B A D M I N T O N

I Introduction

II Playing Area

III Equipment

IV Service and  Play

V Scoring and Official

VI Skills and Strokes

VII Competition

I  INTRODUCTION  

Badminton, game for two or four players using lightweight rackets and a shuttlecock, a cork ball fitted with stabilizing feathers. Players hit the shuttlecock back and forth over a net, trying to keep it from hitting the ground. Some people play badminton outdoors on a level grassy area or beach. However, tournament-level badminton is played indoors on a specially marked court.

 Olympic Badminton Match Badminton is a racket sport played with a shuttlecock, a cork ball fitted with stabilizing feathers. Badminton was first played as an Olympic medal sport at the 1992 Games in Barcelona, Spain. Seen here is a match from the menís doubles competition.Pool J.O. Barcelone/Liaison Agency

 Badmintonís governing body, the International Badminton Federation (IBF), has about 140 member nations. The IBF estimates that about 200 million people play the game worldwide and that more than 1,000 players participate in international competition. Badmintonís growth accelerated after the gameís debut as a medal sport during the 1992 Summer Olympic Games. China, Denmark, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, and South Korea are just a few of the countries where badminton is popular.

 II  PLAYING AREA

 International rules state that an indoor badminton court must be rectangular, with white lines marked on a level wooden floor or on a special mat that is rolled onto a level playing surface. A singles court is 44 ft (13.41 m) long and 17 ft (5.18 m) wide. For doubles, alleys 1 ft 6 in (0.46 m) wide along the two longer sides of the court come into play, making the court 20 ft (6.10 m) wide. Because many shots fly high into the air, there must be clearance of at least 30 ft (9.14 m) above the court. A net stretched across the middle of the court has a top edge set to a height of 5 ft (1.52 m) at the center and 5 ft 1 in (1.55 m) at the posts.

 III  EQUIPMENT

 Badminton rackets weigh between 3.5 and 5 oz (99 and 141 g) and consist of a leather or terrycloth handle; a long, thin shaft; and a stringed area called the head. Official rules limit the total length of a racket to 26.75 in (67.95 cm). The head of a racket measures 11 in (28 cm) in length and 8.6 in (21.8 cm) in width and is strung with synthetic nylon or gut at between 25 and 35 lb (11.3 and 15.9 kg) of tension. Early rackets were made of wood, but badminton rackets are now commonly made of aluminum, boron, graphite, and titanium.

 Tournament-quality shuttlecocks, also called shuttles or birdies, weigh 0.2 oz (5.7 gm) and consist of 16 goose feathers that protrude from one side of a ball-shaped cork base. Most shuttles used by casual players are plastic and have synthetic feathers. Both types of shuttles are 2.5 in (6.4 cm) long. When the shuttlecock is in the air, its aerodynamics cause it to spin so that when players hit it, they almost always strike the cork, not the feathers.

 IV  SERVICE AND PLAY

 Play begins with a serve from a service area on the right-hand side of the court to a receiver in a diagonally opposite service area across the net. To serve, the server stands behind the service line and strikes the cork base of the shuttle in an underhand motion. The receiver must then return the shuttle before it hits the ground, and the players hit the shuttle back and forth until one side fails to return it. 

Play ends when the shuttle hits the ground on one side of the court or when one player makes a fault, or error, such as hitting the shuttle into the net or out of bounds. Specific faults for servers include striking the feathers of the shuttle first or serving overhand. The receiver can be faulted for not being within the service court, for not having both feet on the floor when receiving, and for moving before the serve is made.

 During play, faults include hitting the shuttle into the roof or lights, hitting it through the net, double-hitting or slinging a shot, touching the net, playing a shot by reaching over the net, and allowing the shuttle to hit the playerís body. Unsportsmanlike conductósuch as intentionally distracting an opponentówill also earn a player a fault.

