Badminton Serving Rules

Badminton Serving Rules

The badminton serve is the most important shot in a rally. Let me repeat that, the serve is the most important shot in badminton. And the short serve is the most difficult shot to master in badminton. If you come across an opponent that has mastered the short serve at the club level, be scared! I find that most beginner and intermediate players tend to emphasize getting good at the power shots (aka smashes and drives). Wrong choice. The first shot you should master is the serve, it will win you more rallies than any other shot. Period.

The first step to mastering the badminton serve is to understand badminton serving rules.  Because they place limitations on how you serve and service faults will lose you points. In this post, we are going to look at the badminton serving rules for both singles and the double versions of the game.

The easiest way to remember the badminton serving rules is to recognize that they are rules on where, who, and how you serve. So, the rules first define where to serve. This is done through boundaries, or tramlines on the court. Next, badminton serve rules delimit who is going to serve. The goal is to alternative the serve between the players (so that one person does not serve all the time) and this is achieved through point rotation.  Finally, the how to serve rules are basic limitations on height of shuttle when serving and the serving motion. Let’s look at each rule category in depth.

Badminton Serving Rules on Where to Serve

The first fundamental rule of the badminton serve is you must serve cross-court. There is a similar rule in many net sports (tennis, volleyball, table tennis). So you always serve diagonally. The server and the receiver must be in their respective diagonal courts. And, a serve must be directed to and be from diagonal courts. In badminton doubles, your partner can stand anywhere in the court (a good position is smack in the middle of the court) as long as they don’t “interfere” with the serve.

Here are 2 diagrams showing the right position of the server and receiver.

Badminton singles serving rules
Badminton Singles Serving Rules
Badminton serving rules doubles
Badminton Serving Rules for Doubles

3 important notes. 1) The server cannot stand on the line – that’s a fault. 2) Note that the valid service court for the singles is long and thin, and that of doubles is short and fat. 3) That if the shuttle lands on the boundary line in the receiver’s valid court, it’s considered to be in.

The second and final rule is that for love (zero) and even number server scores, you server from the right court. When the server/the servers’ double team has an odd score, they always serve from the left court. So every time you score a point, you have to change your service position. In the single game, your opponent takes a position diagonally across from you. But in badminton doubles your opponents stay in their respective service court from where they played the previous rally.

Badminton Service Rules on Who Serves

For badminton singles,  the rule is straightforward. You toss a coin to decide who is going to serve the first rally, and whomever wins the rally serves the next one. As long as you keep winning the rallies, you always serve. If you lose, your opponents gets a point and the serve.

For badminton doubles it’s a little complicated.  First, the above rule still applies, you toss a coin to decide who is going to serve the first rally (keep in mind that the first rally is always served from the right hand side of the court). Then you decide who is going to the right hand court and left hand court server. Now, you’re all set for the first rally.

Once the first rally is over, there are two possible scenario. The servers’ team could win the rally or the receivers’ team could also win the rally. Just as in the singles version of the game, whichever teams wins the rally also wins the serve. Now if the team that served the rally also win the rally, they get a point and retain the serve. And the person that served the rally rotates to the opposite side of the court to serve for the next rally.

If the team that received the serve won the rally, they get a point and also win the serve. In deciding who’s going to serve, they have to consider 2 things. First, what was their respective service court in the previous rally. Secondly, what’s their score. If their score is love (zero/no score), or an even number, the teammate that was (in the previous rally) on the right side service court gets to serve. If their score is odd, the player that was on the left side service court serves.

Here’s a table that summarizes these badminton doubles serve scenarios.

Course of Action/ Explanation

Score

.

.

Service from Service Court

Server & Receiver

Winner of the Rally

.

Love All

C

D

Right service court. Being the score of the serving side is even. A serves to C. A and C are the initial server and receiver. A & B

B

A

A & B win a point. A & B will change service courts. A serves again from Left service court. C & D will stay in the same service courts.

1-0

C

D

Left service court. Being the score of the serving side is odd. A serves to D C & D

A

B

C & D win a point and also right to serve. Nobody will change their respective service courts.

1-1

C

D

Left service court. Being the score of the serving side is odd. D serves to A A & B

A

B

A & B win a point and also right to serve. Nobody will change their respective service courts.

2-1

C

D

Right service court. Being the score of the serving side is even. B serves to C C & D

A

B

C & D win a point and also right to serve. Nobody will change their respective service courts.

2-2

C

D

Right service court. Being the score of the serving side is even. C serves to B C & D

A

B

C & D win a point, C & D will change service courts. C serves from Left service court. A & B will stay in the same service courts.

3-2

D

C

Left service court. Being the score of the serving side is odd. C serves to A A & B

A

B

A & B win a point and also right to serve. Nobody will change their respective service courts.

3-3

D

C

Left service court. Being the score of the serving side is odd. A serves to C A & B

A

B

A & B win a point. A & B will change service courts. A serves again from Right service court. C & D will stay in the same service courts.

4-3

D

C

Right service court. Being the score of the serving side is even. A serves to D C & D

B

A

 

During service in badminton doubles, the partners may take up any positions within their respective courts, which do not unsight the opposing server or receiver.

Please note that if a player has served or received out of turn; or has served or received from the wrong service court this is considered a service error (it’s not a fault – there’s no point penalty!) and the remedy is to correct the mistake but the existing score stands.

