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How to Serve in Badminton The Right Way: Complete Guide

A controlled serve can be crucial to victory in any badminton game. Once you have the basics down, you can utilize one of many types of serves to trick, overpower, and exhaust your opponent. Of course, if you’re new to badminton, serving can be a difficult and daunting task to learn, let alone use.

In this article, we will walk you through the step-by-step process of how to serve in badminton. As you read, you’ll learn the game’s rules regarding what is considered a “legal” serve before getting into the techniques and movements that will allow you to properly perform one.

Learn the Basic Rules of a Legal Badminton Serve

We know you’re itching to pick up your badminton racket and start practicing your serve out on the court, but there is one crucial step we need to cover before that: the rules.

Most badminton games, especially legal ones, will follow rules set by the Badminton World Federation (BMF). These are clearly detailed in the “Laws of Badminton,” which covers everything from “Court and Court Equipment” to the “Shuttle” to “Faults” and so much more, including, you guessed it, “Service.”

There are a lot of technicalities included in what is considered a “correct service” but the basic rules you’ll want to keep in mind are: (source)

  1. Neither the server nor receiver shall cause undue delay during the service
  2. Both the server and receiver must demonstrate they are ready for the service
    1. Should the service be delivered without recipient being ready, they are considered “ready” if the recipient returns the service
  3. The service begins upon the backward movement of a server’s racket head (any delay after this moment is considered undue delay)
  4. Position-wise, the server and the receiver must stand within diagonally opposite service courts without touching the boundary lines of these service courts
  5. Once the service has started, some part of both feet of the server and the receiver must remain in contact with the surface of the court in a stationary position until the service is delivered (separate rules are in place for wheelchair badminton)
  6. The server’s racket must initially hit the base of the shuttle and contact must be made below the server’s waist (which is considered an imaginary line around the body that is level with the lowest part of the server’s bottom rib
  7. Upon contact with the shuttle, the shaft and racket must be pointing in a downward direction and the flight of the shuttle must be upward from the racket

Most of these rules revolve around game etiquette (ex. ensuring the other player is ready), at what point does the service “start,” and how servers are permitted to hit the shuttle.

In terms of that last point, the key thing to keep in mind is that all badminton serving is done underhand. At no point is an overhand serve permitted. This is why you see a lot of rules specifying waist level and how the shuttle must travel.

After a few matches, most of these rules will become second nature and you can spend more time focusing on how to serve rather than remembering the rules surrounding the service.

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Learn Your Singles and Doubles Rules

We won’t go too far into detail regarding the different serving rules for both of these match types since you’re more likely here to learn how to perform a proper badminton serve, not its intricate rules.

That being said, we deem it important to note that while the basic rules listed above apply to all badminton matches, there are additional rules that are specific to either singles or doubles matches. Most of them focus on where players are permitted to stand, but there are others you’ll want to know before entering your first match.

Ideally, you should brush up on the rules for both match types, since it is just as common to play a single match of badminton as doubles, and the last reason you want to give for missing out on an opportunity to play is not knowing the rules.

The more match-types and scenarios you can practice your badminton serve in, the better; especially since a singles game of badminton is played very differently than a double’s match, so knowing what techniques to use and how to adapt in these situations will only help you become a stronger, more skilled and versatile player.

Here’s a good introductory video to start, with in depth written steps below:

Practice the Fundamentals of a Badminton Serve

If you’re new to badminton, a lot of your time is going to be spent learning and mastering the fundamentals of a badminton serve. This will include everything from where you hold your racket to basic movements to follow through and more.

There are several different types of serves you can use in badminton, but the first one that every beginner should learn before advancing is the backhand low serve. This is the easiest serve to start with and will help you understand and master the fundamentals, so you have a solid foundation for more complex serves and techniques.

Below, we have provided a step-by-step guide teaching even the newest badminton player how they can perform and practice a backhand low serve. While this serve is ideal for doubles, it can be implemented in singles matches as well.

The goal here is to have a short, simple, controlled serve that you can repeat with consistency again and again.

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How to Hold the Racket in Badminton

One of the first mistakes beginner badminton players make is holding their racket improperly, resulting in an erratic serve.

It might seem intuitive to hold your racket by the middle or base of the handle when, in reality, you want to grip it higher towards the cone that leads into the racket’s shaft. The reason for this is to create a short lever length, which will provide you with more control and increased precision throughout the serve.

  • Another way to increase control is to hold your racket at a 45-degree angle and slightly away from your body.
  • How far away you should hold the racket depends on your personal preference as a player; just make sure you have enough space for your stroke.

Because this is a backhanded low serve, you’ll want to have a backhand grip on your racket with your thumb against the flat side of the racket pointing towards the face of the racket. This grip should be light with the majority of the weight held by your fingers, not your palm.

