The Badminton Bible

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All original content copyright © Mike Hopley

Using drives to create an advantage

Drives are not a common singles shot; nevertheless, you need to know whether to initiate a drive war, and how to respond to drives from your opponent.

If you find that most of your rallies involve drives, then your singles tactics are probably fundamentally flawed. This kind of play is common when doubles players transfer to singles.

When to play drives

Before playing a drive, you must be aware of your position. How well can you cover the likely response?

Assuming your opponent can reach the drive, he will usually have the option to play a drive himself: drives invite your opponent to drive back! Before initiating this battle, make sure that you have good chances to win it.

Even if you can play your drive downwards, this may not be enough to justify the risk. It’s like playing a very weak smash, and your opponent has a good chance to redirect the shuttle into the open space on your court.

The best time to play a drive is when you are balanced and in a good position, while your opponent is off balance and has not yet recovered to a central base. This most commonly occurs after he plays a smash.

Where to place your drives

When possible, you should place drives into the open space, away from your opponent. If you can make him reach the shuttle late or at full stretch, then he is likely to play a weak reply.

When attacking from the net against a centrally positioned opponent, drives are usually best played directly at his body. This will make it difficult for him to return the shuttle, because he cannot get his racket into an effective hitting position. You can also try hitting drives to the sidelines, but beware: if it’s within reach of your opponent’s desperate racket swing, he may steal the point from you with a counter-drive!

After your opponent’s smash, drives should be directed away from him. Attacking his body doesn’t work here, because the shuttle will be travelling upwards. So after his straight smashes, your drives should go cross-court; and after his cross-court smashes, your drives should go straight.

How to respond to drives

If you find yourself frequently receiving drives in singles, then you’re doing something wrong. You should not allow your opponent the opportunity to play many drives!

The most common shot to counter a drive is another drive. Try not to do this, however, unless you believe you can win the resultant drive war!

Look for opportunities to play a lift, or block the shuttle to the net. Both these shots can be played with two different tactical purposes: to create an attack, or to neutralise the situation.

If you think you can attack successfully, make your lifts flat and, if possible, aim for the corner farther from your opponent. Similarly, try to play your blocks towards the farther net corner.

When attempting to neutralise the situation, play both lifts and net shots towards the centre, and play your lifts high.