Badminton Service Rules on How to Serve

Finally there are rules on how to serve. The first rule is that both the server and receiver must have both feet in a stationary position on the court and cannot move until the shuttle has been served (hit by the server). In other words, the server and receiver must be stationary at the moment the shuttle is served.

Update 2019: there was a change (on a trial basis) on the how to serve rule in March 2018, that was implemented in all major badminton competitions at the end of 2018. At our club, we started to implement the new rules in early 2019. This required us to place tape on the post marking the 1.15m height. Despite my reservations, the new rule has been well received by the club members! We now see more flick serves, the game is faster, and the serve (and the first few shots of the rally (especially in doubles) have become crucial to winning. If you’ve implemented the new rule in your club, let me know your thoughts in the comments sections.

The second (new rule) is the whole shuttle shall be below 1.15 metres from the surface of the court at the instant of being hit by the server’s racket.

The second rule is that the shaft of the server’s racket must be pointing in a downward direction when it comes into contact with the shuttle.

The third rules is, and this is a contentious one, the whole shuttle must be below the server’s waist when hit by the racket. Badminton World Federation define the waist as an “imaginary line round the body, level with the lowest part of the server’s bottom rib.” As you can imagine, this rule causes a lot of headaches/arguments on the court.  For our club, we use the belly button to mark the highest part of the waist. And have a gentleman agreement to try and follow the spirit of the rule.

Third rule, you must initially hit the base of the shuttle and the serve stroke must be in one continuous motion. No fits and starts!

Fourth rule is a simple one, the serve has to be over the net and land on your opponent’s court beyond or on the service line (it’s okay if the birdie hits the top of the net).

Commonly Seen Service Faults

When a service fault is called, the opponent is awarded the rally. Here are the common service faults that I come across.

  1. The receiver attacks the net before the shuttle is hit.
  2. The racket handle (shaft) faces up when the shuttlecock is hit.
  3. Two-stage service action (not a continuous single action).
  4. When it is hit, the shuttlecock is higher than the waist of the server (an imaginary line under the bottom rib of the server).

Commonly Seen Service Lets

As opposed to a fault, a service let does not earn either player or team points. It means that the rally shall not count and the player who last served serves again.

  1. The shuttle gets stuck on the net. Happens a lot if the net has a large hole. Note, if the shuttle passes through the net of under it, it’s considered out of play.
  2. The server serves before the receiver is ready. However, if the receiver attempts to return the serve, they are considered to be ready.
  3. Base of the shuttle disintegrates and separates from the rest of the shuttle. Again, this happens a lot, especially during long rallies with powerful smashes (or players who don’t hit the shuttle cleanly).

Sorry for the long complicate and winding post. If you require any clarification please comment below and I shall endeavor to clarify the badminton serving rules. Over to you.

August 21, 2019 / 12 Comments / by / in
  • Mark says:

    Thank you for the nice summary…I am waiting to see how the new height line affects the game at club and professional levels. I do not see anything about body movement as a deception tactic in the service. Is it the letter of the rule that I can do a hip turn or a small knee pop in the process of moving the racket forward to deliver the shuttle? I have not changed the height of the racket or shuttle but rather my bodies orientation. Of course the spirit of the rule seems to be to limit deception of any kind…just a good flick or a good low service. thanks for your thoughts

    • Jack says:

      Yeah, expect a lot of heated arguments. I think we are going to try and have a service judge at our club when we’re sure the 1.15m rule will be implemented. We placed red tape on the post at 1.15m height and that seems to be working very well.
      BWF are pretty clear: the server and receiver feet must be in contact with the court and stationary from the beginning to the end of the serve (when the server moves the racket forward toward the shuttle until they hit the shuttle). So basically, you cannot shuffle your feet during the serve. Everything else is game, you can rotate hips, bend your knees etc.

  • Ajmal Sohail Asif says:

    I have a question; whether the service that travels through other court of receiver but lands in receiver’s court is considered legal or not.
    For example, service from court A to C that travels throuh court D but lands in right court i.e C

  • Russ says:

    Thanks for the info. I play twice a week and a couple players squeeze the birdie before the serve which makes the birdie wobble. I don’t believe you can do this on a serve but no one at the club has an answer. Some clarification would be great.

    • Jack says:

      Yeah, that’s birdie tampering. As a club, you are allowed to make your own rules to deal with such situations…

  • Nitin Arora says:

    Net touch service wrong or right

    • Jack says:

      Net touch, with your body or racket is always a fault.
      If the shuttle touches the net during service or play and does not get stuck, that’s not a fault or a let.
      If it get’s stuck on the net, that’s a let.

  • Sudhir says:

    Thanks for the great explanation of the doubles service rules with that ABCD illustration and under multiple scenarios. Really helpful on this confusing aspect for beginners.

  • Rayndeer says:

    What if, when serving, the shuttle hits the net but continues and lands in correct serve area?

    • Jack says:

      This seems to be a common question. To be clear, that’s a great serve: it will likely confuse the opponent. It’s not a let or a fault. But this rarely happens, when the shuttle hits the top of the net it tends to slow down and fall short of the service line, and that’s a fault. So you should not aim to hit the top of the net while serving, but if you do and it goes past the service line, you’re very lucky!

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