Badminton World Rankings: How do they work?

Kento Momota and Tai Tzu Ying currently top the men’s and women’s badminton world rankings, respectively, but how are they calculated?
By Rahul Venkat

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.

Currently, Rio 2016 silver-medallist PV Sindhu is India’s best-placed shuttler in the world, being ranked world No. 7 in the women’s singles.

PV Sindhu.

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:

BWF World Rankings

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.

Kento Momota is the top-ranked men’s player in the world.
Picture by 2019 Getty Images

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, Chinese Taipei legend Tai Tzu Ying is ranked world No. 1 because of her cumulative performances over 52 weeks till March 17, 2020 (when BWF World Rankings were frozen).

However, she is 8th in the BWF World Tour rankings because she did not progress too far in the BWF World Tour events she participated in.

Tai Tzu Ying is ranked eighth in the women’s singles on the BWF World Tour.
Picture by 2019 Getty Images

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.

BWF ‘Race to Tokyo’ Rankings

The BWF also releases a special rankings list to decide the participants in the Tokyo Olympics.

This list is determined by the number of points earned by an individual player between April 29, 2019, to March 15, 2020, and January 4, 2021, to May 2, 2021.

The top-16 players at the end of May 4, 2021, in the men’s and women’s singles category and top-eight pairs in the men’s doubles and women’s doubles earn direct quota places for their respective countries, restricted to two.

In case there are more than two players/pairs from the same country in the top-16 or top-eight, then the two highest ranked players/pairs will go through with every subsequent spot awarded to the next best-ranked player/pair.

Each country can only allow eight men and eight women to participate across the five categories, making it 16 athletes in total from a country.

In total, there will be 38 players each in the men’s and women’s singles while there will be 16 pairs in each of the men’s, women’s, and mixed doubles categories.

Currently, PV Sindhu, B Sai Praneeth, and the men’s doubles pair of Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy are the only Indian badminton players who can gain direct entry to the Tokyo Olympics.

However, starting with the BWF World Tour’s Thailand Open on January 12, players who sit just outside the direct places like former top-ranked stars Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth are also in with a chance of earning enough points to be eligible for the Tokyo Olympics.