The game

The basics

Before a game begins, a coin is tossed to decide which player or players serve first and which end they stand. Unless otherwise stated, players run the best of three games. Players change ends of court at the beginning of the second game, and, if a third game is played, at the beginning of this game too.

After the toss, the server stands on the right hand side of the court, hitting the bird diagonally over the net into the left hand side of the opposition’s half. The server and the player receiving the serve must have some part of both feet on the ground within the correct area to serve, or to receive the serve. A foot on the boundary line – the line at the back of the court – is considered out of play.

The serving player loses the right to serve if a fault is made, and the opponent then takes on this advantageous role. A player should not serve until their opponent is ready. If the opponent attempts to return the shuttlecock, he or she cannot claim they were not ready to receive the serve.

After the initial serve, if the shuttlecock is not returned, or if the opposition makes a fault, the server scores a point. This is the only way points are scored. The sole aim of the player receiving the serve is to prevent the server from scoring.

In 2006 Badminton undertook a change in the scoring system which will be detailed later.

Doubles

In a doubles game, the receiver must alternate with each serve. If the other doubles player touches the shuttlecock, the serving side is rewarded a point. If a fault is made by the serving side, the right to serve is lost, because only one of the doubles pair beginning the game can serve.

During the first innings (section of play, before the first point has been scored), serves must be made by the same player. In following innings, the doubles pair serve consecutively in each innings. The winning pair of players serves first in the next game, but either of the losing pair can receive the serve.

In both singles and doubles games, the first serve of each innings is made from the right hand side of the court. After a serve, the shuttlecock is in play until it touches the ground, or a fault or a let occurs.

Shots

Like tennis, there are several standard shots which, once perfected, allow you to attack anything that comes at you with confidence. Being competent at the following will mean you have plenty of options up your sleeve and will not find yourself frustrated.

Serve
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This is the most important shot of your game. With a strong serve, you can win points and keep control of the game. Vary between short and long serves to keep your opponent on his toes. Keep the shuttlecock low and close to the net for a short serve, forcing the opposition to move close to the net for the return. A higher, faster serve should fall further from the net on your opposition’s side, driving him back to make the return. A combination of short and long serves will keep your opponent guessing. When serving, the racquet should hit the shuttlecock below your waist.

Drop shot
This shot should not be overused, because, like any shot in badminton, it is most effective when it surprises the opposition. The idea is to drop the shuttlecock softly very close to the net on your opponent’s side of the court, making him run and stretch to make the return. If he does manage to return your shot, you will still have the upper hand in the rally.

Long drop
The key to this shot is to make sure you keep it low, so that the opponent is not able to smash the shuttlecock back at you. Hit the shot when you are at the back of the court. Keep it low, so that the shuttlecock drops just over the net on you opponent’s side of court. This will draw him into the net and should set up a possible smash or drive for your next shot.

Smash
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This shot can be almost unreturnable when executed accurately and with sufficient force. It requires practise, as you risk focusing too much on the power of the shot rather than placing the shuttlecock exactly where you want it. It is very easy to be too enthusiastic and smash the shuttlecock out of play.

The smash is used to end the point, and to assert your control over the game. Hit the shuttlecock hard and fast, when it is approaching you high in the air. If you are very confident in this shot, smash it right at your opponent, although there is the risk that he reads your play and reacts accordingly. Otherwise, try to aim at the side of the court, away from the opposition. Again, this requires accuracy to make sure the shuttlecock remains in play.

Drive
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The drive requires similar accuracy and power to the smash, but is aimed closer to the net rather than down to court. It is usually hit directly at your opponent, and when the shuttlecock is out in front of your body. Strike with power, and keep your racquet up to make sure the shot is as precise as possible. It should go horizontally over the net. The strength of the shot and position of the shuttlecock should make it difficult to return.

Clear
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This is a very useful shot to regain positional control. Keep your elbow high and hit the shuttlecock when it is still rising towards you in the air, and strike it hard towards the back of your opposition’s court space. This takes some practise, to ensure you do not overshoot and hit the shuttlecock out, clearing the back line.

The clear should give you a chance to return to your best central court position, as your opponent has to scramble back to make the return, which is likely to be weak. Try varying between high clears and attacking clears. You can use the high clear defensively, hitting it deep into your opponent’s court space, while an attacking clear is typically lower and flatter.

Wood shot
Not really adviseable, a wood shot is when the shuttlecock is struck by the frame of your racquet instead of the strings. Although an element of luck is involved, this shot was made legal in 1963. That said, it is still difficult to hit a wood shot with control, precision and power.

Faults

If a fault is made by the serving side, the side loses the right to serve. If it is made by the opposition, the serving side score a point.

The following is a list of the main faults. If you are aware of them from the day you start to learn the sport, your game should develop at a faster pace:

  • The server’s racquet must make contact with the base of the shuttlecock before it touches any other part – if not, a fault has been committed.
  • It is also a fault if the shuttlecock is higher than the server’s waist when it is being struck, and if the head of the server’s racquet is higher than the hand holding the grip – the head must be pointing downwards for serving.
  • A fault is made by the server if the shuttlecock is not hit over the net, if it does not fall in the opposite section of the court, or if it falls outside the boundary lines or short of the service line.
  • The serving player must stand in the correct right hand side of the court, and the opposition player who is receiving the serve must stand in the diagonally opposite side of the court until the shuttlecock is struck. If the serving player misses the shuttlecock while trying to serve, a fault has been made.
  • A let is given if both the server and the receiving player make a fault at the same time – for instance, if the opposition moves before the service and the server has a foot outside the service area. A let is also given if the shuttlecock is caught in the net. When a let is given, the play since the last serve does not count and the point is replayed.
  • The shuttlecock must not be caught, held on a racquet and slung by any player, or be hit twice in succession by one player (or by one player and then his doubles partner).
  • It is a fault if, once the service has started, either side makes misleading moves or starts to try to distract or mislead the opponent to get an unfair advantage. A player must not obstruct an opponent.
  • The shuttlecock must not touch any player, or player’s clothes. It must not touch the floor, roof or wall or pass under or through the net, or fall outside the boundary lines. Any of these instances constitutes a fault.

Scoring

  • Players attempt to reach 21 points to win a set.
  • Players can win points even when they don’t hold serve, the winner of the previous point will serve to start the next rally.
  • No end changes are in use during sets.
  • Games will be the best of three sets unless otherwise scheduled.
  • If the score reaches 20-20 then the first player or team to hold a two-point advantage will be awarded the set.
  • Should the scores reach 29-29 then the player or team to win their 30th point will be awarded the set.