Badminton is a racquet sport played by either two opposing players (singles) or two opposing pairs (doubles), who take positions on opposite halves of a rectangular court that is divided by a net. Players score points by striking a shuttlecock with their racquet so that it passes over the net and lands in their opponents' half of the court. A rally ends once the shuttlecock has struck the ground, and the shuttlecock may only be struck once by each side before it passes over the net.
The shuttlecock (or shuttle) is a feathered projectile whose unique aerodynamic properties cause it to fly differently from the balls used in most racquet sports; in particular, the feathers create much higher drag, causing the shuttlecock to decelerate more rapidly than a ball. Shuttlecocks have a much higher top speed, when compared to other racquet sports. Because shuttlecock flight is stubbornly affected by wind, competitive badminton is always played indoors. Badminton is also played outdoors as a casual recreational activity, often as a garden or beach game.
Since 1992, badminton has been an Olympic sport with five events: men's and women's singles, men's and women's doubles, and mixed doubles, in which each pair is a man and a woman. At high levels of play, the sport demands excellent fitness: players require aerobic stamina, agility, strength, speed, and precision. It is also a technical sport, requiring good motor coordination and the development of sophisticated racquet movements.
Badminton was known in ancient times; an early form of the sport was played in ancient Greece. In Japan, the related game Hanetsuki was played as early as the 16th century. In the west, badminton came from a game called battledore and shuttlecock, in which two or more players keep a feathered shuttlecock in the air with small racquets. The game was called "Poona" in India during the 18th century, and British Army officers stationed there took a competitive Indian version back to England in the 1860s, where it was played at country houses as an upper class amusement. Isaac Spratt, a London toy dealer, published a booklet, "Badminton Battledore - a new game" in 1860, but unfortunately no copy has survived.
The new sport was definitively launched in 1873 at the Badminton House, Gloucestershire, owned by the Duke of Beaufort. During that time, the game was referred to as "The Game of Badminton," and the game's official name became Badminton.
Until 1887 the sport was played in England under the rules that prevailed in India. The Bath Badminton Club standardized the rules and made the game applicable to English ideas. The basic regulations were drawn up in 1887. In 1893, the Badminton Association of England published the first set of rules according to these regulations, similar to today's rules, and officially launched badminton in a house called "Dunbar" at 6 Waverley Grove, Portsmouth, England on September 13 of that year. They also started the All England Open Badminton Championships, the first badminton competition in the world, in 1899.
The International Badminton Federation (IBF) (now known as Badminton World Federation) was established in 1934 with Canada, Denmark, England, France, the Netherlands, Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland, and Wales as its founding members. India joined as an affiliate in 1936. The BWF now governs international badminton and develops the sport globally.
While originated in England, international badminton has traditionally been dominated by a few Asian countries, plus Denmark from Europe. China, Indonesia, South Korea and Malaysia are among the nations that have consistently produced world-class players in the past few decades and dominated competitions on the international level, with China being the most dominant in recent years.
The court is rectangular and divided into halves by a net. Courts are almost always marked for both singles and doubles play, although the laws permit a court to be marked for singles only. The doubles court is wider than the singles court, but both are the same length. The exception, which often causes confusion to newer players is that the doubles court has a shorter serve-length dimension.
The full width of the court is 6.1 metres (20 ft), and in singles this width is reduced to 5.18 metres (17 ft). The full length of the court is 13.4 metres (44 ft). The service courts are marked by a centre line dividing the width of the court, by a short service line at a distance of 1.98 metres (6.5 ft) from the net, and by the outer side and back boundaries. In doubles, the service court is also marked by a long service line, which is 0.78 metres (2 ft 6 inch) from the back boundary.
The net is 1.55 metres (5 ft 1 inch) high at the edges and 1.524 metres (5 ft) high in the centre. The net posts are placed over the doubles side lines, even when singles is played.
There is no mention in the Laws of badminton, of a minimum height for the ceiling above the court. Nonetheless, a badminton court will not be suitable if the ceiling is likely to be hit on a high serve.
3.1 : To test a shuttlecock, use a full underhand stroke which makes contact with the shuttlecock over the back boundary line. The shuttlecock shall be hit at an upward angle and in a direction parallel to the side lines. 3.2 : A shuttlecock of the correct speed will land not less than 530 mm and not more than 990 mm short of the other back boundary line.
