Badminton Serve

Serving is arguably the most important aspect of the game, as it is the one-shot that has to be in every single rally. You have as much time as you need to get ready for it, so there is no excuse for not getting it right. Here we demonstrate and explain three basic types of serve – high serve, low serve, and flick serve.


A good serve can put an opponent under pressure. There are 3 basic serves; High Serve (used in singles only, Low Serve (used in both singles and doubles) and Flick serve (used in doubles).

Badminton serve rules

When it comes to serving there are a few rules that must be obeyed to ensure the serve is legal.

  • Players must make contact with the shuttle below the waist
  • The racket shaft must be pointing downwards at any degree, ie, the head of the racket must be below the racket hand before making contact with the shuttle.
  • Both feet should be on the floor

These rules mean that the shuttle will have to go up in the air to clear the net, because of this, most players now see the serve as a defensive shot. This means it is even more important because if playing a bad defensive shot is likely to lose the point.

Some serves are used more often than others depending if it is a singles or doubles match. The most commonly used serve in singles is the High Serve if this is played correctly it is difficult for an opponent to hit an effective return. However, in doubles, the Low Serve is more widely used, maybe because the court is made shorter and wider in doubles the High Serve is not so effective. The flick serve is used unexpectedly to reduce the receiver’s thinking time.

High serve

This type of serve is most commonly used in singles matches, sometimes known as a long serve. the aim is to send the shuttle high and long and make it drop as close to the furthest backline as possible. This will make it very difficult for an opponent to hit an effective return.

Low serve

This type of serve is most commonly used in doubles matches. Aim to hit the shuttle so it just clears the net and lands as close to the service line as possible, but it must touch the line at least, if it drops short it will not count. Keeping the shuttle low and short will make it very difficult for an opponent to hit an attacking return.

Flick serve

This serve is most widely used in doubles. It is more common to use the backhand serve than the forehand one. The flick serve starts off in the same way as a Low Serve, but a last minute change of pace and flick of the wrist should take the shuttle over the opponents reach, but should not allow them much time to run back and hit an effective return.

The handshake grip should be applied. Adopt an identical position to the Low Serve. The shuttle should be held at waist height and body weight placed on the dominant foot. Take the racket arm into the backswing position and once again cock the wrist.

The next stage is to shift body weight onto the non-dominant foot, and again make use of the wrist and forearm to produce the power and snap the wrist to lift the shuttle above the opponent, catching them out. The shoulders and hips should also rotate to face the opponent within this stage of the serve. Follow the line of the shuttle with the racket on the follow-through, and make sure both arms are up and ready for a possible return.

Backhand low serve

This type of serve has several advantages. It is played from in front of the body so it has a shorter distance to travel, which means it gets to the opponent quicker giving them less thinking time.

Also because the feet are closer together players can stand on tiptoes, and still be balanced. This will mean the shuttle can start from a higher position, so it won’t have to be hit as high reducing the chance for the opponent to attack.

How: Players should start by holding the racket using the thumb grip. The stance should be square or slightly staggered with the racket side foot in front of the other foot. The feet and body should be facing the opponent. The shuttle should be held at waist height, and body weight should be distributed between both feet. The backswing for this stroke is much shorter, it can only go back to about level with the body. Make sure the hand and wrist are cocked.

Now shift the weight on to the balls of the feet or on the toes. Again with this stroke, there is not much use of the wrist and contact should be made around the thigh area. The racket should move in a pendulum action with little follow through.

Drive serve

The drive serve is best used when it is unexpected because it is hit hard, low and flat so the opposing player has little time to react to it. For the drive serve to be most effective it should be hit to the backhand side of an opponent.

To start the drive serve the racket should be held in the handshake grip. Stand side on facing the forehand side of the court with the non-dominant foot in front of the other. The shuttle should be held in the non-racket hand around waist level.

Most of the bodyweight should be placed on the dominant (rear) foot. Take the arm back into the backswing position with the wrist and hand cocked. Bodyweight should then be shifted on to the non-dominant (front) foot. To produce the pace on this serve a lot of quick wrist action, and forearm rotation is needed. Make contact with the shuttle at thigh level.

On the follow through, the racket should carry on through in an upward direction on the same line as the shuttle, and finish above the non-dominant shoulder. It is then important to get into the ready position with both arms up around chest level.

Return of serve

The return of serve is a very important shot because a good return can force the server into a defensive shot and give the receiver a better chance of winning the point. However be careful not to put absolutely everything into each return, because aiming at the lines and using maximum force, means a player is likely to miss more than they hit. This hands an easy point to the opponent.

To make the return most effective aim the shuttle in the direction of either side tramlines (alley) in the mid-court area. This is because it is more difficult to keep both players on the move, and it also makes the opponents hit an upward (defensive) shot. The aim being to become the attacking team, hitting the shuttle in a downwards direction wherever possible. For returning a flick serve use a followed by a scissors kick.

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