The Badminton Bible

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All original content copyright © Mike Hopley

Using drop shots to create an advantage

Drop shots can be among the most deceptive singles shots, offering great opportunity for applying movement pressure to your opponent.

Compared to a clear, the downside is that you will have less time to reach a base position after playing a drop shot.

Because you have less time to reach your base position, the drop shot can be considered somewhat riskier than the clear. It often makes sense to wait until you are in a good position before playing a drop shot.

Different trajectories

As with clears, drop shots are not all the same. You need to understand the effect of choosing faster or slower drop shots.

Many players believe that drop shots should always land as close to the net as possible (a slow drop). This is a fundamental misconception that must be corrected.

Often this misconception occurs because players are mindlessly drilled with shot routines: lift, drop, lift, drop. They are told that clears must always be high, and drop shots must always land between the short service line and the net.

This idea is simply wrong. Unfortunately, these players are then unable to understand why they lose games, even though they are performing their shots flawlessly. The answer is this: they are still playing routines, while their opponents are playing a proper game of badminton.

In a shot routine, drop shots look pretty when they land really tight to the net. But in a real game of badminton, these pretty drop shots are useless (most of the time).

Slow drop shots

These are sometimes called stop-drops. They are played softly, landing between the net and the short service line. By now you can probably guess what I’m going to say about slow drops!

Slow drop shots are excellent if your opponent reaches them late, after the shuttle has fallen below net height. Because the shuttle is tight to the net, your opponent will be unable to play a full-length lift. If this happens, you have a winning advantage.

But strong players will not allow this to happen. They will reach the shuttle early, either playing a net kill or a tight spinning net shot.

The problem with slow drops is that they take too long to cross the net. This gives your opponent time to reach the shuttle early. It’s much easier to play a tight net shot when the shuttle is travelling slowly and you can reach it close to the net tape.

As a general guideline, you should not play slow drop shots. There are two important exceptions, however:

  • You are hitting from nearer the net (not fully in the rearcourt).
  • Your opponent is late recovering from the rearcourt.

In both these situations, it will be harder for your opponent to reach the shuttle early: in the first case, because you are closer to the net and so the shuttle will take less time to get there; in the second case, because your opponent is already late moving forwards.

So in those two situations, a slow drop shot is often a good choice of shot. By the time your opponent reaches it, it will already have passed below the net tape.

Fast drop shots

These are sometimes called check-smashes.

Fast drops are hit with more pace, so that they land near the short service line. This might seem silly, because the landing point is nearer to your opponent than a slow drop; but actually it’s a much better option.

It’s a compromise: because the shot is faster, your opponent has less time and will be forced to take the shuttle near the floor; but because it lands farther away from the net, your opponent will have the angle to play lifts.

Almost all your drop shots should be fast drops. By playing a fast drop, you prevent your opponent from taking the shuttle near the net tape and playing a tight spinning net shot. You also place him under considerable movement pressure.

The short service line is a good target area for drop shots. Make this your standard target, instead of trying to make your drop shots land close to the net.

Drive-drop shots

This is a special class of fast drop shot, which is worth distinguishing because it fills an important tactical role.

When you are under heavy pressure in the rearcourt and are unable to play a good clear, you will need to play a drop shot instead. This typically occurs when you are taking the shuttle from a lower-than-ideal position and from somewhat behind you. Your opponent will probably recognise your problem, and move forwards to threaten the net.

In this situation you should play your drop shots with extra pace, hitting them to land slightly beyond the short service line. Because of this, your drop shot will travel quite flat and fast into the front midcourt — hence the name drive-drop shot.

By playing these drive-drop shots with pace, you prevent your opponent from playing a tight net shot. You may also cramp his shot, if he has travelled too far forwards in anticipation of a slower shot.

It might seem bizarre that, when under pressure, you should deliberately send the shuttle to your opponent faster. But think about the trajectory of his net replies. If you hit a fast drop shot (drive-drop shot), then it will be impossible for him to play a net shot that lands close to the net. If you hit a slow drop, however, he is perfectly positioned to play a tight spinning net shot.

It’s about damage limitation: you cannot entirely neutralise your opponent’s advantage in one shot, but you can prevent him from playing his deadliest shot (a spinning net shot). If you can stay alive for one more shot, you have a good chance to neutralise his advantage on the next shot, by playing a clear (or lift).

Understanding this tactic is especially useful when you are under pressure in your backhand rearcourt.

Different angles

You can play your drop shots straight, cross-court, or to the middle.

Drop shots to the middle

This is a defensive option. By playing your drop shot to the middle, you limit the opponent’s angles of reply.

Usually you would play a high clear instead (also to the middle); but when you cannot play a full-length clear, play a drop shot.

Straight drops

Straight drop shots take the least time to cross the net, and are an effective building shot. Straight drops are somewhat safer than cross-court drops, because your ideal base position is not as far to move.

Straight drop shots are an especially good response to a cross-court clear. You force your opponent to cover the longest distance and without much time (because the shuttle is travelling straight, it doesn’t take long to arrive). You are also able to reach a good base to cover his next shot.

Cross-court drops

Cross-court drops are among the most effective building shots in singles, especially when played to your opponent’s forehand: the movement to this corner is particularly difficult. You might care to notice which drop shot you find more difficult to reach: cross-court to your backhand, or cross-court to your forehand? Everyone is different, but I expect most will find the forehand corner harder.

The downside of cross-court drops is that they also put more pressure on your movement; you probably will not have time to recover to an ideal base. For this reason, you should be cautious about playing them when your movement is under pressure.

You can think of the cross-court angle as more ambitious than the straight angle. Playing your drop cross-court can do more damage than playing it straight, but also exposes you more.