Last Updated on 09/12/2023 by Kriss
Besides raw power and technical skills, there is another very important aspect of badminton doubles: position and rotation. You need good communication and an understanding of the game to get your position right.
Today, we will explore the most common scenarios and show how to position yourself on the court. This is an essential skill for every badminton player since good positional play might be the difference between winning or losing the game.
Let’s dive right in!
Mastering Positional Play in Badminton Doubles
Positional play in badminton doubles is like a well-choreographed dance. It requires intuition, anticipation, and a keen understanding of the court dynamics. So in general we can divide the doubles game into 3 categories:
- You have the attack
- You are on defense
- You are in a quick drive exchange or net game (= fighting for the attack)
Depending on these situations you have to position yourself differently.
Let’s take a look at each of these in detail.
Attacking Position: Front and Back Coordination
In badminton doubles, attacking is an essential part of the game. A lot of the rallies are won with a smash or other attacking shots like a net kill. When you are in an attacking position you don’t want to be side-by-side. The attacking player is in the back, and you or your partner covers the front court. This looks like this:
The player in the orange shirt is about to attack and his partner covers the front court. This has two main advantages: The first one is, that if the opponents lift the shuttle again, the player that covers the back of the court is ready to keep attacking. If the opponent’s defense comes to the net, the player at the front court is ready to take it early and keep the pressure on.
If you were standing next to each other, a short defense would make you lose the attack in the rally. This is why you want be positioned in the front and the back.
You will notice, that the frontcourt player is not quite in the center. Let me show you the situation from the other side:
The reason why the player is not standing right in the center is that we are looking to cover the most common replies. This is the parallel short defense or a lift. You will have more than enough time to cover the cross-court defense. With this position, it is also way easier for you to intercept shots (watch about how to intercept shots here).
Where it gets interesting is the grey area on the court. There are two options: The player on the front court goes to the back and becomes the attacking player (both players rotate), or the player on the back takes it. If it is a good and sharp return, you might not be able to keep the attack. This grey area is also one of the reasons why you should not go for a cross-court smash in doubles. It is hard to cover the parallel defense from the opponent.
only use the cross-court smash if the other player is weaker, as a surprise, or if you are sure you are winning the point with it.
Now that we know about attacking play – let’s take a look at the defense.
Defense Positioning in Doubles
As soon as you lose the attack, you switch to a side-by-side position. The base position looks like this:
Depending on the side your opponent is attacking from you want to shift a little bit to the right or left. This is because we are covering the most likely replies again. Most likely means a straight smash to the side, to the middle, or a drop. The positions look like this:
As you can see, you get closer to the sideline that the opponent is attacking from. Now you may ask: “But what about the cross-court smash???”
You should still be able to get there since you have a bit more time to react. If the opponent plays the cross-court smash a lot, you can adjust a bit and get an advantage from playing a nice parallel defense 😉
Positioning After The Serve
The basic positioning during the serve looks like this:
As we’ve discussed in this post, you should serve about 8/10 times to the “T-Spot” – a basic short serve. After the serve, the player who served covers the front court, and the other player covers the backcourt. This is because the opponent simply cannot attack after a good short serve. With an attacking position you can intercept weak lifts, be early at the net, and your partner at the back is ready to attack in case of a lift.
The serve and the service return are the two most important shots in badminton doubles and mixed, so you should practice them a lot.
If you did a long serve, you would go into a defensive side-by-side position.
The Art of Doubles Rotation
Pro doubles rotate around each other like a well-oiled machine. They have been playing with each other for a long time and know about their strengths and behavior. Having a fixed doubles partner might not be the case for you, and even if you have one you will eventually get into a situation where you have to play with someone you don’t know yet.
Luckily, doubles rotation is not hard to understand. What my coach always told me, is that you have to imagine the rotation like the needle of a compass. The players are the opposite ends and rotate around a middle point. The needle always moves, but the players stay on the opposite ends. Here are the situations we’ve discussed previously:
Since badminton is such a fast and technical sport, there will be situations where you will have a bigger gap between each other, or lose orientation completely. This is fine, and it happens to all of us, but the concept stays the same.
Other common questions about rotation that I get are who takes the shuttle when it comes between players and how to rotate in mixed doubles. Let’s take a look at both of these issues.
