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The basic strategy: movement pressure

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In singles, the basic strategy is to apply maximum movement pressure to your opponent. This means that you force him to cover distance rapidly and change direction.

By forcing your opponent to move quickly about the court, you create situations where he will reach the shuttlecock late and have difficulty playing an effective shot. Once he plays a weak shot, you have the choice between pushing him even farther out of position, or attempting to win the rally immediately.

Here is a simple example of creating movement pressure:

  1. You play a clear. Your opponent is forced to move into the rearcourt.
  2. Your opponent plays a drop shot.
  3. You play a net shot. Your opponent is forced to move into the forecourt.

By this simple sequence of shots, you forced your opponent to move into the rearcourt, and then back to the forecourt. This puts some pressure on his movement ability.

Doubles strategy doesn’t work in singles

Many players believe that they can win singles just by applying their doubles smash. This is a fundamental mistake. In singles you have no partner to cover the net, so doubles-style attack is much less effective.

Doubles attack involves creating shot-making pressure: when defending a smash, you don’t have much time to position your racket and it’s easy to lose control of the shot. You’re also placed under tremendous pressure by the front player, who will try to punish any net replies.

The attackers in doubles must move about the court rapidly. In particular, the back player jumps all over the place, to ensure he can keep on smashing.

So doubles attackers accept movement pressure in return for the shot-making pressure that they apply to their opponents. Because the attackers can work together to cover their court, this exchange usually turns to the attackers’ advantage: in doubles, shot-making pressure usually beats movement pressure.

In singles it’s the other way around: movement pressure usually beats shot-making pressure.

It’s much more difficult to cover the court in singles, because there’s only one of you! This makes movement pressure much more effective in singles than in doubles. Shot-making pressure is also less effective because you no longer have a partner covering the net. After you smash, your opponent can turn the tables simply by blocking the shuttlecock back to the net.