Badminton is a racquet sport played by either two opposing players (singles) or two opposing pairs (doubles), who take positions on opposite halves of a rectangular court that is divided by a net. Players score points by striking a shuttlecock with their racquets so that it passes over the net and lands in their opponents’ half of the court. A rally ends once the shuttlecock has struck the ground, and the shuttlecock may only be struck once by each side before it passes over the net.
The shuttlecock is a feathered projectile whose unique aerodynamic properties cause it to fly differently from the balls used in most racket sports; in particular, the feathers create much higher drag, causing the shuttlecock to decelerate more rapidly than a ball. Because shuttlecock flight is strongly affected by wind, competitive badminton is always played indoors. Badminton is also played outdoors as a casual recreational activity, often as a garden or beach game.
Badminton is an Olympic sport with five competitive disciplines: men’s and women’s singles, men’s and women’s doubles, and mixed doubles, in which each pair is a man and a woman. At high levels of play, the sport demands excellent fitness: players require aerobic stamina, strength, and speed. It is also a technical sport, requiring good hand-eye coordination and the development of sophisticated racket skills.
History and development
Badminton was known in ancient times; an early form of sport played in ancient Greece and Egypt. Badminton came from a game called battledore and shuttlecock, in which two or more players keep a feathered shuttlecock in the air with small rackets. The game was called “Poona” in India during the 18th Century, and British Army Officers stationed there and they took a competitive Indian version back to England in the 1860’s where it was played at country houses as an upper class amusement. Isaac Spratt, a London toy dealer published a booklet, “Badminton Battledore – a new game” in 1860, but unfortunately no copy has survived.
The new sport was definitively launched in 1873 at the Badminton House, Gloucestershire owned by the Duke of Beaufort. During that time, the game was referred to as “The Game of Badminton,” and, the game’s official name became Badminton.
Until 1887 the sport was played in England under the rules that prevailed in India. The Bath Badminton Club standardized the rules and made the game applicable to English ideas. The basic regulations were drawn up in 1887.However, in 1893, the Badminton Association of England published the first set of rules according to these regulations, similar to that of today, and officially launched badminton in a house called “Dunbar” at 6 Waverley Grove, Portsmouth, England on September 13 of that year.They also started the All England Open Badminton Championships, the first badminton competition in the world, in 1899.
The Badminton World Federation (BWF) was established in 1934 with Canada, Denmark, England, France, the Netherlands, Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland, and Wales as its founding members. India joined as an affiliate in 1936. The BWF now governs international badminton and develops the sport globally.
To win in badminton, players need to employ a wide variety of strokes in the right situations. These range from powerful jumping smashes to delicate tumbling net returns.
Often rallies finish with a smash, but setting up the smash requires subtler strokes. For example, a netshot can force the opponent to lift the shuttlecock, which gives an opportunity to smash.
If the netshot is tight and tumbling, then the opponent’s lift will not reach the back of the court, which makes the subsequent smash much harder to return.
Deception is also important. Expert players make the preparation for many different strokes look identical, and use slicing to deceive their opponents about the speed or direction of the stroke.
Badminton rackets are light, with top quality rackets weighing between about 70 and 100 grams (without strings). They are composed of carbon fibre composite (graphite reinforced plastic), which may be augmented by a variety of materials.
Carbon fibre has an excellent strength to weight ratio, is stiff, and gives excellent kinetic energy transfer.
Before the adoption of carbon fibre composite, rackets were made of light metals such as aluminium. Earlier still, rackets were made of wood.
Cheap rackets are still often made of metal, but wooden rackets are no longer manufactured for the ordinary market, due to their excessive weight and cost.
There is a wide variety of racket designs, although the racket size and shape are limited by the Laws. Different rackets have playing characteristics that appeal to different players.
Badminton strings are thin, with high performing strings in the range of about 0.65 to 0.73 millimetres thickness. Thicker strings are more durable, but many players prefer the feel of thinner strings.
String tension is normally in the range of 18 to 36 lbf (80 to 130 newtons). Recreational players generally string at lower tensions than professionals, typically between 18 and 25 lbf. Professionals string between about 25 and 36 lbf
A shuttlecock (often abbreviated to shuttle) is a high-drag projectile, with an open conical shape: the cone is formed from sixteen overlapping goose feathers embedded into a rounded cork base. The cork is covered with thin leather.
Shuttles with a plastic skirt are often used by recreational players to reduce their costs: feathered shuttles break easily.
The International Badminton Federation is conducting speed trials for the first time at one of its major events, with microwave sensors recording the speed of smashes on the main court at the world mixed team championships.
Chinese doubles star Fu Haifeng has clocked the fastest smash of 332 kph so far, while world number two Kenneth Jonassen of Denmark has recorded the fastest smash for a singles player at 298 kph (185 mph).
And with womens singles shuttler Huang Sui hitting at 257 kph (160 mph), tennis star Andy Roddicks world-record serve of 246 kph (153 mph) is some way off of badminton’s blistering pace.
Comparison with tennis
Badminton and tennis techniques differ substantially. The lightness of the shuttlecock and of badminton rackets allow badminton players to make use of the wrist and fingers much more than tennis players; in tennis the wrist is normally held stable, and playing with a mobile wrist may lead to injury.
For the same reasons, badminton players can generate power from a short racket swing: for some strokes such as net kills, an elite player’s swing may be less than 10cm. For strokes that require more power, a longer swing will typically be used, but the badminton racket swing will rarely be as long as a typical tennis swing.
It is often asserted that power in badminton strokes comes mainly from the wrist. This is a misconception — wrist movements are weak when compared to forearm or upper arm movements.