India)

  • Smash: 83%
  • Movement: 95%
  • Athleticism: 90%
  • Mentality: 98%
  • Creativity: 87%
  • Technique: 97%

India has a long history of great mens singles players. From Gopichand, over Prannoy and Sai Praneeth to Srikanth Kidambi. And now there is a new number 1. Lakshya Sen has made his mark on world stage already, leading India to a first Thomas Cup title in 2022 and reaching the final of the All England Championships. He has a very complete game. Tactically astute, mentally strong and clear thinking, good feel and technique, smooth footwork. The only thing missing a little…is the power smash. But he is young and has time to develop that. If he does that I have no trouble seeing him as one of the dominating players for years to come.

Lakshya Sen - Badminton India
File:2018-10-12 Badminton Boys Singles Final at 2018 Summer Youth Olympics by Sandro Halank–150.jpg” by Sandro Halank, Wikimedia Commons is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

1. Lee Zii Jia (Malaysia)

  • Smash: 100%
  • Movement: 85%
  • Athleticism: 95%
  • Mentality: 92%
  • Creativity: 75%
  • Technique: 85%

I was never in doubt to put Lee Zii Jia of Malaysia on the top spot of the most promising youngsters of the BWF World Tour. He somehow seems quite raw technically and is using his fantastic athleticism and physicality very much. His smash for example is clearly the best in mens singles already, such bombs are coming out of his racket. But his technique seems quite weird somehow. And his footwork does not look very smooth. Yet he covers the court so well. His backhand smash is already feared, but it does not have the elegance of Taufik Hidayats. He is using his whole body to perform them.

So what I want to say…there is plenty of room to improve for him. Yet it already seems like there is only Axelsen able to stop him, when Lee Zii Jia is at 100% top form. Momota for example seems totally helpless these days against him.

He seems to be quite strong mentally as well, so I am excited to see whats coming from him in the future. I expect big things!

Lee Zii Jia Malaysia - Badminton All England
Lee Zii Jia Malaysia – Badminton All England

Do you agree with this list of the mens singles next generation in badminton? Who do you think will succeed the most? Feel free to leave a comment!

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