Momota clears the half-million mark for 2019

World #1 Kento Momota became the first badminton player in history to earn more than half a million dollars in prize money when he tacked on $120,000 from the World […]

World #1 became the first badminton player in history to earn more than half a million dollars in when he tacked on $120,000 from the World Tour Finals on Sunday.

By Don Hearn.  Photos: Badmintonphoto

Tai Tzu Ying was within striking distance of the half-million mark last year when she arrived in Guangzhou for the World Tour Finals but in the end, she only narrowly edged out Kento Momota (pictured top) to be top prize winner for 2018, both shuttlers doing what none had done before: earning more than US$400,000.  But this year, Momota was head-and-shoulders above the rest of badminton’s richest competitors as he finished the year with US$536,900, earning prize money from 15 of badminton’s more prestigious and lucrative tournaments.

Badzine has been keeping track of the top prize winners nearly every year since 2011 and the numbers of course keep going up, though not always steadily.  Momota’s 2019 figure marks a 32% increase over the previous year, which was also a , but even this substantial jump was not itself a .  In 2018, the advent of the BWF World Tour helped Tai Tzu Ying earn 37% more than Chen Long’s previous from 2015.  The biggest jump in the dozen years since we’ve been keeping track, however, was back in 2011, when the addition of the Superseries Premier events brought a 62% rise in the top dollar figure but the ceiling was not pushed more than another 10% for the rest of the life of the Superseries.

Momota is actually the first male player to occupy the top spot in terms of prize winnings since Chen Long in 2015.  While he was only a few hundred dollars behind Tai last year, this time around, his nearest competitors are much farther off his mark.  Chen Yufei (pictured above) came very close to becoming the 3rd player to break $400,000 while Tai dropped almost exactly $100,000 from her own 2018 figure.

Sharing, not always alike

The richest doubles pair this year was again Zheng Siwei and Huang Yaqiong (pictured above).  Together, they took in just a few thousand less than Momota did but as they had to split the $532,000 figure between the two partners, they ended up in 5th spot on our list, behind 2017 leader Akane Yamaguchi.  Zheng and Huang thus each became richer than any doubles player in history, surpassing the record set by Chen Qingchen in 2017.  Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo were second among doubles pairs, earning slightly more than last year and following the Chinese mixed pair in topping half a million.

Playing two doubles disciplines allowed Zhao Yunlei to top our list way back in 2014 and Chen Qingchen to top her figure in 2017, but these days hardly any players still do that.  Yuta Watanabe, the only player to participate in two disciplines in the most lucrative tournament, the World Tour Finals, was the 11th richest doubles player, with $176,638.  Seo Seung Jae and Sapsiree Taerattanachai, were the only two others who ended up in six figures by winning prize money from both mixed and level doubles.

Rising all the way down the list

Not just at the top, but overall numbers seem higher than last year.  The prize money figure for #50 on our list is about $10,000 higher than last year, and the number of players in six figures has gone from 28 last year to 36 in 2019.  The number of players who won over $200,000 also increased, from 11 in 2018 to 15 this year.

It is also further down the list one has to go to find the richest non-Asian badminton player.  That is again Carolina Marin.  In just 9 tournaments this year, Marin still pulled down nearly as much as some top 5 players did in twice as many outings.  The top 50, though, includes only 2 other Europeans.  Last year, Zhang Beiwen made the top 50, but with the American well off the pace in 2019, Michelle Li (pictured right) at #55 was the richest shuttler from the Pan Am region.

The youngest player to appear on our list this year is, predictably, French Open winner (pictured left).  Only one of the 17-year-old Korean’s compatriots earned more money than she did, that being doubles specialist Kong Hee Yong.

You can view the complete list of the top 50 prize winners by clicking the above thumbnail.  This is the eighth time that Badzine has compiled and published a list of the top prize winners.  However, for the first time, this has been done using figures from the BWF’s own database. Any extra income from private sponsorships, endorsements, invitational tournaments, and professional leagues – such as those in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and China – are not reflected by this list.  For doubles pairs, it is assumed that the partners split prize money equally.

Click on the list image to get the full list of the Top 50 Badminton Prize Winners of 2019

(Note: Figures are also shown on the website, but these amounts will not always correspond as, at the time of writing, they are missing prize money from certain tournaments, such as the Chinese Taipei Open.)

Don Hearn

About Don Hearn

Don Hearn is an Editor and Correspondent who hails from a badminton-loving town in rural Canada. He joined the Badzine team in 2006 to provide coverage of the Korean badminton scene and is committed to helping Badzine to promote badminton to the place it deserves as a global sport. Contact him at: don @