The Badminton Bible


All original content copyright © Mike Hopley

Brush net kills

When the shuttle is extremely tight to the net, you cannot play a normal net kill, because you’ll hit the net with your racket.

By using a sideways brushing action, however, you can kill even the tightest of net shots. This is called a brush net kill.

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The sideways brushing action is inwards towards the centre of the net (out-to-in).

To make this work, start the stroke with the racket head angled just slightly inwards towards the centre of the net. The racket head should be slightly outside the line of the shuttle, giving you space for the sideways movement.

Brush across the shuttle using a short, sweeping action.

Brush net kills are difficult!

This brushing technique is more difficult to learn than the others. When the shuttle is extremely tight to the net, playing a net kill takes a lot of skill.

Brush net kills are definitely worth learning, but be patient. You’ll probably lose many rallies when you first try them. While you’re still learning them, consider playing easier shots instead during an important match (for example, a net shot).

Nevertheless, it’s important to let yourself make mistakes during practice and casual games. Go for the brush net kill! It doesn’t matter if you lose the rally; improving your skills is more important.

Hit mainly sideways, not forwards

Brush net kills use sideways movement to generate power in a forwards direction.

Avoid using a forwards tapping action. In particular, be careful not to snap the wrist forwards, as this will cause you to hit the net.

It’s often helpful to withdraw the racket immediately after contacting the shuttle.

Controlled forearm rotation and grip tightening

You might wonder how it’s possible to hit forwards using a sideways action.

It works by starting with a slightly angled racket face, and carefully using forearm rotation to twist the racket face during the shot. The racket will move mainly sideways, but with a very tight forwards arc. At the point of contact, the racket strings should be facing forwards (and downwards), rather than still being angled sideways.

The racket shaft will start at an angle, and will move towards vertical during the stroke.

Control the shot by twisting the racket in your fingers: this will help you keep the forearm movement small.

Tighten your grip to make the shot sharp, but take care not to snap the racket head forwards. The grip tightening should be directed to move the racket mainly sideways.

You can’t kill everything. Be realistic!

In theory, you can use this technique to kill any shuttle, providing you contact it above the level of the net.

In reality, it’s extremely difficult to kill the tightest of net shots. If the shuttle is rolling over the net cord, you need superb control to play the kill.

The difficulty is greatly increased if you are still moving rapidly when you hit the shot. In this situation, it’s almost impossible to avoid hitting the net, because you are off balance.

In a match, I suggest you only attempt these extreme net kills if you are on balance, and only if you’ve mastered the technique.

If you’re charging forwards from the rearcourt to kill a shuttle that’s just rolling over the net cord, you will hit the net. Play a different shot instead.

How to practise brush net kills

Pinning shuttles to the net

You can practise the technique by pinning shuttles to the net, and then brushing them off.

You will need feather shuttles for this — preferably old, damaged ones. Push the feathers into the net, so that they hold the shuttle in place with the cork pointing upwards.

Only brush one shuttle at a time: when you brush a shuttle, the net movement will dislodge any other shuttles you have attached!

You can progress this exercise by adding some movement towards the shuttle. For a challenge, try jumping forwards to play the kill. Remember you’re not allowed to touch the net!

Practising without a shuttle

The technique for brush net kills is very delicate. You can refine it by practising in slow-motion without a shuttle.

Concentrate on the subtle interaction of fingers, wrist, and forearm to make the racket brush close alongside the net in a tight arcing movement. Practise in slow-motion, and then try speeding it up gradually.

You don’t even need a badminton court for this practice. You can just as well practise against any soft, level object — such as the side of a bed (with you kneeling on the floor).

Practising with a feed

Brushing a static shuttle off the net is a good start, but you need to cope with a moving shuttle.

One option is for a partner to hand-feed very tight net shots. Alternatively, you can play the following sequence:

  1. Feeder racket-feeds a net shot
  2. You play a tight net shot
  3. Feeder plays a tight net shot back
  4. You play a brush net kill

In these practices, the feeder should be wearing safety glasses to protect his eyes.

Other uses for the brushing technique

The main purpose of brush net kills is to kill extremely tight net shots. However, the brushing action can also be useful when the shuttle is only moderately tight to the net.

When you’re moving forwards quickly

The brushing technique can be helpful when you are moving forwards at speed. This is especially common in singles. The brushing action can help in three ways:

  • It lets you adjust the sideways position of your contact point.
  • It helps you control the forwards movement of the racket head.
  • When killing a cross-court shot, it helps keep the shuttle in court.

Adjusting the position of your contact point is useful when you’ve slightly misjudged the direction of the shuttle. The brush technique effectively provides margin for error in predicting where the shuttle is going to be. This makes it especially useful when your opponent’s shot is travelling across the court.

When you are moving forwards quickly, your body movement makes it harder to stop the racket head from continuing forwards and hitting the net. The brushing action has a built-in braking movement, which can help limit your forwards swing.

If your opponent’s shot is travelling across court, it’s easy to send your net kill out at the sidelines. Because the brush technique uses an out-to-in movement, it tends to direct the shuttle back towards the centre of the court.

When you’re prepared to play an upwards shot

In singles net play, players will often wait in the forecourt with their racket below net height. This preparation allows them to play lifts or net shots.

If your opponent loses control of his net shot, however, then you should play a net kill instead. Here, the brush technique can be used to bring your racket upwards from below net height, and kill the shuttle in one swift movement.

The other techniques are less effective here, because they require you to make two actions: first, get the racket up; second, hit forwards. With the brush technique, both these actions are combined into one fluid movement, which takes less time.

Playing hand