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Choosing attacking shots

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When you’re attacking, it’s important to keep the shuttlecock going downwards.

From the rearcourt, play smashes and drop shots; from the forecourt, play net shots, drives, pushes, and net kills (when you get the chance).

The back player’s choice of shot

Smashes: your most powerful weapon

The back player should mainly play smashes, because the smash is the best attacking shot. It’s tactically sound to play four smashes in a row (or even more).

This idea is important, but often neglected because many club players believe that playing multiple consecutive smashes shows inexperience and a poor understanding of tactics. They say this because their smashes are weak, because their movement is slow, or because they are lazy!

If you have a good smash, use it — and use it more frequently than your drop shots.

Drop shots: changing the pace

Although the smash is your best attacking shot, you should also consider using drop shots as a variation.

Drop shots can win the rally, but this is rare at high levels of play. More commonly, the drop shot provokes a short lift which you can follow with a winning smash.

When you play several smashes in a row, your opponents often start to become fixed in their defensive positions — their feet are rooted to the floor. If your attack has been especially fierce, they may also begin to back off farther from the net; and they may no longer be mentally prepared for anything but a smash.

This is the best time to play a drop shot, because it disrupts your opponents’ defensive rhythm. Disrupting your opponents’ rhythm is a useful tactical device, and can be achieved in several different ways; in this case, it take the form of changing the pace of your shots (from fast to slow).

Key tip

The effectiveness of your drop shots depends on the quality of your smash.

If your smash poses no threat to the opponents’ defence, then they can move forwards and counter-attack your drop shots.

Use fast drops (which land about the service line), not slow drops (which land near the net). Slow drops give your opponents far too much time: they can take the shuttlecock near the net tape.

Slow drops are great against slow opponents, because the shuttlecock falls tight to the net. Against fast opponents, however, you should reserve slow drops for when an opponent is out of position (too far back) and will be late moving forwards. In this situation, the slow drop can be an outright winner, or otherwise provoke a very short lift.

Clears: how to lose the attack in one shot

Never play a clear in doubles unless you have a compelling reason to do so!

Playing a clear is like saying to your opponents, It’s only fair that I let you take a turn attacking. As soon as you clear, they can start smashing.

There are only two good reasons to play a clear in doubles:

  • You are too vulnerable to attempt an attack (very late to the shuttle, partner badly out of position…).
  • You see that your opponents are out of position and will make a weak reply.

When you’re in trouble, play the clear high so that you have more time to recover.

When you spot that your opponents are failing to cover a rear corner, however, play the clear lower — just high enough to get past them — so that they will have less time.

The front player’s choice of shot

Net kills: the best shot in the game

They’re called kills for a reason! A good net kill is almost certain to win the rally. Always play them when you get the chance.

When the kill is much flatter — more like a downwards net drive — the decision is not so clear-cut. It’s still a good shot, but a tight spinning net shot may be better: wait one more shot, and then you can play a proper kill.

Net shots: threaten a kill, force a lift

A good net shot will maintain your attack by forcing the opponents to lift the shuttlecock; after the lift, your partner can continue smashing.

It’s important that, after playing a net shot, you move in to cover any possible net replies: you are threatening to play a net kill if the opponents play a net shot. It’s this threat of a kill that forces the lift.

Pushes: using the open space

Normally net shots are better than pushes; but sometimes a push is necessary to counter your opponent’s attempt to steal the attack. Imagine the following situation:

  1. Your partner plays a straight smash.
  2. Your opponent blocks the smash cross-court, and moves forwards (and across) to claim the net.

When you reach the shuttlecock, it is just below net height, between the net and the short service line. Your opponent is now encroaching on the net, but has only just crossed the middle line. You have four possible shots:

  • Net shot
  • Drive
  • Push
  • Lift

Obviously you don’t want to play a lift if you can avoid it. A drive may be a good option, but the opposing back player has a good chance to counter-attack it.

The net shot would be nice, but because it’s a slow shot, your opponent will be able to reach it and counter-attack with a drive, with his own net shot, or even a kill if he’s really fast.

This is a good situation to use the push. Aim to push the shuttle straight into the tramlines, landing a little beyond the short service line.

The push has more pace than the net shot — just enough pace to get it past the front player. But because it’s slower than the drive, it falls well below net height before the back player can reach it. As a result, he will have to play a lift (or attempt a risky counter-attack).

You can vary the placement of your pushes depending on the situation. The idea is to find the gap in the opponents’ formation, and hit the shuttlecock with just enough pace to make it past the forwards player.

When your opponents are not challenging you at the net, however, use a net shot instead.

Drives: direct pressure

If you are taking the shuttlecock from below net height, a drive is normally a bad idea. You would probably be better off playing a net shot, with the idea of setting up your partner to continue smashing.

When the shuttlecock is slightly higher than net height, however, the front player also has the option of a direct attack: he can play a drive instead of a net shot. This is especially effective when you are near the net, because your opponents have little time to react.

In this situation, you would normally aim your drives directly at the opponents, hoping for a weak reply.

Lifts: the last resort

Playing a lift concedes the attack.

You must be realistic, however. Often your opponents will play a good counter-attacking shot, and will quickly move to cover all your attacking options. Yes, playing a lift allows your opponents to smash; but playing a fanciful net shot allows them to win the rally immediately with a net kill.

The most common delusion is this: playing a cross-court net shot from near the floor, desperately hoping to continue your attack. It won’t work unless your opponent is half asleep; play a lift instead.

Playing hand