All original content copyright © Mike Hopley
When serving, you should stand towards the front of the court and as close to the centre line as possible.
Don’t stand on the lines, however: that is a fault!
Stand close to the front service line. Exactly how close? That depends on your height, and your personal preference. You can either stand right at the front, or slightly farther back.
Players who serve forehand tend to stand farther back than players who serve backhand.
The distances I suggest here are for backhand serves. You may wish to add another 50 centimetres if you serve forehand.
Many beginners serve from too far back. You should stand at most 50 centimetres back from the short service line (unless you are a child or a very short adult).
It’s all about the straight low serve: if you stand farther back, then you can make a flatter low serve; but if you stand farther forwards, then the receiver has less time to react.
If you stand directly behind the short service line, as close as possible, then the receiver has less time to react to your serve (because it crosses the net sooner).
But because you are so close to the net, the shuttlecock is likely to be rising as it passes the net, so that its highest point is on the receiver’s side. This makes it easier to attack.
That’s not your only problem. Your serve may be travelling farther into the court than you would like, so that it would land perhaps 20 centimetres beyond the service line.
I recommend recording your serve on video, so that you can see the shuttlecock trajectory for yourself. You may be surprised at the path it takes.
Alternatively, you can stand one small step back from the service line. This helps you make a flatter serve: the shuttlecock may even be travelling downwards when it passes the net.
But because you are standing farther from the net, the receiver has more time to react.
For most adults, I recommend a maximum of 50 centimetres gap between the service line and your farthest forward foot. Don’t stand any farther back; this just gives the receiver extra time and obstructs your partner’s position (where can he stand if you’re in the middle of the court?).
Children and very short adults, however, may benefit from standing even farther back.
There’s no right answer here. You need to experiment and make your own decision.
Tall players can stand farther forwards than short players, because their extra height makes it easier to play a flat service.
By slicing the low serve, you can adjust its trajectory in your favour — which means you can stand farther forwards.
In mixed doubles, the man should serve from farther back than normal, with the woman standing in front of him. This peculiar-seeming position is intended to help the man become the rearcourt attacker (because his smashes are stronger than the woman’s).
Exactly how far back? Even among world-class players, the distance varies considerably: about 1–2 metres. The picture on the right shows Zheng Bo serving in the 2007 World Championship final.
The woman should serve at the front, just as though she were playing women’s doubles.
Singles players stand farther back than doubles players, because they must cover the whole court. If you stand right at the front, then your opponent can win the rally with a simple lift.
Exactly how far back? I recommend about 1–2 metres back from the short service line, depending on what kind of service you are using.
The position for backhand serves tends to be farther forwards than for forehand serves.
Copyright © 2008–2015 Mike Hopley. All rights reserved.
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