Badminton is probably one of the most competitive sports in the world. Historically dominated by Asian countries, European nations are competing with the best and climbing the world badminton rankings in recent years.
Indian badminton had a lot to cheer about when London 2012 bronze-medallist Saina Nehwal became the first player from the country to become world No. 1 in 2015, with Kidambi Srikanth achieving the top rank in men’s singles in 2017.
The badminton ranking may fluctuate with each passing tournament but how are they actually calculated? What is the basis for awarding more points for a certain tournament and less for others? Let’s find out:
The most effective way to know the quality of players at the top level, the badminton world rankings are determined by the sum total of points earned by a player in the preceding 52 weeks.
The BWF World Rankings have five main categories – men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles, and mixed doubles.
Players/pairs who advance in a competition earn more points as per stage reached while playing in better-graded tournaments (Grade 1 gives more points than a Grade 2 event) also helps in earning more points.
However, this does not mean that players/pairs who play the most number of tournaments - they will naturally earn more points - will be ranked higher.
The badminton rankings system is designed in such a way that it takes into account the 10 highest-scoring events by a player/pair in the preceding 52 weeks.
To explain, a player/pair who has played 10 tournaments or lesser in the previous year can accumulate all the points he/she has earned in those tournaments.
However, if a player/pair has played more than 10 tournaments - say 12 - then their two lowest-scoring finishes will not be considered for points calculation, only the 10-highest scoring ones will be considered to determine the world rankings.
For BWF World Junior Rankings, the seven highest-scoring events by a player/pair in the preceding 52 weeks are taken into account.
How badminton ranking points are awarded
These are how the points are calculated in tournaments across the calendar:
Grade 1 events (BWF World Championships/Olympics)
Winner: 13,000 points
Runner-up: 11,000 points
Third/fourth: 9,200 points (at Olympics 3rd place earns 10,100 points while 4th earns 9200 points)
Grade 2 events (Level 1 - BWF World Tour Finals and Level 2 – Asian Championships)
Winner: 12,000 points
Runner-up: 10,200 points
Third/fourth: 8,400 points
Grade 2 events (Level 3 – Selected BWF World Tour tournaments)
Winner: 11,000 points
Runner-up: 9,350 points
Third/fourth: 7,700 points
Grade 2 events (Level 4 – Selected BWF World Tour tournaments and European Championships)
Winner: 9,200 points
Runner-up: 7,800 points
Third/fourth: 6,420 points
The above calculation reflects the quality of tournaments – a World Championship or Olympics carries more weightage as the level of competition and expectation is generally higher while a Grade 2 (Level 4) tournament may not carry as much prestige.
In case two or more players have earned the same number of points after 52 weeks, then the player who has played more tournaments will be ranked higher. In case both have also played the same number of tournaments, then they are ranked equal.
BWF World Tour Rankings
Since 2018, the Badminton World Federation (BWF) has designed a new world event called the BWF World Tour, a set of 26 tournaments held in a calendar year.
The players ranked in the top-eight after the conclusion of those 26 tournaments are invited to play a tournament called the BWF World Tour Finals at the end of the year, which crowns a champion. PV Sindhu became the inaugural women’s champion in 2018.
The rankings for the BWF World Tour are slightly different from how the badminton world rankings are calculated.
While the world rankings take into account the points accumulated over the preceding 52 weeks, the BWF World Tour Rankings are only calculated by the players’ performance in the 26 BWF World Tour events.
This means that the BWF World Rankings and BWF World Tour Rankings could differ.
For example, a player may be ranked world No. 1 because of their cumulative performances over the past 52 weeks but can be 8th in the BWF World Tour rankings because of not progressing too far in the BWF World Tour events they participated in.
BWF World Team Rankings
The BWF also releases a quarterly (once in three months) team rankings – to rank countries – based on the points earned by players in individual events and teams in team events (like Sudirman Cup and the Thomas & Uber Cups).
The BWF World Team Rankings are determined by the number of players each country has in the individual world rankings in each of the five categories – men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles, mixed doubles.
If a country has a player in the world in the:
Top 3 – 1,500 points
Top 3-10– 1,200 points
Top 10-20 – 1,000 points
Top 20-50 – 750 points
Top 50 – 100 – 500 points
Each country is awarded points on the basis of the above calculation and the BWF World Team Rankings are determined by the sum total earned by each country over the preceding 52 weeks. India is currently ranked ninth in the BWF World Team Rankings.
Badminton Olympics qualification based on BWF rankings
The BWF also releases a special rankings list to decide the participants for the Olympics.
This list is determined by the number of points earned by an individual player within a pre-determined qualification window.
The top players and teams, in men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles, at the end of the window earn direct Olympic quota places for their respective countries.
Number of players or teams qualifying, however, depends on the number of participants in each category at a particular edition of the Summer Games. At the Tokyo Olympics, there were 38 players each in the men’s and women’s singles and 16 pairs in each of the men’s, women’s, and mixed doubles categories.
There’s also a cap on the maximum number of players a particular country can send for each category.