Sunday, 12 October 2008

Badminton Singles Advice- Serving

Most, if not all of my previous posts have been on badminton rackets. However, there is a limit as to the amount of information i can give out about rackets. I have covered many of the major badminton racket manufacturers, there are still a few more to look at, and i will do this in due course. By now you should be familiar with the technical fluff that goes with buying racquets, what to look for when buying, and how to find the right racket for your style of play. This is all well and good, but you now have to play with your chosen racket. I keep banging on about how it is you, and only you that can get the most out of your racket. Rackets will only ever give you a small advantage, about 5%. But what about the other 95%? This is the hard part. Badminton is such a difficult game to master, you never stop learning.

I have been playing badminton for many years, both singles and doubles. This post is about singles. It is my take on this discipline. I was coached by a respected England coach for about 5 years, when i was younger, so what i tell you is based on what i was taught, with some of my own ideas thrown in.

Singles badminton is based on moving your opponent around the court, so you can play winning shots. The pre-requisite for being able to play singles is fitness. Without fitness you cannot play singles effectively. So i am going to assume you already have a good level of fitness. I am also going to assume you can play your shots. If you cannot hit a clear to the back of the court consistently, or any other shot consistently then get on the court and practise. Go to a coach. This is essential. Spend your money on coaching and learn the basics before you spend money on rackets. I cannot stress this enough.

Once you can play your shots consistently you will come up against players who are of a similar standard to you. This is where you will find out about yourself and your game. There is not much use in playing inferior players. This may sound a bit ruthless, but if you want to improve, you absolutely have to test yourself against players who are of similar standard. You may be a beginner or intermediate player, but try to find opponents of similar standard. Once you reach a certain standard, you will realise that you can't hit winning shots for fun, your opponent will be able to reach these shots, and this is the essence of singles play.

Now, let's begin.. Singles is about using shots to put your opponent out of position. It is all about movement, this is why fitness and shot consistency is essential. The serve is the first shot you will play. If you use a high serve, then make sure it reaches the backline, or very close to it. This will put your opponent right to the back of the court. It will put pressure on their movement right from the start. If you cannot hit your serve consistently to the back tramline, then practise until you can. Look at where you stand when you serve, and then look at where the shuttle lands. You can do this on your own. Adjust your serve position. If you find your serve is landing short, then move closer to the service line and hit your shot with the same amount of power, see where it lands now. Alternatively, if you hitting your serve too long, move back a little bit, and see where the shuttle lands now. This is basic stuff, but so many singles players fail to hit the high serve consistently to the back line. Weak serves put you under pressure right away, so make sure you can get good consistency.

This is the base point for serving high. What you also need to do is realise what your opponent is doing, and where their base position is. A high singles serve can have different trajectories, and be placed either straight or to the side tram lines. If your opponent stands close to the service line, then a flatter serve will put their movement under more pressure to get behind the shuttle. Make sure you hit it high enough so they cannot intercept your serve.

The most common high serve is to the centre. This choice of serve will narrow the angle of your opponents replies. If you hit the serve high enough, it will make sure the shuttle is falling down vertically when your opponent hits their reply. This makes it more difficult to hit the shuttle cleanly. Most players cannot play winning shots consistently from the extreme back line. Aim to make them play from this area.

Study your opponents replies to your serves. Don't just hit the serve into court to get the rally started. Do they have a favourite reply from a certain position? If they do then you can start to anticipate their return by moving your base postiton a little to where you think the reply will be. An example of this is when your opponent plays a straight forehand smash reply to a serve hit out wide. You can move over more to the side they tend to go to. Always study your opponent, this is vital. Better players will learn and adapt quicker, so you can't always depend on anticipating their shots, they will vary their shots from any postiton to keep you guessing. This is where the fun starts!

Against good players, serving out wide will put you under pressure. You open up the possible angles of reply, straight or cross court. However, even good players may still tend to have a favourite reply, so think about this, try it and see what happens. Remember, you are constantly probing for any weakness, right from the first shot, to gain any advantage you can get.

The low serve in singles can also be an effective choice. In my experience i tend to play two types of low serve. The first one is a serve that lands close to the front service line. The second is played a bit harder, and i aim to land it a few feet in court. Which one depends on my opponent. If their base position is futher back in court, then a tight low serve to the front service line will put a little more pressure on their movement, and they will take the shuttle later, giving you an advantage. This could be the difference between them hitting the shuttle below the level of the net, giving you a slight advantage.

If your opponent stands closer to the net, then i tend to play my service further into court. This makes it more difficult to reply with a tight net shot. If they stand even closer to the net to receive serve, then a flick serve is an option, to keep them guessing. Which serve you play will also depend on your opponents replies. If they like to play net returns, then the slightly harder hit serve will make it more difficult to play those tight net shots. However, if you are strong at the net, then play the softer serve and invite them to play a net shot.

If you do serve low in singles, then you must be able to cover the whole court very quickly. This puts pressure on your movement so you need to be able to cover all the corners quickly. If you struggle with this, then serve high, but always look for what your opponent does.

It may appear as though this is a complicated thing. Afterall, i have only described the very first shot you play. But this is the kind of detail that can mean victory or defeat. Badminton is a thinking game underneath, just like any other sport, and just a little bit of understanding will help you improve faster. It is not just about hitting shots, it's how, where, when and why you hit them. Every opponent is different, and you need to be able to adjust accordingly. This is why you need to be able to play all the shots from all the many positions you will find yourself in.

Now i ask you- how important is your badminton racket? Your racket does not make these decisions as to how and when to play different shots. It is all down to you and your ability to think during games. You can have the world's most expensive badminton racket, but if you can't hit a high serve to the back of the court in singles, or be able to analyse your opponents game, and your own, then what use is it? I will cover more topics on both singles and doubles in future posts, with more racket manufacturer stuff thrown in as well.

The next time you read about how this badminton racket and that racket will give you the power and control you have been wishing for, just take a step back, and realise just how much it is all down to who is holding that badminton racket.


Anonymous said...


Michael said...

I couldn't agree more with a lot of the points raised in this post. I may use cheap rackets but rely on my skills and ability to think on court. I'm surprised to see many players putting so little emphasis on strategy, analysis and anticipation.

At the moment I'm using cheap rackets from Malaysia but I feel that the improvement I'd get out of investing in a more expensive racket is marginal. The use of cheap rackets also has one more side benefit; I'm not overly concerned about breaking my rackets. Although it's not as if breaking them is a regular occurrence but it is one less thing to worry about when I dive for a shot and contact the ground with my racket head.