Serves are the single most important shot in the game. Without a decent serve you’ll be making the game significantly harder for yourself. Like most sports, badminton is a game of opportunity. Each shot is an opportunity to gain control of a rally. Since a serve is the first shot of a rally, you are presented with a unique opportunity as the server. However, unlike tennis, you are not at a significant advantage when serving and so the standard of quality serves is much higher.
Execution and decision-making are the two aspects of your service game you must focus on to improve. Improved execution will develop consistency across your short and long serves, which is absolutely crucial. Since the service court is just a small section of the whole court, the margin for error also becomes smaller. Here are some tips to improve your service game:
- Focus on hitting the four corners of the service court.
- Keep your short serves as low to the net as possible.
- Keep your flick serves just out of reach from your opponent’s racket.
- Adjust to your opponent’s tendencies to cheat towards your short or long serves.
Badminton is an extremely fast-paced sport. While there is controversy over which racket sport requires the fastest reaction time, badminton undoubtedly requires excellent reflexes. The speed and deception in badminton make it harder to anticipate shots, thus making you rely more on your reflexes. Reacting quickly to both finesse and power shots is crucial to being competitive in badminton. Smashes can travel over 200 miles per hour, and a similar-looking stroke can produce a sharp drop shot.
Since your reflexes are largely instinctive, you’ll need to refine your muscle memory and coordination to improve them. A great way to practice this is to allow a partner to smash or drop to you while you constantly clear the shuttlecock. This will vastly improve your reaction time since you won’t know which shot your partner will hit. Here are some things to keep in mind while you drill:
- Practice good form and technique by aiming your clears high and deep.
- For a bigger challenge, your partner can incorporate clears to give you a greater variety of shots.
- Use proper footwork to avoid sloppy play during a real match.
While strength does play a role in badminton, technique occupies a much bigger one. Admittedly, technique is a broad term, but here it refers to the fundamentals of the game. This means using the proper mechanics for your strokes so that you use your energy efficiently. Think of it this way: If a weightlifter and a badminton player were to both hit a smash, the badminton player’s would be much faster despite the weightlifter’s strength advantage — all because of his technique.
To refine your technique, isolate your drill sessions to one stationary shot at a time. For example, if you’re drilling your baseline drop shot, your partner should constantly clear so you can do minimal footwork. While you do this, focus on:
- Having correct foot rotation with the minimal footwork you do.
- Being consistent and proper with your strokes.
- Placing the shuttlecock once you’ve become fairly consistent with your shot.
No matter how good your footwork is or how strong your around-the-head shot may be, you cannot compensate for a poor backhand. If you want to be a complete player, you’ll need to have a dependable and versatile backhand. This means you should be able to execute a variety of shots with your backhand to keep your opponents honest.
Most beginning and intermediate players can only hit a backhand drop or a weak backhand clear. This makes it very easy for opposing players to deal with any backhand shot. Knowing this, you should strive to diversify your backhand shots to become a more complete player. Here are a few simple tips to quickly improve your backhand:
- Value cross-court drops: Cross-court drops require better placement, but use the same technique. When practicing your cross-court drops, focus solely on it. This constant repetition will give you a much better feel than mixing it with straight drops.
- Avoid cross-court clears: You may have never attempted a full, cross-court clear with your backhand and that’s exactly how it should stay. To hit a decent cross-court clear with your backhand requires ideal positioning, excellent technique, and immense power. If you’re fortunate to have all of these, then a smash or drop would be a better option. There is simply never a good time to hit this kind of shot.
- Use finesse: When faced with the opportunity to hit a net drop, you can trick the opponent instead. Hold your racket out in front, as if to drop, and then at the last moment flick your racket to quickly clear the shuttlecock. Your opponent should be rushing towards the net as the shuttlecock sails overhead.
Footwork is an integral part of any player’s game because it lays the foundation for every shot. Improper footwork will lead to poor form, and ultimately, poor shot execution. Some players may give up on footwork because they feel like they are too slow or lazy to utilize it well. The truth is, being slow or lazy is all the more reason to perfect your footwork. Good footwork is all about efficiency, so the slow and lazy stand to benefit the most!
Unfortunately, the downside to practicing footwork is actually having to move around — a lot. If your footwork is still a little shaky, you’ll want to keep the drills to the simple front-to-back or side-to-side variety. If your footwork needs a little fine-tuning, you should do full-court, four-corner footwork drills. During your footwork drills:
- Remember correct foot rotation: You should always lead and finish with your dominant foot. For example, when reaching for a net drop, make sure to finish with the foot that corresponds with your racket hand to allow you to reach farther.
- Take big steps: With the exception of running forward, your steps should be larger than normal running or walking steps. This allows you to be more effective with your footwork and helps conserve energy throughout an actual match.
- Stay low and on your toes: Keeping your knees bent and staying on your toes will immensely improve your form and reaction. Having your knees bent will lower your center of gravity, which gives you better stability as you move around the court. Also, actively putting yourself in this position gets you mentally prepared to react to whatever shot your opponent hits.
Stick with the Basics
Obviously, there are many things that go into playing great badminton, but they all link to having strong fundamentals. Whenever you’re having trouble with a certain aspect of your game, it’s smart to work out the kinks starting from the ground up. Start with stationary drills, then incorporate more footwork, and finally vary your shot selection. The sounder your fundamentals are, the easier the game will become as you continue to improve as a player.