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Winning Badminton Tips for Doubles (Strategies, Tactics and Tips)

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"IMG_3320" by gregouille is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Do you ever feel like your Badminton doubles game just isn’t improving? Not sure what strategies or tactics you should be using? Doubles is a fast-paced game with a heavy focus on attacking play and serving.

In this guide, I’m going to give you six tips that will help you improve and win more games. Here are my six Badminton tips for doubles.

So, if you want to improve and start mastering the doubles game, keep reading for some top Badminton tips.

Serve, return of serve and third shot are key

Doubles uses a wide and short service box, because of this doubles focuses on the low serve. You simply can’t serve high to the back of the court and give away the attack. Not only does it give them a free chance to smash but if they smash well their partner is likely able to intercept any defensive shot you’re able to play.

You need to master the first three shots in the service sequence which are:

  1. The serve
  2. The return of serve
  3. The first shot after the return of serve

You see this all the time at top-level Badminton. Receiving players always stand close to the net to attack the short serve. The server is focusing on delivering a tight, low serve with the occasional flick serve to mix things up.

If you’re able to serve and return well then you’ll set yourself and your partner up to take the advantage early in the rally.

The next shot after the return of serve, called the third shot, is also important. This is where the rally begins essentially. Most of the time players aren’t able to do much with their third shot so they lift and give away the initiative. Try and work on being able to keep the initiative from here.

Shuttle Life YouTube channel has a great video looking at the return of serve in particular. Also, check out our guide on improving the Badminton short serve to drastically improve your service game.

Get your defensive positioning right

You can’t always be on the attack in doubles. As both sides battle to take the initiative inevitably you’re going to find yourself defending at some point.

For those that don’t know the best defensive positioning as a pair when playing doubles is to stand level with each other to cover the width of the court. See the diagram below for an example of this positioning.

Setting up your defensive position like this enable you and your partner to cover a wide area. Even without moving if the opponent smashes in most places you won’t have to move much or at all to reach the shuttle.

The positioning is a little more nuanced than that though. Notice how the player cross-court from where the shuttle is slightly further forward and closer to the centre line than their partner. This is subtle but can make a big difference in defending.

With the cross-court player positioned like this, they’re able to reach the shuttle earlier and remove some confusion that happens when the smash in played between the two players. They’re in a better position to counterattack any shot that comes into their range because they’re further up the court.

BG Badminton Academy on YouTube has a great video covering positioning in doubles in general and makes note of defensive positioning too. Check it out below.

Place your smashes with purpose

Just because attacking is the optimal strategy in doubles doesn’t mean it’s easy. If you smash recklessly with no plan and without thinking it can quickly become the least optimal way to play.

You want to keep your opponents on the back foot by being on the attack but you need to play with purpose. In doubles you rarely see outright winning smashes from the back of the court. Instead, you see more front players ending the rally with interceptions from the net.

Playing the smash from the back is more about applying pressure. You’re probably not going to win on the first, second, third or even fourth smash but as you whittle down the opponents’ defence you’ll eventually force a weaker reply which you or your partner can hopefully kill.

Let’s explain the few basic tactics on hitting the smash and where to aim your smash.

Smash straight at the opponents’ body

This is a good go-to option for any player but especially if you have a very powerful smash. The best places to aim for when smashing at the opponent’s body is the racquet shoulder and the racquet side hip.

It’s better to smash at the player straight ahead of you as smashing cross court to the other player can be risky. Smashing cross-court at the body of the other player gives them a good angle to counterattack and opens up the other side of your court.

Smash down the tram lines

Smashing straight down the tram line is a good option for players who defend standing too close to the middle of the court. They’ll have a hard time reacting to the smash and being able to reach far enough for the smash.

Be mindful when smashing down the tram line as it creates space for the opponent to play it past your partner at the front of the court. The wider the shuttle is in play the easier it is for the opponent to drive it past your partner.

Smash in between the two players

This is by far the most common advice given to players and for good reason. Aiming your smash between the two opposing players has two main benefits:

  • It creates indecision between the two defenders as to who will take the shot
  • The shuttle trajectory will have to travel past your partner in some way

These two factors make create the opportunity for weak replies and for your partner at the front of the court to intercept which is what we want. It’s much easier to win points from the front of the court then the back.

