Why Viktor Axelsen Is The Best Badminton Player In The World

Viktor Axelsen is a men’s singles badminton player from Denmark and is currently ranked number 1 in the world. He won gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, is two times World Champion (in 2017 and 2022) and two times All England Open Champion (in 2020 and 2022).

Viktor was also awarded the Player of the Year in 2022 by the Badminton World Federation (BWF) and the Danish Sports Name of the Year in 2017 and 2022 by the National Olympic Committee and Sports Confederation of Denmark and Team Danmark.

Viktor is currently the best badminton player in the world for, in our opinion, 5 reasons: his attack; his shot selection; his consistency; his movement and physicality; and autonomy.

So after analysing over 30 hours of his matches, we’ll now break down each of these 5 areas that make Viktor the best in the game (at the time of writing), as well as what we can all learn from his game and implement into our own!

1. Viktor’s Attack

💡Did you know: In 10 of Viktor’s recent matches against various players ranked in the top 10 in the world, 36% of his points came from hitting winning shots in his rear court attack! That’s over 1 in every 3 points!

In comparison to 10 matches from other top players: Lee Zii Jia (who is known for his attack) won 28% of his points with his attack, and Anthony Ginting only won 24% of his points with his attack.

So why is Viktor Axelsen’s attack so good?

  • Viktor is very tall (6ft 4in or 1.94m) which helps him to get a lot of angle on his shots.

  • He really opens his chest to allow for rotation and an increased racket head speed which helps him to power the shuttle at up to 400kph!

  • This technique helps Viktor create an identical preparation no matter what shot he is hitting. In the 4 images below, it looks like he is going to play the same shot in each. But, he actually plays 4 completely different shots!

  • He also has unbelievable accuracy!

🏸 What You Can Implement In Your Game: Try to have the same preparation for all your shots in a specific area (e.g. overhead rear court shots), and focus on having variety and accuracy in your shots rather than only power.

2. Viktor’s Shot Selection

Viktor often chooses shots that force his opponent to lift.

Example 1: In the forecourt, he plays a lot of pushes to the service line.

But why is this good?

  • It’s hard to play it tight to the net from the service line, so most opponents will either push it back or lift.

  • This means he has almost eliminated an area of the court that his opponents can play to.

  • Viktor then anticipates the lift by doing a directional split step (or switching his feet) so that he is faster moving backwards to get behind the shuttle and hit an attacking shot, which as we know, is often a winner!
Directional split step
Standard split step

Example 2: He makes his opponents move in a long diagonal (the longest distance on the court).

  • When his opponent hits a straight drop, he often anticipates this and quickly turns the shuttle cross court to make his opponent move in a long diagonal.

  • This often puts his opponents under a lot pressure, forcing them to lift!

Example 3: He often lifts when returning a low serve.

  • Depending on his opponent and the speed of shuttles, Viktor often lifts when returning a low serve, 49% of the time to be precise (from our research)!

  • Some people may argue that it’s bad to lift this much off the return of serve, however this is a calculated choice as he often wants to create counter-attack opportunities for himself.

🏸 What You Can Implement In Your Game: Try one (or all) of the examples above, and see if you can recreate these in your training and matches!

3. Viktor’s Consistency

💡 In one of his recent matches against Kento Momota (world number 2 at the time of the match at the Malaysia Open 2022), Viktor won 21-4, 21-7, and only made 4 unforced errors!

You might think this was just a one-off, however he has also beaten other players in the top 10 in the world to a similar score line, making an average of only 9 unforced errors in these matches. 

This is VERY impressive given he’s playing the best players in the world where the margins are so small.

Because Viktor rarely makes any unforced errors, this makes his opponents feel like they need to hit more accurately and go for winners, which actually then makes them more likely to make unforced errors – quite a genius strategy if you ask us!

🏸 What You Can Implement In Your Game: Reduce your unforced errors by making intentional shot decisions and choosing to play certain shots at the right time. This might sometimes mean playing ‘safer’ shots instead of trying to hit ‘perfect’ shots, or ‘winning shots’ the whole time.

4. Viktor’s Movement And Physicality

We all know that badminton is a physical sport – you need speed, strength, power, endurance and agility. Comparing his physique from his younger self to now, Viktor has definitely worked hard to build all of these over the years.

One way he has done this is by working hard in the gym, and if you’d like more information on weights training for badminton players, you can check out our programmes below!

🏸 What You Can Implement In Your Game: Regularly practice your footwork and work on your physicality. Know that it's possible to transform your physique for the better, just like Viktor has (with a lot of time and hard work)!

Of course, there are faster players on the World Tour than Viktor (such as Anthony Ginting or Loh Kean Yew), but considering the size of Viktor, his ability to move fast and recover fast is extremely impressive.

He also moves very efficiently around the court, which helps him to get to the shuttle earlier whilst also saving energy!

5. Viktor Has Autonomy

Autonomy is defined as ‘freedom from external influence or control’.

Not many top level badminton players have this, but Viktor does after becoming an independent player and moving his entire training set up to Dubai after the Tokyo Olympics. This has enabled him to do exactly what he wants to do, and this control both on and off the court has definitely seemed to help his performance. 

Moving away from a controlled training environment might not be the best choice for everyone, but Viktor seems to be extremely professional with everything he does.

A lot of people think that to become the best in the world, you need to be thinking about badminton every second of the day, however we strongly disagree!

Viktor has learnt Chinese, has his own brand (VAHealth), a YouTube channel, and also 2 daughters. These things can help take his mind off the sheer relentlessness of sport.

🏸 What You Can Implement: Have other projects or things in your life to help take your mind off the highs and lows of competitive sport. This can give you more autonomy and purpose in your life, which can in turn positively impact your performance on court.

What Else Can We Learn From Viktor?

Here are 3 more quick tips that we’ve learnt from watching Viktor for many years:

1. Train with intensity and purpose. A big reason for Viktor’s success is his relentless pursuit of excellence within the sporting environment in everything he does – whether he’s doing shot practice, training routines or playing matches.

2. Invest in yourself. Whether this is trying to improve your diet, learning how to improve your sleep, or how to train better, these 1% differences can compound and result in huge changes over time.

💡 James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits famously said: “If you get 1% better each day for one year, you’ll end up 37 times better by the time you’re done.” You can read more about it here!

3. Have fun in training! This is something that Viktor has talked about a lot and is something we are also big advocates of!

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So for the above reasons, it’s clear that Viktor is dominating men’s singles and is very hard to beat…hence why he is seen as the best badminton player in the world currently!

If you’d like to watch our YouTube video on why Viktor Axelsen is the best badminton player in the world, you can also check that out below!