 V  SCORING AND OFFICIALS

 Points are scored when the opponent fails to return the shuttle, hits it out of bounds, or earns a fault. Points only count for the server (or serving side in doubles), so keeping the service privilege is an important part of the game. If the server loses a rally or makes a fault, the service privilege passes to the opponent. In doubles, this immediate loss of service occurs only at the start of the game. After this first loss of service, each team receives two chances to hold serve. When the first teammate loses serve, the partner serves. If the partner loses serve, the opposing team takes over.  

In menís singles, menís doubles, womenís doubles, and mixed doubles, the first side to score 15 points is the winner. Womenís singles games are played to 11 points. If the score is tied at 14-14 (or 10-10 in womenís singles) a system called setting settles the outcome. The first side that reached 14 (or 10) elects either to play through, meaning that the next side to win a point wins the game, or to set the game to three additional points, meaning that the first side to reach 17 points (or 13 in womenís singles) wins the game. Each badminton match is a best-of-three-games contest. Average matches last about 45 minutes, but professional matches can last more than 2 hours.

 Badminton tournaments involve a number of officials. A referee supervises the tournament organization while an umpire controls each match. Aided by a service judge, the umpire keeps score and rules on faults during play. Up to ten line judges rule on whether particular shots have landed in or out of the court.

 VI  SKILLS AND STROKES

 Badminton requires speed, strength, power, agility, and nerve. Players must move quickly from side to side and back and forth, and stamina is important. 

There are six key badminton strokes: the serve, drive, net shot, smash, lift (or lob), and clear. To hit these strokes, players use either a forehand or a backhand grip, depending on court positioning. On the forehand the forefinger acts as a lever and creates power and direction for the stroke. For the backhand the thumb creates this power and direction while placed along the back of the handle.

 Many players aim the serve toward the centerline of the opposite service box. This technique limits the angle of the opponentís return shot. Sometimes players use long, high serves to force opponents to the back of the court. Players also make specialty serves, such as flick serves that barely clear the net or drive serves that are hit down the sideline of the service area, to catch opponents out of position.

 Once play has started, players tend to hit straight, low-flying shots called drives. When the shuttle remains close to the center of the court, net shots can be a good option. Net shots can be hard-hit or delicate. They are aimed at the front area of the opponentís court, forcing the opponent to play the shot close to the net.

 If the opponent manages to return a net shot, the return must be hit high to clear the net. This gives the player a chance for a smashóthe deadliest attacking stroke in badminton. A smash is hit to the floor so forcefully that the opponent has no chance to return the shuttle before it hits the ground. The hardest smash has been recorded at more than 160 mph (260 km/h).

 Players also use two looping strokes that knock the shuttle high and deep. The lift, or lob, is an offensive stroke made from the middle or front of the court. This shot sends the shuttle in a high arc above the opponentís reach, forcing the opponent to the back of the court. The clear is a similar stroke, but it is used for defensive purposes when players find themselves out of position. The high arc gives players time to return to the middle of the court and to prepare for another rally.

 VII  COMPETITION

 Many badminton enthusiasts play in clubs or at local and regional levels. Top players compete in the World Grand Prix series, an international circuit of tournaments sanctioned by the IBF.

 The world championships are badmintonís biggest event and are held every two years. The tournament features five competitions: menís and womenís singles, menís and womenís doubles, and mixed doubles. The world championships are always preceded the previous week at the same venue by the Sudirman Cup world mixed team championships, where contests between nations are decided by five matches: menís and womenís singles, menís and womenís doubles, and mixed doubles. 

Two of badmintonís most exciting events are the menís Thomas Cup and the womenís Uber Cup. These world team championships, which take place every two years side by side at the same time and at the same venue, have continental qualifying rounds. Contests are staged in a round-robin format with knockout finals at both the qualifying stages in February and the grand finals in May. Thomas Cup and Uber Cup contests consist of three singles and two doubles matches.

 Other major events are the European championships, held every two years, and the Olympic Games and the Commonwealth Games, both held every four years.

 The IBF, located in Cheltenham, England, regulates all these events and is the sportís governing body. Representatives from Canada, Denmark, England, France, Ireland, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Scotland, and Wales founded the organization in 1934. Today the IBF has about 140 member nations.