Kodai Naraoka: Rising Star in World Badminton

Kodai Naraoka about to hit the shuttle
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Last Updated on 29/11/2023 by Kriss

Kodai Naraoka, the rising star in the world of badminton, has made some headlines lately. At 22 years old, he recently won his first Super 750 title at the China Masters in November. What’s the secret behind this young athlete’s success, and how did he become the next hope for Japan’s Badminton Singles after Kento Momota?

In this post, we’ll take a look at Kodai Naraoka’s life and career, from his early beginnings as a badminton player to his current status as an international sensation. We’ll explore the factors that have contributed to his meteoric rise, analyze his gameplay, and compare his performance against other top-ranked players.

Let’s dive right in!

Kodai Naraoka: At a Glance

  • Kodai Naraoka is a Japanese badminton player, born on 30 June 2001, whose success is attributed to his dedication and father’s guidance.

  • Kodai has achieved great success on the BWF World Tour, including winning the men’s singles title at the China Masters, and is currently ranked #1 on the BWF World Tour.

  • At 22 years old, he already won against big players like Anders Antonsen, Lee Zii Jia, and Kidambi Srikanth

Kodai Naraoka: Japan’s New Badminton Gem

Naraoka, born in Aomori Prefecture, Japan, started playing badminton at the tender age of 5. He started playing badminton because of his father and dedicated a significant amount of time to the sport.

Also read: Discovering the Ideal Age to Start Playing Badminton: How Young Is Too Young?

From his early years, it was evident that Naraoka possessed a natural talent for the game, which would eventually catapult him to international success. At only 22 years old his list of achievements includes:

  • Being honored as the Most Promising Player at the BWF World Tour Finals

  • Becoming the youngest player to win the U-15 category

  • Becoming the youngest player to win a match in the All Japan tournament (at 13 years old)

  • Ranked at #1 at the BWF World Tour (2023)

How did this Japanese prodigy attain such outstanding accomplishments at a young age? The answer lies in Naraoka’s dedication to the sport, coupled with the guidance of his initial coach, his father Hiroshi. Together, they laid the foundation for Naraoka’s future successes.

Breakthrough Performances

Kodai Naraoka’s already had great success before he played on the world tour. During his younger years, he won a silver medal at the 2018 World Junior Championships. Kodai was also selected to represent Japan at the 2018 Summer Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He won a Bronze Medal there.

You can see a young 13 year old Naraoka play against Taufik Hidayat in an exhibition match here.

These early accomplishments demonstrated Naraoka’s potential to become a force to be reckoned with in the badminton world, and his career was only just beginning.

In 2023, Naraoka successfully overcame the title jinx and won the China Masters tournament. These great performances drew the attention of both fans and experts, advancing Naraoka’s status.

BWF World Tour Successes

We have already mentioned the Badminton World Federation (BWF) World Tour previously. It is a series of badminton tournaments sanctioned by the BWF, which consists of six levels. These levels range from the World Tour Finals and Super 1000 (highest levels) all the way to the Super 100 (lowest levels).

Kodai Naraoka has seen significant success on the BWF World Tour, winning one BWF World Tour title and reaching the finals multiple times in recent years.

Naraoka won two titles this season: The China Masters (Super 750), and the Vietnam Open (
Super 100). Just as impressive is his list of runner-ups: He came second at the Malaysian Open (Super 1000) where he was defeated by Viktor Axelsen. He also collected the badge for the second place at the Singapore Open, Korean Masters, and Taipei Open.

Naraoka Versus the World

Kodai Naraoka’s performance is seen as one of the most consistent ones. He rarely has a bad day or underperforms like other players do. His international badminton performance has been impressive, as he has faced off against some of the world’s highest-ranked players, such as Viktor Axelsen, Loh Kean Yew, Anthony Ginting, Jonatan Christie, and Anders Antonsen.

Victor Axelsen during a smash
Naraoka’s record against Viktor Axelsen is currently 0-1. It will be interesting to see the two play against each other in the next few years.

Naraoka’s most feared opponent seems to be Loh Kean Yew. He played 4 games against him and didn’t win a single one. More interesting is his statistic against Anders Antonsen. Out of 6 matches, Kodai Naraoka won 3. So both players seem to be at an equal level right now. It will be interesting to see how this number changes over the next years.

The recent match from Naraoka against Antonsen is a must-watch. They battled each other for 1 hour and 50 minutes – certainly one of the longest games I’ve ever watched.

Highlights of Naraoka vs. Antonsen

Naraoka’s Play Style

While many say that Naraoka’s play style is boring, I disagree. His style is not defined by being aggressive or steep smashes, but rather by consistency, defense, and stamina. A lot of his matches are 3 sets because he is tiring his opponents.

Kodai Naraoka defending a smash from the opponent.
Naraoka always gets the shuttle back.

You can also see this in the video above against Antonsen. In the third set they simply play clears because they are both very tired. The crowd doesn’t like this play style obviously. But what can you say? If you win the match – you win the match. You could compare it to “parking the bus” in football. If the attacking team can’t find any answers, they also don’t deserve to win.

We will see whether or not Kodai’s style changes with the years, but for now, it is defined by stamina and consistency in his shots.

Japans Badminton And Naraoka’s Role

Badminton has a long tradition in Japan. The nation has some of the best players worldwide, and Naraoka is no exception. In Men’s Singles – Naraoka steps into the footprints of Kenichi Tago and Kento Momota. Both of them were ranked #1 and have collected lots of achievements.

Momota is still active but struggles to get back to his old level after a horrible traffic incident. Other men’s singles players playing for Japan at the moment are Kenta Nishimoto and Kanta Tsuneyama who are both older than Naraoka.

The ideal case is, that Naraoka learns and plays a lot with his teammates at the Japan National Team so that he can gain as much experience as possible and improve his game even further. Looking at the next few years, Naraoka definitely is the most promising singles player for Japan.

Summary

In this post, we have explored the incredible journey of Kodai Naraoka, a rising star in the world of badminton. From his early beginnings as a young enthusiast to his current position as an international sensation, Naraoka has captivated fans and experts alike with his skill, determination, and passion for the sport.

As Naraoka continues to smash his way through the ranks and challenge top-ranked badminton players from around the globe, there is no doubt that his future in the sport is promising. With his unwavering dedication to the game and his ever-growing list of achievements, Kodai Naraoka is well on his way to becoming one of the all-time greats in the world of badminton.

Frequently Asked Questions About Kodai Naraoka

When did Kodai Naraoka begin playing badminton?

Kodai Naraoka began playing badminton at the age of 5, demonstrating a dedication to the sport from a young age.

What are some of Kodai Naraoka’s most notable accomplishments?

Kodai Naraoka has achieved remarkable success in the sport of badminton, climbing to the top of the BWF World Rankings in 2023, being honored as the Most Promising Player at the BWF World Tour Finals, and becoming the youngest player to win the U-15 category.

How has Naraoka’s playing style contributed to his success?

Naraoka’s playing style of stonewalling and keeping the shuttle to the back allows him to play an error-free game, challenging his opponents and helping him achieve success in tournaments.


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