Legends in Numbers: Part 3 – Zhao Yunlei


Made by Badminton Statistics

Part 2 of the Lin Dan entry is still on the drawing board, but I thought it was time we got the stronger sex on the board – and why not start with one of the top female doubles players of all time: Zhao Yunlei.

Zhao Yunlei had one of the most successful careers of any player in the last 30 years and her list of accomplishments is almost endless.

For starters, she is one of only 3 players with 5 World Championship titles

She is also the only player to have won gold in two different categories at the same Olympic Games, having won both the women’s and the mixed doubles titles in 2012. She is also the only player to hold 2 Olympic and 2 World Championship titles at the same time, winning the women’s and the mixed doubles World Championships in both 2014 and 2015.

In terms of career World Tour equivalent match wins she is ranked 9th overall:

It is worth noting that Zhao Yunlei has played significantly fewer matches than any other player in the top-10, the next closest player being Lin Dan who has played 75 more.

Zhao Yunlei’s career total of 49 Superseries, World and Olympic titles place her second on the all-time list, only surpassed by Lee Chong Wei:

What is perhaps most incredible about Zhao Yunlei’s titles is that they were almost entirely won within a 6-year period from 2010 to the end of 2015, shortly before she retired. During this period she won 47 of her 49 titles, meaning that she won an average of 8 titles each year during those 6 years.

In her early career she had limited success, being primarily paired with Xu Chen in the mixed doubles and Cheng Shu in the women’s doubles. It wasn’t until 2010, when she was paired with Zhang Nan in the mixed doubles that her career really took off, with an early highlight being the All England title in 2010.

From 2011 until the end of 2015 Zhao and Zhang would have one of the best periods of any doubles pairs in badminton history. During these 5 years they played 260 World Tour equivalent matches, and only lost 30, giving a winning percentage of 88%.

When Zhao retired in 2016, the pair had won no less than 31 Superseries-equivalent, World and Olympic titles, the second-most of any doubles pairing in the last 30 years:

The H2H record demonstrates how dominant Zhang and Zhao were, showing they had positive records against everybody, except for one other partnership:

In 2014 and 2015 they were at their absolute best, winning 45 straight matches – one of the best winning streaks in recent badminton history, and the longest since the current scoring system was introduced:

Of course it wasn’t only in the mixed doubles that Zhao Yunlei excelled. While she never achieved quite the same level of dominance in the women’s doubles category, she still had an exceptional career, especially in her partnership with Tian Qing, with whom she won 10 Superseries titles, 2 World Championships and 1 Olympic title, and earned a positive record against almost every other pairing:

Finally, she also had a lock on the ranking list, where she spent 236 weeks at the number 1 spot with Zhang Nan in the mixed doublces, and a further 45 weeks in the women’s doubles with Xu Chen (2 weeks) and Tian Qing (43 weeks) for a total of 281 weeks – second on the all-time list.

While Zhao Yunlei’s best period only lasted a relatively modest 5-6 years, it was a time of dominance that has rarely been equalled in the history of badminton, and she is widely regarded as one of the best doubles players to ever step on the court – and the numbers would certainly seem to corroborate that notion.

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