World badminton has witnessed a lot of churn since the start of the 2010s with powerhouse China’s hegemony in major international events being challenged by many more countries instead of just Indonesia, Korea and Denmark.

Japan, which will host the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, finally built a squad with considerable depth like China and ended up as overall winners in the 2019 BWF World Championships with two gold, three silver and one bronze medal. This was the first time in the new millennium that China finished second in the competition and that is probably enough to show the progress Japan has made under Park Joo Bong.

The decade also witnessed some memorable matches like the 2017 World Championship final between PV Sindhu and Nozomi Okuhara, victory of Anders Antonsen over Kento Momota at the Indonesia Masters, wild card Lin Dan clinching his fifth world title in Guangzhou when Lee Chong Wei retired with the Chinese legend leading 16-21, 21-13, 20-17 after the organisers shut down the stadium’s air conditioning at the start of the second game.

The fixing controversy at the 2012 London Olympics by the Chinese, Korean and Indonesia pairs to avoid strong opponents in the semi-finals led the BWF to make fresh draws after the group stages in all major competitions.

Off the court, the year-long ban on Momota for illegal gambling, Chong Wei’s eight-month suspension for doping and subsequent retirement after a successful fight against nose cancer and the European Bloc’s failed attempt at changing the scoring system yet again to shorten the duration of matches and make things more lively for television audience dominated the discussion.

Also read: The 2019 year-end review

The introduction of Hawk-Eye, a new tournament structure with enhanced prize money, packed calendar and the heated debates over the mandatory tournament rules for top players were the other major talking points that will continue to be discussed in the new decade.

But the passing decade will also be remembered for Momota winning 11 titles in a year in 2019 and more countries bagging the women’s singles gold medal at the world championship in these 10 years than the number of nations standing atop the podium since 1977 to 2009.

The decade also corresponded with the rise of Indian badminton, which saw the country stake claim to becoming one of the powerhouses in the world.

Here we take a look at the highlights of the golden decade for Indian badminton.

India’s rise as contender for major events

At the start of this decade, India boasted of one world championship medal, two All England crowns and a couple of bronze medals at the Asian Games. But most of these achievements, with the exception of Pullela Gopichand’s 2001 All England crown, had come in the 1980s.

Though Saina Nehwal had started to make an impact on the world stage and had already become country’s first junior world champion in 2008, medals in major tournaments like the world championship and Asian Games were still considered distant dreams till the women’s doubles combination of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa changed the script with a surprise run to the 2011 World Championship semi-finals. Their bronze-winning feat ended India’s 28-year wait for a World Championship medal and since then India has not returned without a medal from a single edition of the year’s marquee event.

Indian medallists at major events

Year Medal/Discipline Player
2011 World Championships Bronze/Women's doubles Jwala Gutta/Ashwini Ponnappa
2012 London Olympics Bronze/Women's singles Saina Nehwal
2013 World Championships Bronze/Women's singles PV Sindhu
2014 World Championships Bronze/Women's singles PV Sindhu
2015 World Championships Silver/Women's singles Saina Nehwal
2016 Rio Olympics Silver/Women's singles PV Sindhu
2017 World Championships Silver/Women's singles
Bronze/Women's singles
PV Sindhu
Saina Nehwal
2018 World Championships Silver/Women's singles PV Sindhu
2018 Asian Games Silver/Women's singles
Bronze/Women's singles
PV Sindhu
Saina Nehwal
2019 World Championships Gold/Women's singles
Bronze/Men's singles
PV Sindhu
B Sai Praneeth

The decade also saw India challenge Malaysia and England’s hegemony in the Commonwealth Games. It started with two gold medals in women’s singles and women’s doubles on the home turf in 2010 and ended with India bagging the most medals along with England in the 2018 edition, including the mixed team gold for the first time ever.

Indian medallists in CWG (2010-2018)

Year Event Medal
2010 Mixed Team Silver
2010 Women's singles (Saina Nehwal) Gold
2010 Women's doubles (Jwala Gutta/Ashwini Ponnappa Gold
2010 Men's singles (P Kashyap) Bronze
2014 Men's singles (P Kashyap)
Men's singles (Guru Sai Dutt)
2014 Women's singles (PV Sindhu) Bronze
2014 Women's doubles (Jwala/Ashwini) Silver
2018 Mixed Team Gold
2018 Women's Singles (Saina)
Women's singles (Sindhu)
2018 Men's singles (K Srikanth) Silver
2018 Men's doubles (Satwik/Chirag Shetty) Silver
2018 Women's doubles (Ashwini/Sikki Reddy) Bronze

India also managed to win medals at the team events, something that was considered to be out of reach due to the lack of depth in all five disciplines

Team event medals in this decade

Year Event Medal
2014 Asian Games women's team Bronze
2014 Uber Cup Bronze
2016 Badminton Asia Team Championship (Men) Bronze

Two World No 1s and many more highs

Ever since the legendary Prakash Padukone had bagged the honour of being the unofficial world No 1 following his triumphs in 1980-81, breaking into the world top-20 was also considered an achievement for quite some time. Saina stayed among the ten best players for major part of the decade and finally scaled the pole position in April 2015.

Kidambi Srikanth then achieved that goal in April 2018 thanks to a stellar 2017 which saw him win four Superseries titles.

PV Sindhu managed to reach a career-high ranking of two so far and while many more have broken into the world top-10. In December this year, India had six men’s singles players in world top-30, a number which was higher than even China.

Three Indians – Aditya Joshi, Siril Verma and Lakshya Sen – also scaled the junior world ranking chart with Verma bagging the world junior championship silver in 2015 and Sen clinching the bronze in 2018.

Indian players in top-10 this decade

Name Event Career best ranking
Saina Nehwal women's singles 1
PV Sindhu women's singles 2
Kidambi Srikanth
men's singles 1
B Sai Praneeth men's singles 10
HS Prannoy men's singles 8
P Kashyap men's singles 6
Jwala/Ashwini women's doubles 10
Satwik/Chirag Shetty men's doubles 7

Baton passes from Nehwal to Sindhu

While the men’s singles stars have been performing consistently on the international circuit, most title triumphs in Superseries (now Super 500 and above) tournaments have been shared between Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu.

Among the men, Srikanth is way ahead of his peers with six titles while B Sai Praneeth is the only other Indian men’s singles player to have won a Superseries crown. Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty became the first Indian men’s doubles combination in that list when they clinched the Thailand Open. Sameer Verma and Ajay Jayaram reached the finals of one Superseries event each but finished runners-up.

Even among Sindhu and Nehwal, the latter had been consistent in winning the Superseries tournaments till she suffered a knee injury in 2016 just before the Rio Olympics while the former has managed to raise the bar in major tournaments like the world championship.

In fact, Sindhu now holds the record of most number of women’s singles medals in the BWF World Championship along with China’s Zhang Ning.

Titles in Superseries events and above

Player Event Number of titles
Saina Nehwal women's singles 10*
PV Sindhu women's singles 4
Kidambi Srikanth men's singles 6
B Sai Praneeth men's singles 1
Satwik/Chirag men's doubles 1
* Saina's first Superseries title came in 2009 which takes her overall tally to 11