Here are some badminton techniques and winning strategies for playing this challenging sport.
For many Americans, badminton is that game played with an impromptu net in the backyard. Two players casually bat a birdie back and forth until one or the other happens to miss or the birdie mercifully goes out of bounds. But in many other countries, badminton is an extremely fast-paced sport, combining the smashes and slams of volleyball with the relentless volleys and rallies of tennis. Success in power badminton demands quick reflexes and a knowledge of strategy involving deception and trickery. Points are won or lost in seconds, and the action is fast and furious. Here are some winning strategies for power badminton, should you be challenged to a game or two.
First of all, badminton is not tennis, despite the outside trappings of a net, racket, and birdie/ball. If you are used to playing long rallies with a lot of right and left volleying, as found in tennis, a good badminton player will quickly disavow you of such strategy. One of the easiest shots to return in badminton is the right or left volley. If the birdie comes straight at you at a medium to fast velocity at waist height, you will discover that the return shot is fairly easy. If you want to win points in badminton, try not to get into long rallies with these straight and low shots. A tennis player may eventually win the point by prevailing in a rally, but badminton is usually won by getting the other player out of position or smashing the birdie with unreturnable speed. Be prepared to make some fast returns in a rally situation, but strive to get the game back into an "up and back" situation for maximum advantage.
Serving a birdie is similar to a volleyball serving situation. Points are rarely scored straight off the serve unless you can deceive the opponent into believing the birdie is headed elsewhere or you can manage an off-speed serve that draws him/her out of position. Serving is generally meant to put the birdie in play with points coming in the follow-up shots. Be sure to follow a serve with a definite charge to the net or a set position in the backline. One position or the other will help you on the return, but you don't want to be caught waffling between positions. Badminton players want to bring their opponents into the net and then lob the birdie into the undefended back court or barely dink the birdie past the net, causing a player to miss the shot on the run. By establishing one position quickly, you stand a better chance of reacting to a tricky return.
Speaking of tricks, develop a few of your own. One of the hardest shots to return is the hairpin. The idea is to use finesse to gently lift the birdie up and barely over the net. When properly executed, the opponent is either forced out of position or has no choice but to offer up an easily smashable defensive lob. Develop this touch through practice and more practice. Along with the offensive, consider the defensive. If you sense that your opponent is setting up his own hairpin shot, charge the net. Send up a good defensive lob and set up for the inevitable smash, or send back a hairpin shot of your own.
While overall points may be scored by a combination of "up and back" maneuvering, there are usually plenty of opportunities to score points with the smash shot. The key to a good smash, however, is not telegraphing the move. If your opponent sends up a high, low-velocity shot, he/she should anticipate a smash shot and look for clues to where you plan on delivering the blow. The best strategy to avoid a returned smash shot is the old Casey Stengel advice on batting: hit it where they ain't. Smash the birdie at the sharpest angle you can, or aim directly for the opponent's body. Either which way, your opponent won't know where to put the racket, and indecision is the killer in badminton.
Another good strategy for winning points is knowing when not to win points. Develop a sense of where the boundaries are, especially the backline. This is where tennis strategy can come into play. Good tennis players can recognize a bad return in seconds. They won't even flinch if they recognize a long server or a lob that is headed off the court. Badminton is played on such a small court that the difference between a good shot and a bad shot is a matter of degrees. For a better chance at winning the overall game, develop a sense of when a lob is too high to return or a smash shot's angle will force it out of bounds. If you learn when to hold back on a return, you'll get a few more points in the overall match.