Created | Updated Apr 8, 2008
Badminton could be called 'the younger sibling of tennis' for many reasons. It is a sport similar in play to tennis, played using racquets and a shuttlecock. Compared to tennis, badminton is rarely ever seen on television, with no well-known tournaments like Wimbledon.
So what exactly makes this sport so different from its elder relative?
History of Badminton
The sport of badminton has no direct beginning. A similar game was played in China about two thousand years ago, and it is possible that British army officers played it in India as a form of recreation; then it was known as Poona. It was first played in Britain around 1867.
Legend has it that the Duke of Beaufort was trying to play tennis in the picture gallery of his stately home. The only problem was that the expensive and valuable oil paintings kept getting damaged by the ball. He swapped the ball with a small, feather-tailed one, and badminton1 was born.
This does not mean that it is advisable to play badminton inside your house.
Features of Badminton
There are a few features of badminton which give it its identity.
Badminton is played on an indoor court in either singles or doubles matches with racquets and shuttlecocks.
The badminton court, although smaller than its tennis counterpart, shares many key features with it. There are side tramlines, and there are two service boxes as well. Badminton, however, has extra tramlines at the back of the court on each end, and the front of the service boxes do not go all the way up to the net. The court is fairly similar to a tennis court and is 13.4m (44ft) long and 6.1m (20ft) wide. The net is fixed at 1.52m (5ft) off the ground, measuring from the top of the net.
The Racquets and the Shuttlecock
The racquets are extremely lightweight and about 66cm (26in) long. The head is about 21cm (8.5in) wide at its broadest point. The shuttlecock has a cork base with sixteen goose feathers to stabilise it2. The feathers make the shuttlecock slow down as it flies through the air. This is alleged to be one reason why the Duke swapped the tennis ball for a shuttlecock.
Scoring in badminton is different from scoring in tennis. To start with, the 15-Love, 30-Love, 40-Love, game scenario does not happen (this also applies to Love-15, Love-30, Love-40, game). In tennis, it is possible to win a point on your opponent's serve. In badminton, however, this is not possible.
Golden Rule Number One - You can only score on your own serve.
The points scored go up consecutively, ie 1-Love, 2-Love. For the opponent to score, he/she must be serving. All players can serve in just one game. For the server to lose the prospective point, one of these scenarios must happen:
The server does not serve into the service box diagonally opposite.
The serve does not reach the service line.
The serve goes out.
The server foot-faults3 while serving.
The server's racquet is above his/her waist when serving.
The server touches the net either with their racquet or any part of their body during play4.
The server, during play, hits the shuttlecock into the net or out.
The opponent hits a winner5.
When one of the above occurs, the opponent is able to serve. Each player gets one serve on each point. There are no 'first services' or 'second services' as in tennis. If you mess up, you mess up. No questions asked. If it is doubles, the serve goes to the second person as long as only one person in the pair has served. This does not apply for the first point.
The singles' game is slightly different from the doubles' game. The scoring for singles is the same, except the players only get one serve each, depending on whether it is on their point or not.
The singles' court is long and thin. This means that the side tramlines are not used. Therefore, if a shuttlecock is hit into those areas, it is called out. The back tramlines, however, are very much in use for long rallies from the back. Meetings at the net happen a lot as well.
The server starts in the right-hand service box on the first point, with his/her opponent in the diagonally opposite box. Depending on what the server's score after one point, they may start in the left-hand box - if their score is odd, they serve from the left, and if it is even, from the right.
The receiver of the serve stands in the 'ready' position: the racquet is held up ready for the shuttlecock and the player's legs are slightly apart for better balance.
The player who served must try and hit a winner or force their opponent into an error to win a point and keep serving. The player who received must do the same to serve for the next point.
If the server wins the point, he/she serves from the other box, with their opponent in the corresponding box diagonally opposite. If the receiver wins, then he/she serves from the box corresponding to their score.
After eight points have been played, the players swap ends. In the women's game, it is after six points.
Singles' matches consist of three games. 15 points win a game in men's singles, and 11 points in women's singles, as long as the winner's score is two points clear of the loser's. Championship play, however, has its own rules on tie-breaks and scoring for the men's singles and women's singles.
In doubles, each side is allowed two serves - one for each player, except on the first point, which starts on the second serve.
The doubles' court uses the entire court, but is short and fat on serve only. Short and fat means that the back tramlines are not used, and if a serve is hit into these parts, then it is out. As the entire court is used in main play, long rallies from the back and the equivalent of volleying at the net in tennis6 occur frequently.
The server begins in the right-hand service box and serves to the player in the diagonally opposite box. The server's partner stands at the back of the court astride of the line dividing the service boxes.
The player receiving will then hit the shuttlecock back to the opposing team and then both pairs will attempt to hit winners and force errors.
If the server's pair wins the point, then they swap boxes with each other and then the server serves again. If they lose the point, then the serve passes to the server's partner - the second server. If the point is lost on the second server's serve - for example, on the first point - then the serve passes over to the player in the right-hand box of opposing pair.
Golden Rule Number Two - In doubles, when the serve is passed over, the player on the right is the server.
There is no need to move around on odd scores or even scores like in singles.
Doubles' matches consist of three games. 21 points win a game, but the winning team must have a two point advantage over the losing team. Again, championship play will have different rules for tie-breaks and scoring for men's doubles, women's doubles and mixed doubles.
There is not as great a variety of shots as there is in tennis, but the following shots are vital in helping to win a point or the serve.
This is a hard shot played over the opponent's head and far to the back, in the hope that it causes the opponent to think that it is going out, leaving the shuttlecock and finding that it was actually in. An effective shot if played well.
The Drop Shot
This is a shot which requires good reflexes. The player playing the drop shot should be near the net to reduce the risk factor of messing it up. When the shuttlecock approaches the player, he/she just puts their racquet out and taps it down, forcing the other player to dive for the shuttlecock. This is usually a winner.
This is the all-time great - the shot that produces an explosive bang and shoots the shuttlecock to the ground at an alarming speed. The player being smashed must have good reflexes and a good dive to retrieve the shuttlecock from a smash. This is a shot played to win a point.
The Passing Shot
This is the shot most commonly played. It is usually played when the shuttlecock is too low for a smash or a drop shot and too high for a lob. It can produce winners if played in the right spot. This is also played when there is a fast and furious rally from the back.
Although not a shot for badminton, this Researcher does like...
This is a tennis shot. The slice is not really made for badminton but it can be done. The racquet hits the shuttlecock on the backhand, but swipes at it rather than striking it full. This means that the shuttlecock is struck at an angle. All the power is taken out of it, but depending on the angle the shuttlecock is struck at, it will either drop low over the net or fly high to the back. This shot is not advised unless you have practised it for its full effectiveness.
Principal tournaments in badminton are not as well known as the tournaments for tennis. This is because they are not as highly publicised. Here is a list of the important badminton tournaments and the years they were first played:
|Name of Tournament||First Year of Play||Staging|
|All England Championships||1899||Annually|
|Men's World Team Championships (Thomas Cup)||1948||Annually|
|Women's World Team Championship||1977||Biennially|
Badminton was played as an exhibition sport in the 1972 and 1988 Olympics, and became a medal sport in 1992. Most of the Olympic champions have been from Indonesia, South Korea and China. The world governing body is the International Badminton Federation, which was founded in 1934 and has over one hundred affiliated member nations.
Badminton is now becoming more popular in the United Kingdom, especially among children. Many schools are providing clubs and tournaments within their own areas, with applications to county teams increasing. The British Olympic team got the bronze medal in mixed doubles in the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney. As a result of this, badminton is a sport which is growing in popularity.