At the start of the rally, the server and receiver stand in diagonally opposite service courts (see court dimensions). The server hits the shuttlecock so that it would land in the receiver's service court. This is similar to tennis, except that a badminton serve must be hit from below the waist in underhand form (upwards), the shuttlecock is not allowed to bounce, and in tennis the players stand outside their service courts.
When the serving side loses a rally, the serve passes to their opponent(s) (unlike the old system, there is no "second serve").
In singles, the server stands in his right service court when his score is even, and in his left service court when his score is odd.
In doubles, if the serving side wins a rally, the same player continues to serve, but he changes service courts so that he serves to each opponent in turn. If the opponents win the rally and their new score is even, the player in the right service court serves; if odd, the player in the left service court serves. The players' service courts are determined by their positions at the start of the previous rally, not by where they were standing at the end of the rally. A consequence of this system is that, each time a side regains the service, the server will be the player who did not serve last time.
If the score reaches 20-all, then the game continues until one side gains a two point lead (such as 24-22), up to a maximum of 30 points (30-29 is a winning score).
At the start of a match a coin is tossed. The winners of the coin toss may choose whether to serve or receive first, or they may choose which end of the court they wish to occupy. Their opponents make the remaining choice. In less formal settings, the coin toss is often replaced by hitting a shuttlecock into the air: whichever side the corked end points will be the side that serves first.
In subsequent games, the winners of the previous game serve first. This can also be called rubbers. If one team wins a game they play once more and if they win again they win that match but if they lose they play one more match to find the winning team. For the first rally of any doubles game, the serving pair may decide who serves and the receiving pair may decide who receives. The players change ends at the start of the second game; if the match reaches a third game, they change ends both at the start of the game and when the leading pair's score reaches 11 points.
The server and receiver must remain within their service courts, without touching the boundary lines, until the server strikes the shuttlecock. The other two players may stand wherever they wish, so long as they do not unsight the opposing server or receiver.
Several faults pertain specifically to service. A serving player shall be faulted if the shuttlecock is above his waist (defined as his lowest rib) at point of contact, or if his racket's head is not pointing downwards at the moment of impact. This particular law was modified in 2006: previously, the server's racket had to be pointing downwards to the extent that the racket head was below the hand holding the racket; and now, any angle below the horizontal is acceptable.
Neither the server nor the receiver may lift a foot until the shuttlecock has been struck by the server. The server must also initially hit the base (cork) of the shuttlecock, although he may afterwards also hit the feathers as part of the same stroke. This law was introduced to ban an extremely effective service style known as the S-serve or Sidek serve, which allowed the server to make the shuttlecock spin chaotically in flight.
Each side may only strike the shuttlecock once before it passes back over the net; but during a single stroke movement, a player may contact a shuttlecock twice (this happens in some sliced shots). A player may not, however, hit the shuttlecock once and then hit it with a new movement, nor may he carry and sling the shuttlecock on his racket.
It is a fault if the shuttlecock hits the ceiling.
If the receiver is not ready when the service is delivered, a let shall be called; yet if the receiver makes any attempt to return the shuttlecock, he shall be judged to have been ready.
There is no let if the shuttlecock hits the tape (even on service).
There is a wide variety of racquet designs, although the racquet size and shape are limited by the Laws. Different racquets have playing characteristics that appeal to different players. The traditional oval head shape is still available, but an isometric head shape is increasingly common in new racquets.
It is often argued that high string tensions improve control, whereas low string tensions increase power. The arguments for this generally rely on crude mechanical reasoning, such as claiming that a lower tension string bed is more bouncy and therefore provides more power. This is in fact incorrect, for a higher string tension can cause the shuttle to slide off the racquet and hence make it harder to hit a shot accurately. An alternative view suggests that the optimum tension for power depends on the player: the faster and more accurately a player can swing their racquet, the higher the tension for maximum power. Neither view has been subjected to a rigorous mechanical analysis, nor is there clear evidence in favour of one or the other. The most effective way for a player to find a good string tension is to experiment.
Players may choose between a variety of grip materials. The most common choices are PU synthetic grips or toweling grips. Grip choice is a matter of personal preference. Players often find that sweat becomes a problem; in this case, a drying agent may be applied to the grip or hands, or sweatbands may be used, or the player may choose another grip material or change his grip more frequently.
There are two main types of grip: replacement grips and overgrips. Replacement grips are thicker, and are often used to increase the size of the handle. Overgrips are thinner (less than 1 mm), and are often used as the final layer. Many players, however, prefer to use replacement grips as the final layer. Toweling grips are always replacement grips. Replacement grips have an adhesive backing, whereas overgrips have only a small patch of adhesive at the start of the tape and must be applied under tension; overgrips are more convenient for players who change grips frequently, because they may be removed more rapidly without damaging the underlying material.
