In doubles, you need to react quickly to smashes aimed near your body. You can make this easier by using a backhand to defend most of them.
You may notice a couple of silly mistakes in this video: in one shot I mixed upbackhandwithforehand, and in one demo we left the microphone in shot! We’ll try to fix these when we get time. — Mike
You don’t have much time
At the top level of men’s doubles, the defenders have about one-third of a second to react to the smash. That’s the amount of time between the shuttle leaving the attacker’s racket and being hit by the defender’s racket.
Obviously the smashes you’re defending are going to be slower than that, but you still have less than a second to react. And in that time, you have to:
- See where the shuttle is going
- Decide whether to play a forehand or a backhand
- Possibly change your grip
- Choose what shot to play, and where to play it
- Make your backswing
- Make your forward swing and hit the shuttle
That’s a lot to do in a fraction of a second, so it’s no wonder many players feel they just can’t react fast enough!
Use you backhand to cover most shots
The technique for defending in doubles is all about making it easier to react. You have less than a second to do stuff, so give yourself less stuff to do.
How? By using your backhand to cover most shots. You can use a backhand to cover smashes all around your body, including many smashes that are going to your
So you can pretty much get 360 degrees of coverage on your backhand. This means you can take most shots with a backhand.
Your preparation should be biased towards a backhand
Hold the racket in a short backhand grip. Do not use a full thumb grip, because this will lock your wrist and forearm too much.
Wait for the smash with your racket already prepared for a backhand shot. However, don’t bring it too far back, because this is too inflexible.
By having the racket already turned in towards your backhand, you can make the backswing shorter. This effectively means you can react more quickly.
Simplifying your defence off the body
Using this 360 backhand defence gives you less stuff to do while you’re defending off the body:
- You don’t need to choose between a forehand and a backhand, because all the shots are backhands
- You don’t need to change grip, because you can use a backhand grip for everything
- With your racket turned in, you’ve already completed most of the backswing
…but it’s not perfect!
Strictly speaking, we haven’t removed the need for choosing between forehands and backhands. We’ve just moved the problem: from the racket hip area to somewhere farther out on your forehand side.
Once the smashes come far enough to your forehand side, you will still need to defend with a forehand.
But that’s okay, because defending wide of your body is much easier than defending off your racket hip. It’s a trade-off: we’re making the easiest shots a bit harder, in return for making the hardest shots a lot easier.
This takes some getting used to
Hitting like this might not feel natural, and you may think it looks wrong to play backhands on the forehand side of your body.
But think of the alternative. If you use a forehand to defend the racket hip area, then your elbow is forced into your body. It’s a very cramped position.