Decision Making: Who Takes The Shuttle?
You might have experienced it already. The opponent has to lift the shuttle – you know it’s time to attack! But the shuttle comes right in between you and your partner. Both want to hit the shuttle and in the end, both of you say: “MINE!” or “YOU!” and the shuttlecock falls to the ground between you and your partner.
This happens a lot with new doubles pairs or beginners, but it is actually easier than you think. There are two basic rules:
- The player who has the forehand hits the shuttle
- The stronger player hits the shuttle
If your attack is at the same level, the player with the forehand attacks since he has the better position. If you are way stronger than your partner you should communicate beforehand that you will always take the attack in this situation.
If it is a smash or drop that comes in between you and your partner the one who reacts first should take the shuttle.
Also read: How To Improve Reaction Time
Mixed Doubles Position: Should The Woman Stay In Front?
In mixed doubles badminton, leveraging the unique strengths of each gender is important. That is why men are usually at the back because they have greater power and strength. I hear a lot of people saying, that women should always stay on the front, but that is wrong.
As soon as you lift and get into a defensive position, you will get back to a side-to-side position as we have discussed earlier. The only thing that changes is the position after the serve, and that the woman is preferred at the net. Preferred doesn’t mean that this is always the case. There is an excellent video from Badminton Insight that describes this situation:
Remember: Communication is key!
Tactical Positioning: Winning with Smart Play
Knowing the rotation and positions is good, but badminton involves recognizing patterns, interpreting the game, recognizing the opponent’s strategies, and adjusting tactics accordingly.
As soon as you see certain patterns appear, you should adjust your game. Does one opponent always smash cross-court? Fine – adjust your position and gain an advantage. You’d be surprised how many patterns you can recognize if you practice it.
Let’s say your opponent just did a net shot. You are at the net, and since you are late there is no other choice but to lift the shuttle. The classic positioning after the lift would mean you go back to the sideline and your partner shifts to the center area like this:
Now you’ve recognized, that your opponent often does a cross-court drop from this position. In order to anticipate the drop you move a little bit differently:
As you can see, your partner moved closer to the net and you moved a bit more to the center. This little adjustment means that you can return the cross-drop more efficiently and get an advantage, while still being able to defend a smash.
How To Get Better Rotation And Positioning
There are two sides to the coin: Practice, and ideally having a fixed doubles partner. Unfortunately, I cannot control the latter one, so let’s talk about how to practice doubles rotation and positioning.
Rotation And Position: Practice Routines
Practice makes perfect, and in badminton doubles, this means practicing targeted routines and playing a lot of games. To improve your positional play, you should do open rallies in a 2 vs. 2 format where one pair is the practicing pair, and the other pair is feeding.
You cannot really have fixed drills here, since you don’t want to force a situation. However, you can naturally make these situations appear in open play. Let’s say you want to practice defense positioning – then you simply lift more to one side of the feeder pair. Want to practice rotation after a straight smash? Simply tell the feeders to lift more during the game.
Communication in badminton doubles is very important. Even pro players do it all the time. Just look at this video:
Even if you get your position and rotation right, there are always unpredictable moments where you need to communicate with your partner.
Simple commands like “Yours!”, or “Mine” can quickly clarify weird situations on the court. Sometimes you will also tell or show your partner that you are about to do a long serve. Also, take your time to talk to your partner in mid-game intervals to synchronize your strategy and the patterns you have observed so far.
By communicating effectively, you can synchronize your moves, make quick decisions, and cover each other’s positions efficiently, giving you the edge in a badminton doubles match.
In the world of badminton doubles, mastering the art of strategic positioning and rotations, anticipation, and communication can make or break your game. As we have learned, each player’s position and movement with their partner are critical to success. By understanding and applying these strategies, you can transform your game, outsmart your opponents, and secure victory.
Is there anything we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments!
Frequently Asked Questions
Positioning in badminton involves two basic positions, front and back, and side by side. Front and back positioning is used when you have the attack, and during defense fast drive rallies you stand side by side.
In badminton doubles or mixed, the front player is responsible for taking net shots and making interceptions. The rear-court player is responsible for attacking.
It depends on the situation. You stand side by side if you have to defend a smash or drop. As soon as you have the attack, you switch to a front and back position.