Tips for Playing Doubles in Badminton
Doubles games have so much interaction that it can be tough to break down and analyze what you’re doing wrong. While there are countless things you can try to improve upon, there are five essential aspects of the game that can help rebuild your foundation. Follow these tips and you’ll begin to see your doubles game quickly improve.
Refine Your Serve
Rallies can be lost and won at any point, so as the server you have the first opportunity to either win or lose a point for your team. On one hand, you could serve straight into the net and basically give the opponent a free point. On the flip side, you could make an excellent serve that freezes your opponent and drops right on the short service line for a quick point.
Your goal is to give your team every opportunity to score points, and ignoring the quality of your serves denies you of those chances. Here are some keys to keep in mind:
- Opponent’s positioning: The positioning of your opponents reveals how they tend to return serves. Players who crowd the short service line will likely be aggressive in their returns and susceptible to flick serves. Players who start further than two steps behind the line are likely worried about the possibility of a flick serve. Short serves are effective here since any return will likely be a defensive one.
- Opponent’s weakness: This applies to both serve returns and rallies. If the player returning service has poor overhead shots, you should favor your flick serve over your short serve. By pushing this player back, it forces his partner to come forward. This way it will be easy to keep the weaker opponent in the back and take advantage of any errant shots.
- Service Trajectory: The path the shuttle takes is more important than the destination. You can make a serve that lands right on the service line, but if you hit it so high that your opponent can smash it, it won’t matter. Remember to keep your short serves low and your flick serves high.
Focus on Serve Returns
In a similar fashion, you have a prime opportunity to score a point as the serve returner. Don’t wait for the shuttle to reach you. Be proactive and move towards the shuttle to take your shot earlier. The earlier you take it, the better chance you’ll have at taking an offensive shot. It’s easy for players to get into a habit of settling for clears on serve returns. Every shot you take is an opportunity to gain an advantage or score a point. Below are a few effective serve returns you should know:
- Tight net drops: A majority of doubles serves are short. As such, you should be able to consistently make quality net drops that induce a lift from your opponent. You may even force them to make a poor net shot, which immediately gives you a chance to make a net kill.
- Drives to the back corners: Players too often let a high, short serve go to waste by not attacking it. Make your opponents pay for their mistakes by driving those high serves to the back corners. More often than not, a strong drive will end the rally immediately. At worst, your opponent will make a weak return, giving you another chance to end it quickly.
- Aim for your opponents: An underused tactic is aiming the shuttle at one of your opponents. This is counter-intuitive, but it is actually an effective strategy. With your opponents lined up along the center line, it’s difficult to judge the shuttle when it’s coming straight at them. Also, it can create confusion as to whose shuttle it is. The server will have just finished serving, while the partner will be looking to take an offensive shot.
A common theme among less successful doubles teams is a lack of aggressiveness. You must actively seek out the shuttle and be willing to make aggressive shots to score points. Relying on your opponent to make mistakes can only take you so far. Look to smash, drive, or drop at any opportunity you get. Clearing too much will give your opponent too many opportunities to win rallies. Be in the mindset to win the match; don’t depend on your opponent to lose it.
To help you become more aggressive, you must look to take certain shots. Actively think about taking a smash or drop the next chance you get. This will help you quickly get into a proactive mindset, which will likely catch your opponent off-guard. Don’t expect to play on “auto-pilot” and expect a sudden change. Change your frame of mind and soon your actions will follow.
Have Proper Doubles Rotation
Your doubles rotation will be vital to your team’s success. Each movement your partner takes must be counter-acted on your part. If your partner rushes to the back to return a clear, you should move towards the front to cover the net area. Similarly, if your partner lifts, you should both assume the side-side formation to cover potential drops or smashes. You and your partner’s rotation relies on good teamwork, so don’t be hesitant to clear up any issues regarding it.
Communicate with Your Partner
While you may have solid chemistry with your partner, not everything goes without saying. This is especially true during the actual match. Fundamentals and strategies often get lost during the rush of playing in a match. If either of you are having issues, talk it over in between rallies. There’s no reason you should wait for the match to be finished to talk it over, because by then it’ll be irrelevant. Make any points worth noting and have your partner do the same for you. There is no room for ego and pride when your goal is to win a match.
Think as a Team
Even though you have just one partner, the partnership still represents a team. As with all team sports, you need to do what’s best for the team and not the individuals who comprise it. If you need to, have a quick chat with your partner before a match or tournament to get on the same page. While you are both striving to win, the paths you and your partner choose may not be the same. The tactics and strategies you employ may even work against your partner’s. Just remember: Work as a team, and you’ll win as a team.