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The principle of attack

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We’ve established a basic doubles strategy — attacking play wins out — but it’s still too early to jump into tactical details. First, we need to think more generally about how we can implement our strategy.

Thankfully badminton is not chess, and we can implement our strategy by following one straightforward principle: the principle of attack.

The principle of attack

In doubles, always make choices that improve your opportunities to play attacking shots — especially smashes and net kills.

The reason for this is simple: smashes and net kills are the most effective winning shots. They’re not the only possible winning shots, of course; but at a high standard of play, most rallies will be ended by a smash or a net kill.

Applying the principle

How you apply this principle will depend on the situation in the rally. In general, you should play the most aggressive shot possible, providing it does not expose you immediately to an even more violent counter-attack.

Here’s a summary of what you should do, in order of preference (best options first, worst options last):

  • Play a winning shot
  • Improve your current attack (create an opportunity for a winning shot)
  • Maintain your current attack
  • Gain a new attack
  • Prevent your opponents from gaining an attack
  • When your opponents are attacking, regain the attack yourself
  • When your opponents are attacking too fiercely, defend (lift) and wait for a better counter-attacking opportunity
  • When your opponents have a winning attack, do anything to stay in the rally

When you can play a winning shot

…then play it!

Always play net kills when you get the chance. Never play a fancy show-off net shot or push, hoping to make yourself look clever. You’ll look pretty silly if your opponents scramble the shuttlecock back into play.

I am frequently dismayed by club players who fail to play the kill. Many will only attempt a kill in the easiest of situations, preferring otherwise to take it easy and play a net shot, or even a lift.

Similarly, never pass up the chance to play a decisive smash from the midcourt. Many players choose a drop shot here, because they think it’s a clever variation. It’s not: you’re just handing your opponents a get-out-of-jail-free card.

(Of course, drop shots can be an excellent variation — just not when you have the alternative of an almost-certainly-winning smash.)

When you can play an effective attacking shot

…then play it!

If you have the chance to hit the shuttlecock downwards, use it immediately. Play smashes and drop shots, not clears.

When no-one can play an attacking shot

Fight for the next attack. Someone is going to get it — either you or your opponents. The aim here is to make your opponents lift the shuttlecock so that you can start attacking.

When your opponents are attacking

Try to regain the attack with counter-attacking smash defence such as blocks, pushes, and drives. Only lift the shuttlecock if the opponents’ attack is too dangerous for you to play a counter-attacking shot.

Playing hand