Shuttles with a plastic or nylon skirt are often used by recreational players to reduce their costs as feathered shuttles break easily. These nylon shuttles may be produced with a cork made of a hard sponge instead of natural cork.
Additionally, nylon shuttlecocks come in three varieties, each variety for a different range of temperatures. These three varieties are known as green (slow speed), blue (middle speed), and red (fast speed). The colors, and therefore speeds, are indicated by colored strips fastened around the cork. In colder temperatures, a faster shuttle is used, and in hotter climates, a slower one is chosen.
Compared to running shoes, badminton shoes have little lateral support. High levels of lateral support are useful for activities where lateral motion is undesirable and unexpected. Badminton, however, requires powerful lateral movements. A highly built-up lateral support will not be able to protect the foot in badminton; instead, it will encourage catastrophic collapse at the point where the shoe's support fails, and the player's ankles are not ready for the sudden loading, which can cause sprains. For this reason, players should choose badminton shoes rather than general trainers or running shoes, because proper badminton shoes will have a very thin sole, lower a person's centre of gravity, and therefore result in fewer injuries. Players should also ensure that they learn safe and proper footwork, with the knee and foot in alignment on all lunges. This is not only a safety concern, as proper footwork is critical in order to effectively move around the court.
Badminton offers a wide variety of basic strokes, and players require a high level of skill to perform all of them effectively. All strokes can be played either forehand or backhand. A player's forehand side is the same side as his playing hand: for a right-handed player, the forehand side is his right side and the backhand side is his left side. Forehand strokes are hit with the front of the hand leading (like hitting with the palm), whereas backhand strokes are hit with the back of the hand leading (like hitting with the knuckles). Players frequently play certain strokes on the forehand side with a backhand hitting action, and vice-versa.
In the forecourt and midcourt, most strokes can be played equally effectively on either the forehand or backhand side; but in the rearcourt, players will attempt to play as many strokes as possible on their forehands, often preferring to play a round-the-head forehand overhead (a forehand "on the backhand side") rather than attempt a backhand overhead. Playing a backhand overhead has two main disadvantages. First, the player must turn his back to his opponents, restricting his view of them and the court. Second, backhand overheads cannot be hit with as much power as forehands: the hitting action is limited by the shoulder joint, which permits a much greater range of movement for a forehand overhead than for a backhand. The backhand clear is considered by most players and coaches to be the most difficult basic stroke in the game, since precise technique is needed in order to muster enough power for the shuttlecock to travel the full length of the court. For the same reason, backhand smashes tend to be weak.
The choice of stroke depends on how near the shuttlecock is to the net, whether it is above net height, and where an opponent is currently positioned: players have much better attacking options if they can reach the shuttlecock well above net height, especially if it is also close to the net. In the forecourt, a high shuttlecock will be met with a net kill, hitting it steeply downwards and attempting to win the rally immediately. This is why it is best to drop the shuttlecock just over the net in this situation. In the midcourt, a high shuttlecock will usually be met with a powerful smash, also hitting downwards and hoping for an outright winner or a weak reply. Athletic jump smashes, where players jump upwards for a steeper smash angle, are a common and spectacular element of elite men's doubles play. In the rearcourt, players strive to hit the shuttlecock while it is still above them, rather than allowing it to drop lower. This overhead hitting allows them to play smashes, clears (hitting the shuttlecock high and to the back of the opponents' court), and dropshots (hitting the shuttlecock so that it falls softly downwards into the opponents' forecourt). If the shuttlecock has dropped lower, then a smash is impossible and a full-length, high clear is difficult.
When the shuttlecock is well below net height, players have no choice but to hit upwards. Lifts, where the shuttlecock is hit upwards to the back of the opponents' court, can be played from all parts of the court. If a player does not lift, his only remaining option is to push the shuttlecock softly back to the net: in the forecourt this is called a netshot; in the midcourt or rearcourt, it is often called a push or block.
When the shuttlecock is near to net height, players can hit drives, which travel flat and rapidly over the net into the opponents' rear midcourt and rearcourt. Pushes may also be hit flatter, placing the shuttlecock into the front midcourt. Drives and pushes may be played from the midcourt or forecourt, and are most often used in doubles: they are an attempt to regain the attack, rather than choosing to lift the shuttlecock and defend against smashes. After a successful drive or push, the opponents will often be forced to lift the shuttlecock.