The beginning of this video shows a good method for holding the racket:

How to Hold the Shuttle in Badminton

This might seem like a minor detail, but it can make a world of difference in the control and predictability of your serve.

Always hold your shuttle by the feathers, with your thumb and index finger about halfway down the feather. This provides you with a good grip that you can easily release the moment before you’re about to hit the shuttle.

It also reduces the odds of a random or erratic path which often occurs when beginners decide to hold their shuttle by the cork, or worse, toss and hit the shuttle rather than a quick and brief release.

  • A more technical thing to keep in mind here is also the angle at which you hold the shuttle.
  • Specifying this angle can be tricky, but you essentially want your shuttle to be parallel to the angle of your racket.

If the cork is facing downwards, then it might pop up towards the net after the serve, if it points directly at the racket, then you’ll likely hit the net directly, and if it points towards the side, your control is significantly reduced.

Of all the elements here, angle is probably the only you’ll have to really get a feel for through a lot of trial and error before it becomes second nature.

Where to Hit the Shuttle

It is widely known that the center of your racket head is what is known as its “sweet spot” where you typically receive the most power and control with any swing or serve. However, with a backhand low serve, this isn’t the ideal place on your racket to contact the shuttle.

For this particular serve, you’ll want to ensure the contact point is closer to the center front of the racket head towards the edge where there is less energy and the stringbed is firmer, resulting in more consistency and control.

  • Because the sweet spot is such a powerful, energized part of the racket, it can be extremely hard to control for a short and simple serve like this one.
  • You also increase the chances of hitting your hand during the serve by holding the shuttle in front of this spot.

Instead, you’re better off using this contact point for nearly every other badminton swing and serve where minimal distance and reduce power aren’t priorities.

Where and How to Stand

Your posture and location on the court play a key role in making this serve easier and more efficient. First, you’ll want to stand where your shuttle’s travel distance will be shortest, which is as close to the service line as possible and at the mid-court corner (you’ll have to stand slightly further back for a mixed or singles game, in which case you’ll compensate for the increased distance by applying slightly more power to your serve).

While you can’t physically stand closer to the net legally than from this corner, that doesn’t mean you can’t get closer in other ways. Once you’re in position, lean over the line with your chest to further reduce the distance and extend your arms as comfortable as possible.

As long as one foot is fully on the ground and the other is in contact with the ground, this is a legal position, so feel free to go up on your toes of your back foot for more distance and stability.

The Stroke

Now comes the hard part of the actual stroke. The key points to keep in mind for any backhand low serve is that this should be a small, simple stroke that is achieved using minimal power to produce and controlled, consistent serve that travels the shortest distance possible (ideally, it should barely clear the net and immediately drop).

The movement of this stroke should be done entirely with power provided by your fingers and wrist. In addition to posture, we discussed previously where you lean out with your chest, you’ll also want to lock your shoulder and elbow in place.

You’ll then perform the stroke with one small and simple movement. Don’t exaggerate your swing; flicking your wrist and providing support and power with your fingers should be enough to get the shuttle that minimal distance over the next; you don’t need a big swing that requires using your entire arm.

  • Repeat this small, simple movement of pulling back the racket, flicking the wrist, and pushing through the with thumb until you are consistently performing the serve properly.
  • You can then repeat it hundreds of times more until it is muscle memory. 

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Practice, Practice, Practice

By now, you know the core rules of serving in badminton and have gone through all of the essential motions for performing a backhand low serve. The next step that is, arguably, more important than all the rest is to practice, practice, practice.

When practicing your backhand low serve, remember that it isn’t the serve alone that your practicing, but rather, the countless skills and techniques you’ll utilize in other serves and throughout your badminton game, such as:

  • Power control
  • Aim
  • Form/stance
  • Proper grip
  • Proper handling of the racket and shuttle
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Rhythm and timing

While matches can be excellent opportunities to practice these skills and techniques, we recommend that you sink the majority of your practice time into drills.

True, sitting in front of a badminton net while you practice serve after serve after serve isn’t the most fun experience you’ll have, but you’ll quickly discover that it is the fastest and most efficient way to hone these skills than the occasional instances where they arise in-game.

  • It is also important to make sure that this is constructive practice.
  • By this we mean that you might want a coach or a friend present to help point out aspects of your form or technique that are incorrect or need work.
  • The last thing you want to do is to perform something improperly and then practice that error into habit.
  • Once you’ve done that, they can be particularly hard to overcome and correct.

Final Thoughts

Learning how to serve in badminton can be a highly technical and overwhelming process at first. When you start, it can feel like you’re trying to keep a million things in mind just so you can perform a decent serve. Luckily, it only gets easier with time and practice.

Eventually, much of those foundational skills and techniques become second nature and you’ll find yourself adapting them to intermediate and advanced types of serves and swings that will have you dominating the court in no time.

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