The Badminton Bible

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All original content copyright © Mike Hopley

Winning the rally with a smash

Smashes are the most common winning shot, especially in men’s singles.

How is a winning smash different?

You gain the chance to play a winning smash in two general situations:

  • Your opponent is out of position.
  • You are in a very good position.

When your opponent is out of position

This means that he has not yet recovered to an effective base position.

If your opponent is too far forwards, then any smash will probably win; but your best winning chances usually come from hitting directly at his body, or hitting to the side farther away from him.

If your opponent is too far to one side, then you should smash to the other side.

Your opponent may also have reached an effective base position, but without yet recovering his balance; or he may not yet have brought his racket into an effective position for defending. If your opponent is off-balance or still moving, you should consider smashing directly at his body; if his racket is still on one side, you should smash to the other side of the court.

When your opponent is out of position, you can play cross-court smashes with less fear of counter-attack: he is unlikely to be able to reach the shuttle in time to make a constructive response.

When you are in a very good position

This could mean that you are smashing from the midcourt (your opponent’s lift or clear was short). Alternatively, you could be smashing from the rearcourt but in a side-on position, well-balanced, and ready to hit a full-power smash.

In either case, you can attempt a winning smash. If you are smashing from the midcourt, then any smash will do; but you should consider aiming directly at your opponent: the raw speed of your smash will probably overwhelm his defences.

If you are smashing from the rearcourt, then you should usually avoid aiming at your opponent’s body; aim for the sidelines instead, either straight or cross-court. In this position, you also have the option of forgoing the smash: you can threaten to play a powerful straight smash, and then play another shot instead, such as a cross-court fast drop.

Although you can play drop shots and clears from the midcourt, this would usually be a wasted opportunity. A powerful smash from the midcourt is so devastating that it’s almost the automatic choice of shot.

Intercepting flat lifts and clears

This is a special case where you can attempt a winning smash immediately, without having previously gained an advantage in the rally.

When your opponent is trying to apply heavy movement pressure with attacking clears and lifts, you can sometimes win the rally by jumping out to intercept the shuttle in the midcourt with a half-smash (this is sometimes called a stick-smash).

In this situation, you will be hitting the shuttle from behind your body, and you will not be able to turn your shoulders. You cannot play a full-power smash, but you don’t need to: just clip the shuttle down sharply into the open space, using a half-smash.

Note that you are very exposed after playing this shot: you will land with your right foot behind your left foot, which makes your recovery slower. Don’t play this shot unless you see an opening!

It’s very risky to play this shot towards your opponent: because the smash is not that powerful, he will probably be able to cope with the speed and block it to the net. You will have difficulty reaching this shot.

Instead, aim for the open space. If your opponent’s clear or lift was played straight, then hit your smash cross-court; if his shot was played cross-court, then hit your smash straight. Accuracy is much more important than power for this shot; aim it very close to the lines.

Following up your winning smash

You can never be sure that you’ve won the point. An attempted winning smash will often be returned with a loose block to the net. After you attempt a winning smash, you must seek to move forwards and finish the rally at the net.

The more vicious your smash, the more completely you should commit to moving forwards.