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Obscure rules

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I’ve saved these rules for last. They are obscure because they cover situations that are unlikely to happen, or because they are relatively technical.

You may find it frustrating trying to enforce these rules on court. Some of them are too rarefied for most players’ tastes, and may be rejected!

Where can your partner stand in doubles?

I’ve already discussed this, but it’s worth looking at the complete rule:

9.5

In doubles, during the delivery of the service (Law 9.2, 9.3), the partners may take up any positions within their respective service courts, which do not unsight the opposing server or receiver.

The server’s partner must not block the receiver’s view of the serve. In particular, he must not block the receiver’s view of the shuttle. It’s debatable how much of the server must be visible.

Realistically, it’s okay to block vision of some part of the server’s body; this commonly happens in mixed doubles, where the woman often crouches in front of the man when he serves. It may be a fault to block vision of the server’s racket arm. As always, such nuances are left to the discretion of the umpire.

Note that the rule also requires that the server is not unsighted. Again, this is open to interpretation. I suggest that the server should be able to see these things:

  • The receiver’s racket and the hand holding it
  • The service T (where the centre and front lines meet)
  • The doubles sideline (where it meets the front line)

If the server or the receiver is unsighted, then it’s not actually a fault. The player who is unsighted should ask for a let.

Is the shuttle in play?

If you want to interpret the rules correctly in complicated situations, you need to understand the concept of the shuttle being in play. Many faults — everything in sections 13.3 and 13.4 — only apply when the shuttle is in play.

15. Shuttle not in play

A shuttle is not in play when:

15.1

it strikes the net or post and starts to fall towards the surface of the court on the striker’s side of the net;

15.2

it hits the surface of the court; or

15.3

a fault or let has occurred.

For example, suppose your opponent plays a net shot that does not clear the net: it hits the tape and begins falling down on his side of the court. If you then hit the net with an attempted net kill, you still win the point because the shuttle was already out of play.

In general, the first fault or let takes precedence. Anything that comes after is irrelevant, because the shuttle was out of play (informally: the rally had already ended).

Obscure faults

When the shuttle does not travel towards the opponent’s court

13.3

[It shall be a fault] if in play, the shuttle:

13.3.10

touches a player’s racket and does not travel towards the opponent’s court;

This rule seems unnecessary. I don’t know for sure why it exists, but I can think of two theories:

The rule could be intended to take the shuttle out of play early, whenever it’s obviously not going to reach the opponent’s court (for example, it’s travelling backwards). The advantage is that, from this point onwards, the other side cannot be faulted (for example, if they accidentally touch the net).

Alternatively, the rule could be intended to remove any ambiguity in other rules about hitting the shuttle. For instance, suppose in doubles the shuttle touches one player’s racket, continues travelling backwards, and is then hit by that player’s partner. Does the first touch count as a hit? This is splitting hairs, but perhaps the rule-makers were concerned that players could argue this was only a touch, not a hit.

When the shuttle is caught in the net on service

13.2

[It shall be a fault] if, in service, the shuttle:

13.2.1

is caught on the net and remains suspended on its top;

13.2.2

after passing over the net, is caught in the net;

This almost never happens — but when it does, the server loses the rally.

Obscure lets

When the shuttle is caught in the net

14.2.3

[It shall be a let, if] after the service is returned, the shuttle is:

14.2.3.1

caught on the net and remains suspended on its top, or

14.2.3.2

after passing over the net is caught in the net;

These rules are the exact counterparts of the two we just discussed. So it’s a fault for the serve, but for any other shot it’s a let.

Why not simplify the rules so that it’s always a let? Beats me.

When the server and receiver are both faulted

14.2

It shall be a let, if:

14.2.2

during service, the receiver and the server are both faulted;

Until the server hits the shuttle, the shuttle is not in play (informally: the rally hasn’t started). It’s possible for both the server and receiver to be faulted at this point: for example, the server could make a double-action with his racket, and the receiver could take his feet off the ground.

If either one of these happened on its own, then the side responsible would be faulted. If both of them happen, then it’s a let.

Note that this situation is not affected by anything that happens after the server hits the shuttle. For example, consider the following sequence:

  1. The server makes a double action before hitting the shuttle (breaking rule 9.1.7).
  2. After the server hits the shuttle, the receiver hits the net with his racket.

In this case, the server loses the rally. The receiver did not hit the net during service (rule 9.3), and therefore rule 14.2.2 does not apply. By rule 15.3, the shuttle was out of play when the receiver hit the net, and therefore the receiver did not commit a fault.

If you understood that, may I suggest a career in academic philosopy?