Field of play
Matches are played on a court that is 6.1m wide and 13.4m long, with specific markings for singles and doubles matches. The playing area for singles matches is slightly narrower than the full court at a width of 5.18m, but the playing area for doubles matches uses the full dimensions of the court. The court is divided into two equal halves by a net attached to the posts at a height of 1.55 m.
Umpires and judges
An umpire, aided by a service judge and 10 line judges, presides over a badminton match. Before the beginning of the contest, the umpire flips a coin. The winning athlete or doubles pair has three options: choose its side of the court, choose to serve first or choose to receive first.
Matches are fought on a ‘best of three’ basis, with the winner being the first to win two games. Recent changes to the rules means all games are played to 21 points, but a game has to be won by a player or pair having two clear points over their opponent. If this isn’t the case, there’s an option to continue play up to 29 points, at which time there’s a sudden-death playoff for the final 30th point.
Serves in badminton have to be made from below the waist – i.e. underhand rather than overhand – and the player’s feet must be touching the ground. Serves must be made from an area defined by the centreline and the serving lines on the court. They are made diagonally towards their opponent, alternating between the right and left-hand side of the court as points are scored.
To score a point, a player or pair has to hit the shuttlecock over the net with their racquet so that it lands in their opponent’s playing area. Points are lost if the shuttlecock hits the net, lands outside the court’s boundaries, or if a player commits a fault such as striking the shuttlecock or net with part of their body or hitting the shuttlecock twice.
Previously, only the holder of the serve could win points. If they lost a rally, they would lose the serve and their opponent would have the opportunity to try and win a point. This could make matches long and drawn-out, though. Under the new system either the server or non-server can score points, with the next serve being made by whoever scored the last point.
Between each game, there is a two-minute break for players, with a mid-game break of 60 seconds when the first player or pair reaches 11 points.
The first player or pair to reach 21 points wins a game, but they must have a two-point margin over their opposition. If the score for a game reaches 20-20, then play continues until one side has the two-point advantage. If the score goes all the way up to 29-29, the winner is the first to reach 30 points.
The best strategy for badminton is to make your opponent work harder than you, using a mix of long, short, high and low shots to get them reacting to your moves. Powerful strokes, such as the ‘clear’ send the shuttlecock to the back of the court, ‘drop’ shots fake a slow pass just over the top of the net, while defensive ‘lift’ shots put the shuttlecock into the air prompting the use of the most decisive shot – the ‘smash’. In this, the player jumps to meet the shuttlecock mid-air, smashing it down into their opponent’s court, giving them little time to react.