When defending against a smash, players have three basic options: lift, block, or drive. In singles, a block to the net is the most common reply. In doubles, a lift is the safest option but it usually allows the opponents to continue smashing; blocks and drives are counter-attacking strokes, but may be intercepted by the smasher's partner. Many players use a backhand hitting action for returning smashes on both the forehand and backhand sides, because backhands are more effective than forehands at covering smashes directed to the body.
The service presents its own array of stroke choices. Unlike in tennis, the serve is restricted by the Laws so that it must be hit upwards. The server can choose a low serve into the forecourt (like a push), or a lift to the back of the service court, or a flat drive serve. Lifted serves may be either high serves, where the shuttlecock is lifted so high that it falls almost vertically at the back of the court, or flick serves, where the shuttlecock is lifted to a lesser height but falls sooner.
Once players have mastered these basic strokes, they can hit the shuttlecock from and to any part of the court, powerfully and softly as required. Beyond the basics, however, badminton offers rich potential for advanced stroke skills that provide a competitive advantage. Because badminton players have to cover a short distance as quickly as possible, the purpose of many advanced strokes is to deceive the opponent, so that either he is tricked into believing that a different stroke is being played, or he is forced to delay his movement until he actually sees the shuttle's direction. "Deception" in badminton is often used in both of these senses. When a player is genuinely deceived, he will often lose the point immediately because he cannot change his direction quickly enough to reach the shuttlecock. Experienced players will be aware of the trick and cautious not to move too early, but the attempted deception is still useful because it forces the opponent to delay his movement slightly. Against weaker players whose intended strokes are obvious, an experienced player will move before the shuttlecock has been hit, anticipating the stroke to gain an advantage.
Slicing and using a shortened hitting action are the two main technical devices that facilitate deception. Slicing involves hitting the shuttlecock with an angled racquet face, causing it to travel in a different direction than suggested by the body or arm movement. Slicing also causes the shuttlecock to travel much slower than the arm movement suggests. For example, a good crosscourt sliced dropshot will use a hitting action that suggests a straight clear or smash, deceiving the opponent about both the power and direction of the shuttlecock. A more sophisticated slicing action involves brushing the strings around the shuttlecock during the hit, in order to make the shuttlecock spin. This can be used to improve the shuttle's trajectory, by making it dip more rapidly as it passes the net; for example, a sliced low serve can travel slightly faster than a normal low serve, yet land on the same spot. Spinning the shuttlecock is also used to create spinning netshots (also called tumbling netshots), in which the shuttlecock turns over itself several times (tumbles) before stabilizing; sometimes the shuttlecock remains inverted instead of tumbling. The main advantage of a spinning netshot is that the opponent will be unwilling to address the shuttlecock until it has stopped tumbling, since hitting the feathers will result in an unpredictable stroke. Spinning netshots are especially important for high level singles players.
The lightness of modern racquets allows players to use a very short hitting action for many strokes, thereby maintaining the option to hit a powerful or a soft stroke until the last possible moment. For example, a singles player may hold his racquet ready for a netshot, but then flick the shuttlecock to the back instead with a shallow lift. This makes the opponent's task of covering the whole court much more difficult than if the lift was hit with a bigger, obvious swing. A short hitting action is not only useful for deception: it also allows the player to hit powerful strokes when he has no time for a big arm swing. The use of grip tightening is crucial to these techniques, and is often described as finger power. Elite players develop finger power to the extent that they can hit some power strokes, such as net kills, with less than a 10 cm racquet swing.
It is also possible to reverse this style of deception, by suggesting a powerful stroke before slowing down the hitting action to play a soft stroke. In general, this latter style of deception is more common in the rearcourt (for example, dropshots disguised as smashes), whereas the former style is more common in the forecourt and midcourt (for example, lifts disguised as netshots).
Deception is not limited to slicing and short hitting actions. Players may also use double motion, where they make an initial racquet movement in one direction before withdrawing the racquet to hit in another direction. This is typically used to suggest a crosscourt angle but then play the stroke straight, or vice-versa. Triple motion is also possible, but this is very rare in actual play. An alternative to double motion is to use a racquet head fake, where the initial motion is continued but the racquet is turned during the hit. This produces a smaller change in direction, but does not require as much time.
Deception is also important. Expert players make the preparation for many different strokes look identical, and use slicing to deceive their opponents about the speed or direction of the stroke. If an opponent tries to anticipate the stroke, he may move in the wrong direction and may be unable to change his body momentum in time to reach the shuttlecock.
