Two-time world champion Chen Long, in a recent interview, pointed out that only himself, Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei were winning honours among themselves to leave other competitors with barely a chance.
Chen Long, who retired earlier this year as one of China’s greatest men’s singles shuttlers, broke into the scene a little later than the other two but managed to rack up a wealth of accolades, including an Olympic gold and two world titles.
The lanky shuttler also amassed 446 career wins despite retiring aged 34, in comparison to Lee and Lin who hung up their racquets aged 37 and 38 respectively.
“During my time, the eventual champion of any tournaments, big or small, was always the few of us. It was mostly Lin Dan, Lee Chong Wei and myself. Only much later that Viktor Axelsen and Kento Momota emerged.
“It was always the few of us who won all the titles, and it was more difficult for the others to do so. Lin Dan and Chong Wei were more attacking players, Axelsen is too. I focused on control and was therefore more defensive,” he told the Badminton World Federation recently.
Chen, whose last international match came against Axelsen at the Tokyo Olympics, believed the man he lost to in that final is the current men’s singles conqueror.
“Axelsen is the best at the moment, followed by those between two to 16. These players are evenly matched and anyone is capable of winning the title. There is a bigger field of elite players now, but the one that stands out is Axelsen.
“The current generation are defensive players with amazing stamina, very young and physically in their prime,” he added.
During his time, if Lin Dan was not in the picture, Chen played devil’s advocate to scupper Lee on more than one occasion, in a big final.
He beat the Malaysian in the 2014 and 2015 World Championships finals, and completed the heartbreak in the 2016 Olympics final.