Some players get this tactic wrong by aiming for the centre of the court. That’s wrong. The centre of the court is more likely to be in reach of the cross-court player. You want to aim in the middle of the two players.

Smash all the way cross-court, the mixup

This is an option that people don’t talk enough about and it’s because it’s risky if you get it wrong. This tactic involves hitting a cross-court smash aiming all the way to the tram line.

This can be an outright winner if you’re able to pull it off. The cross-court player won’t be expecting it and will have to most likely change grip to return the shot if they can reach it.

This tactic will be no good if you can’t hit the tram line or if the opponent cross-court is stood much closer to their side rather than the middle.

Smash placement summary

Coaching Badminton channel on YouTube talks through placing your smash and why. He covers a lot of the points mentioned here but still worth a watch.

Keep the initiative, get on the attack

We mentioned in the previous how important it is to play with purpose and to not mindlessly smash with no plan in mind. Our next tip? It’s simply to keep the initiative and maintain the attack.

It’s all too common to see players surrender the initiative and play a high lift when in most situations they just needed a steady hand and some bravery. It’s not always easy to stay on the attack as you’re battling your opponents for control of the rally.

My tip, setup practices where you’re forced to play shots you’re not normally comfortable with. Get better at playing those flat drives, get better at playing that net shot back and learn to keep stay in control from the back of the court when you’re not able to smash.

Some great drills to practice keeping the initiative include:

  • Play doubles with the back tram line out
  • Play 2v1 where the two players are defending and having to play it back to the one person acting as the attacking rear court player
  • Play the net game where the shuttles only allowed to land before the front service line apart from the serve

If you want to watch attacking Badminton at it’s best then watch this video featuring Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng from the 2011 World Championships. They were one of the best mens doubles pair ever with an incredible offensive game. Watch how they’re able to keep the initiative and set each other up to win.

Trust your partner, play as a team

Doubles is a team game. It’s you and your partner vs the other pair. Neither of you can win or lose without the other. This means working together and trusting each other throughout the whole match.

It can be tempting when things start going wrong to look at your partner and point out all the things you think they’re doing wrong. Don’t do this. Nobody looks to lose with their doubles partner on purpose you blaming them for their faults won’t help them.

You should be working together, communicating and agreeing on your strategy and tactics. If your partner is clearly struggling with something then come at it from a team perspective. What can we do to win more rallies? What can we do to not lose another point like that?

Look at this highlight from the Yonex All England 2020 mens doubles final. Both pairs are working their butts off to keep the rally going and filling in the gaps that their partner is leaving. Teamwork at its best.

Footwork still matters

Just because you have a partner on the court to help doesn’t mean that you can ignore footwork. Yes, you don’t need to cover the entire court yourself but that still leaves at least half the court for you to cover.

Watch this video below by TheLight Badminton YouTube channel. It’s a mens doubles match between Takeshi Kamura and Keigo Sonoda vs Kenichi Hayakawa and Hiroyuki Endo. The low camera angle gives a perfect view to show how much you still need to move around in doubles.

Badminton doubles is a frantic and fast game. You always need to be on your toes and constantly moving. Unlike singles where rhythm is more important, playing doubles requires quick twitch reactions and even more explosive movement.

If you want to learn more about good doubles footwork BetterBadminton YouTube channel has this great video explaining the movements.

If you want even more Badminton tips check out our article 11 Pro Badminton Tips (Become a Better Badminton Player) Thanks again for reading.

How can I improve my badminton doubles?

The best way to improve your doubles game is to simply be a better team player. Most players forget this, they only focus on what they can do. Instead, focus on what you can do to help your partner. It’s a team game so learn to set up, protect and work with your doubles partner.

How do you cover a badminton court in doubles?

We’ve already mentioned that footwork still matters in doubles. Covering the court in doubles is more about faster shorter movements where you can remain balanced and grounded to respond to the fast pace better.

If you found this article useful or know someone who might find this useful please leave a comment and share. If you feel I’ve missed anything out or have other advice, please leave feedback and share your help with others below. Thanks again for reading.


Written by Liam Walsh who lives in Manchester, England. Working as a Software Engineer but moonlighting as a dad, Badminton player/coach and creator of BadmintonsBest.


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