At high levels of play, the backhand serve has become popular to the extent that forehand serves almost never appear in professional games. The straight low serve is used most frequently, in an attempt to prevent the opponents gaining the attack immediately. Flick serves are used to prevent the opponent from anticipating the low serve and attacking it decisively.
At high levels of play, doubles rallies are extremely fast. Men's doubles is the most aggressive form of badminton, with a high proportion of powerful jump smashes.
In singles, players will often start the rally with a forehand high serve. Low serves are also used frequently, either forehand or backhand. Flick serves are less common, and drive serves are rare.
At high levels of play, singles demands extraordinary fitness. Singles is a game of patient positional maneuvering, unlike the all-out aggression of doubles.
At high levels of play, the formations will generally be more flexible: the top women players are capable of playing powerfully from the rearcourt, and will happily do so if required. When the opportunity arises, however, the pair will switch back to the standard mixed attacking position, with the woman in front.
The BWF organizes several international competitions, including the Thomas Cup, the premier men's event, and the Uber Cup, the women's equivalent. The competitions take place once every two years. More than 50 national teams compete in qualifying tournaments within continental confederations for a place in the finals. The final tournament involves 12 teams, following an increase from eight teams in 2004.
The Sudirman Cup, a mixed team event held once every two years, began in 1989. It is divided into seven groups based on the performance of each country. To win the tournament, a country must perform well across all five disciplines (men's doubles and singles, women's doubles and singles, and mixed doubles). Like soccer, it features a promotion and relegation system in every group.
Individual competition in badminton was a demonstration event in the 1972 and 1988 Summer Olympics. It became a Summer Olympics sport at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. The 32 highest ranked badminton players in the world participate in the competition, and each country submitting three players to take part. In the BWF World Championships, only the highest ranked 64 players in the world, and a maximum of three from each country, can participate in any category.
All these tournaments, along with the BWF World Junior Championships, are level one tournaments.
At the start of 2007, the BWF also introduce a new tournament structure: the BWF Super Series. This level two tournament will stage twelve open tournaments around the world with 32 players (half the previous limit). The players collect points that determine whether they can play in Super Series Final held at the year end.
Level three tournaments will consist of Grand Prix Gold and Grand Prix event. Top players can collect the world ranking points and enable them to play in the BWF Super Series open tournaments. These include the regional competitions in Asia (Badminton Asia Championships) and Europe (European Badminton Championships), which produce the world's best players as well as the Pan America Badminton Championships.
The level four tournaments, known as International Challenge, International Series and Future Series, encourages participation by junior players.
Men's doubles player Fu Haifeng of China set the official world smash record of 332 km/h (206 mph) on June 3, 2005 in the Sudirman Cup. The fastest smash recorded in the singles competition is 305 km/h (189 mph) by Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia.
There is a strong case for arguing that badminton is more physically demanding than tennis, but such comparisons are difficult to make objectively due to the differing demands of the games. Some informal studies suggest that badminton players require much greater aerobic stamina than tennis players, but this has not been the subject of rigorous research.
A more balanced approach suggests the following comparisons, although these also are subject to dispute:
It is often asserted that power in badminton strokes comes mainly from the wrist. This is a misconception and may be criticised for two reasons. First, it is strictly speaking a category error: the wrist is a joint, not a muscle; its movement is controlled by the forearm muscles. Second, wrist movements are weak when compared to forearm or upper arm movements. Badminton biomechanics have not been the subject of extensive scientific study, but some studies confirm the minor role of the wrist in power generation, and indicate that the major contributions to power come from internal and external rotations of the upper and lower arm. Modern coaching resources such as the Badminton England Technique DVD reflect these ideas by emphasising forearm rotation rather than wrist movements.
One consequence of the shuttlecock's drag is that it requires considerable skill to hit it the full length of the court, which is not the case for most racket sports. The drag also influences the flight path of a lifted (lobbed) shuttlecock: the parabola of its flight is heavily skewed so that it falls at a steeper angle than it rises. With very high serves, the shuttlecock may even fall vertically.
Slicing the shuttlecock so that it spins, however, does have applications, and some are peculiar to badminton. (See Basic strokes for an explanation of technical terms.)
Due to the way that its feathers overlap, a shuttlecock also has a slight natural spin about its axis of rotational symmetry. The spin is in a counter-clockwise direction as seen from above when dropping a shuttlecock. This natural spin affects certain strokes: a tumbling netshot is more effective if the slicing action is from right to left, rather than from left to right.