The “God of Badminton”, Nandu Natekar was one of the most prominent figures in the history of Badminton. His career in Badminton lasted for about 15 years, in which he managed to win over 100 national and international titles. His control and regulation over the game made him the first-ever Indian to win a title abroad in 1956. In 1961, which proved to be the highlight year for Nandu Natekar as a badminton player, he received the first Arjuna award that was instituted in the same year, alongside being voted as the most popular sportsperson of India.
There lies no doubt that he had a certain dominance in the sport of Badminton which only becomes more evident through the numerous awards he had won and the respect that came along with it from the people of the country.
2. Pullela Gopichand
He is not only one of the best Indian Badminton players but is also the coach of the top Indian Badminton players. He has single-handedly produced few of the most world-class athletes, including P V Sindhu and Saina Nehwal. His retirement came on a little early in his Badminton career due to the numerous injuries he went through.
Albeit he yet manages to contribute towards the sport through coaching the top and the best badminton players under his wing in Hyderabad.
He has won Arjuna Award, Padma Shri and Dronacharya award for his excellency and brilliance in performance and his contribution as a coach in Badminton.
3. Prakash Padukone
Prakash Padukone was ranked world’s No. 1 Badminton player in 1980. His sheer grit and an extreme passion for the game led him towards the victorious All England Open Badminton Championship in the same year itself. In 1972 he was awarded Arjuna Award and ten years later in 1982, he was awarded Padma Shri.
His achievements and success in the sport-inspired “Touch Play” by Dev S. Sukumar, the only second biography of any Badminton player. Even after retirement, he continued to devote himself towards the sport though mentoring budding Indian badminton players through his academy. He is also co-founder of Olympic Gold Quest, a foundation meant to promote Olympic sports.
Jwala Gutta with her aggressive style of playing became one of the best Indian Badminton players in the Doubles category. Her affinity with the frontcourt and skilled net play along with precise anticipation made her one of the deadliest players in Badminton Doubles.
She excelled in giving deceptive strokes at the net and has a unique style of service since she is the only top doubles player to use the forehand service. She started at the age of 17 when she lifted the Junior National Championship, which gave her the platform to rise further ahead. For seven consecutive years, from 2002-2008, she managed to win the Doubles National title along with Sruti Kurien.
5. Saina Nehwal
She is undoubtedly one of the most celebrated Badminton players of India. She is the only women player who has managed to become the world’s No. 1 with 23 titles to her name. Saina Nehwal has contributed immensely towards the sport in making it more popular amongst the younger generations to follow. She became the first Indian shuttler to win a medal in Olympics, and only Indian player to have won BWF World Junior Championship. She became the first Indian and the youngest Asian to win 4-star tournament.
In parallel to the many well-deserved accords she has under her name, she has also been awarded Arjuna Award, Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan, and Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award.
6. Aparna Popat
Aparna Popat has a record of holding the maximum number of National Championship which is a total of 9 times between 1997 to 2006. In 1998 she became the first Indian player to win French Open title. In the same year, she managed to win her Silver in Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games. Her coach nil Pradhan started mentoring her since she was 8 years old. Later in her life in 1994, she was coached under the legendary Prakash Padukone to hone her skills better and t expand her capabilities.
She seized her first National title in 1997, Hyderabad, from whereon she went on winning till 2006, therefore equalling Prakash Padukone’s record of 9 National Single titles. She has also been awarded Arjuna Award for her excellence in the sport.
7. P.V Sindhu
Sindhu became international attention when she managed to break into BWF’s top 20 rankings at the age of 17. In the consecutive year 2013, she became the first Indian Singles player to win a medal at Badminton World Championships. In 2015, she was awarded Padma Shri, and in 2016 she became India’s first shuttler to reach final of an Olympics Badminton event alongside being the youngest Indian as well to finish at a podium in Olympics. In 2017, she became the first Indian to win the Korea Open. Along with Padma Shri, she ha also been awarded Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award and Arjuna Award. She won a gold medal in the mixed team event at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and a silver in the women's singles event. She won her second consecutive silver medal at the 2018 world championships. At the 2019 World Championships, Sindhu became the first Indian to win Gold.
8. Parupalli Kashyap
Parupalli Kashyap made his name through 2012 Men’s Singles at London Olympics where he became the only Indian male player at the time to reach quarterfinals. He has been an iconic player for the Indian Badminton League, where he played for Banga Beats. In 2018 he won the Austrian Open. His resilience and sheer will is the reason he could fight his asthma and become one of the top athletes of India. He was awarded Arjuna Award in 2012, for his eminent contribution towards the sport.
9. Srikanth Kidambi
Srikant Kidambi became the worlds No 1. Badminton player in 2018. He was also awarded Padma Shri in the same year for his outstanding achievements and success in a very short period. In 2015 he became the first Indian male to win Swiss Open Grand Prix Gold and won the Indian Open as well in the same year. In 2016, he was ranked No. 11 from where he made his way through to world’s No. 1 in just two years. He set a record for entering three Super Series Finals consecutively.
10. Ashwini Ponnappa
Her iconic partnership with Jwala Gutta led her into being the top Badminton player in the doubles category. The pair had won many international titles including gold in Commonwealth Games and bronze in Uber Cup and Asian Badminton Championship. The duo in 2011, became the first Indian pair and women to win a medal in BWF World Championships, which was also one of their finest performances in the history of Badminton.