WORLD RANKINGS – Fact or just pure FICTION

Thursday is an important day of the week for many of us in many different ways. For some it’s the day after the ‘hump’ of the working week and one […]

Thursday is an important day of the week for many of us in many different ways. For some it’s the day after the ‘hump’ of the working week and one step closer to the weekend, for others and for many in Europe its actually pay day but for us badminton fans and nerds it’s the day the new world list is published and a chance for us to analyse, debate and, more often than not, be left scratching our heads as to how the system actual works or does not work.

By Mark Phelan Photos: Badmintonphoto

I know that the majority of you out there will wholeheartedly agree with me when I say that the rest of the world trails in the wake of the Chinese super-tanker in every imaginable way when it comes to badminton. They have an endless ‘gravy train’ of talent constantly bubbling to the surface and, taking a wild guess, I would be comfortable in saying that if they probably wanted to and needed to Chinese athletes could occupy the top 20 of every word ranking list or at least the majority of the positions.

With this taken as almost gospel, why is it then we find ourselves this week (week 48 2010) with not one Chinese player in the top 5 of the men’s singles, the best Chinese women is at number 3 in women’s singles, Cai and Fu are only number 6 in men’s doubles and women’s and mixed doubles appear to be forgotten about at present in China.

Yes, I can hear some of you screaming from here with the age-old arguments that oh this is just the pre-Olympic period and the Chinese are trying out new pairings maybe plus we all know that in China the focus is primarily on the major titles and world rankings mean nothing to them. Yes, I agree with these arguments but my question right back is simple this, is this good for the sport in general? It is my belief we need the top players at the top of the rankings on a consistent basis as our sport needs personalities and superstars to drive the development and to attract the masses to our sport and as a consequence move badminton up the ladder of popularity.

To get back to the issue of the world ranking list, it’s clear that the players who perform most frequently on the Super Series tour in particular tend to gravitate towards the top of the list. Players such as Peter Gade, Lee Chong Wei (pictured top) and Taufik Hidayat should be saluted in their efforts as they tend to support the ‘global’ tour on a regular basis. In the case of any of the three mentioned, you can be pretty sure that if they are missing from any tournament it is most likely due to injury. These, in my opinion are real ambassadors for badminton but I’m sure you all will agree that not one Chinese player in the top five is almost farcical.

This week Taufik is number 3 in the world ranking list with a massive 14 tournaments played while the greatest player in the history of the game Lin Dan (pictured bottom) of China is at number 7 with exactly half the number of tournaments under his belt that Taufik has.

When we look at tennis as a comparison, the top players in the sport in any given year are perched at the top of the world rankings. This week, for example, Nadal and Federer are sitting pretty on top of the rankings with 21 tournaments played each but what is more interesting is that the players below them all have a similar volume of tournaments played so it is clear that the pitch is indeed level in the sport of tennis when it comes to their ranking system.

I think most of us have a clear idea as to the workings of both the badminton world ranking system and tennis; my question to the powers that be is why do we not have a system that encourages all the top players to participate in a consistent number of tournaments each year? Why do we have a ranking system and a points system so out of date that all you have to do is turn up to most of the 12 super series events per year, and feasibly lose in the first round of each, and still manage to get enough points to be invited to the windfall that is the Super Series Finals. How can you be rewarded for losing on this scale?

This article is an article of questions rather than answers as you can be fully sure that anything I say will fall on the deafest of ears of the upper echelons of world badminton. But it is my opinion that this needs to be changed and changed radically if we are to see our game develop. We need to see all our top players compete, where possible, at the same events each year. We need this in order to produce full and meaningful tournaments, we need this so the players further down the rankings have the chance to play against the top players, we also need this to convince the rest of the world that badminton is a serious sport and a sport worth playing not a sport where players can, and I don’t say this lightly, can actually be rewarded for losing.

Finally and to lighten the mood just a tad, I ask you the readers if you were to analysis the world’s top 10 of each of the 5 disciplines and if the playing field was level and players, within reason, played an equal volume of tournaments per year, who in your opinion would be the top 10 in each discipline? Just post in the comment field below and let’s enjoy the debate.

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About Mark Phelan