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Background (aka motivation):
In chess, there are only two players. In (singles) badminton too, there are only two players. Both face off against each other.
In chess, each player has a particular play-style, that can be studied by reviewing their previous matches. You can do a similar thing in badminton too.
Moreover, both these sports involve an opening/service from one side.

In chess, there are a multitude of ways you can open the game. Each opening is suited to a particular play style of a player and affects the further development of the game. But, unlike a game of badminton, one game of chess has only one opening.

My question: How important is the opening service in a game of badminton? What techniques do player's use to gain an advantage over the opponent when they win a serve?

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In badminton, the number of different serves is relatively small:

  • A short serve to the T (middle of the court) flies shortest and opens up the least options for the opponent. In practice, among high-level players this serve usually results in a balanced situation, just like a stock-standard chess opening.
  • A short serve to the middle of the half court can force the receiver to change grip.
  • A flick serve goes over the opponent and forces them to move backwards.
  • A short serve to the outside can catch the receiver out of position.
  • A quick drive serve can surprise the receiver and lead to an immediate point.

The last two/three serve variations aim to win the point outright. Just like gambits or early attacks in chess, these can be effective at lower levels, but are rare among high-level players.

In contrast to chess openings, where each opening has a lot of variations one can specialize on, in badminton the difference in skill shows in the execution of each variant. Another important difference is that a badminton serve depends not only on the receiver's skill, but also (a lot) on the receiver's position, grip, and racket handling.

In general, the aim in badminton is to hit the shuttle from above (especially in doubles and mixed; in singles it's not as advantageous), and conversely, to force your opponent to play an upwards shot. The serve is no exception. This is the reason why in high-level doubles almost all serves are short and descending from the moment they pass the net.

A loose serve is almost certainly leading to an immediate loss of the rally. Fortunately, while there is of course always room for improvement, the short backhand serve is by far the easiest shot in the game, since it only requires minimal and simple arm/hand movement and no footwork or body coordination.

The serve is understood as a neutral shot; when players have to choose whether to serve or receive at the beginning of a match, both options are popular.

Any good player has a decent serve, but (especially in singles) an excellent serve is only a slight advantage, and unlikely to end the rally immediately.

  • Great answer! Thanks! One question though: " the aim in badminton is to hit the shuttle from above " but in service we have to keep shuttle contact below waistline. So, you can we serve from above? – Gaurang Tandon Jan 18 '18 at 2:47
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    Shuttle contact and waistline do not matter; the actual rule is that the entire shuttle must be below the lowest rib when hitting it. Therefore, badminton serves are always coming from below. This is the reason why the serve is seen as a neutral shot. Also, hitting downwards is a tactical aim. Nothing in the rules mandates you have to hit downwards. It is possible to win a match by always hitting upwards, but against a good opponent it would be incredibly hard to do so, especially in doubles. – phihag Jan 18 '18 at 9:52

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