Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The fundamentals part II

badminton players
There are four very important fundamentals in badminton that all young players must master. They are the grip, footwork, stamina and the service.

We discussed the grip and footwork in the last column.

This week I will continue with the two other fundamentals stamina and service.


Every player knows that he/she needs to have stamina to play games like badminton because it is a very energy-demanding game.

But very few players understand that stamina in badminton is related to one's style of play. A player with a defensive style, where he engages his opponent in very long rallies, would develop more stamina than the deceptive player who combines it with some features of the attacking style of play.

So, you need to understand the style of your play and develop the stamina required for your style or combination of styles.

It is also important to know the "rate" of expenditure of energy and the "rate" of recovery required for your style of play.

Take a player with an attacking style. The attacking style saps a lot of energy from a player, at a faster rate than the defensive or deceptive style of play.

In the deceptive and especially the defensive style of play, the rate of energy used is not as fast as the attacking style.

However, these two styles of play require stamina which is longer lasting than the attacking style.

Look at Fung Permadi and Poul-Erik Hoyer-Larsen. They are in their thirties and still able to play and win tournaments against players 10 years younger than them.

When Hoyer-Larsen won the Olympic singles gold, he was almost 30 years old. And when Wong Peng Soon won his last All-England singles title, he was 37.

Both Hoyer-Larsen and Peng Soon are/were brilliant, deceptive stroke players, whose movements in court are easy and economical.

The fact that at such an "advanced" age (for international badminton), they could win major tournaments is a strong indication that stamina is relative to one's style of play.

There is another important aspect of stamina which is normally ascribed to fitness.

I prefer to look at it as stamina the reserve of energy and strength to enable a player to endure prolonged strain.

Other than stamina to last a gruelling three sets of 15 points, what is not normally emphasized is whether a player has the stamina to last a whole tournament and be at his/her strongest in the finals.

One of my main reasons for training until a player "hits the wall" as noted in my earlier article is to prepare a player, as best as possible, to have the stamina to last a tournament where he/she will be at his/her strongest in the finals.

Admittedly, sometimes it may not be possible to train until a player has sufficient stamina to last the whole tournament and luck can play a part.

Two very recent cases illustrate this - one in tennis and the other in badminton.

When Martina Hingis lost her singles final match to Jennifer Capraiti in the 2000 Australian Open, in her post-match interview, she admitted that she was too tired after the semi-finals match with Venus Williams and had very little to give in the final.

Those who watched the match on TV, could clearly see that her movements were lethargic and she could not go for her shots.

Jennifer played a very good match which made it even harder for Martina to win.

The other case is the men's All-England singles final between China's Chen Hong and India's P. Gopichand. Less than 18 hours after Chen Hong's two-hour match with Roslin Hashim he had to play Gopichand.

Without taking anything away from Gopichand for his fine singles win, I am sure Chen Hong would have given him a tougher game in the final had he not had such a tough game with Roslin.

So, other than stamina for a match, you should train and prepare to have the stamina for a tournament.


In tennis, you can easily see that the service is the most important shot, especially on grass courts or hard courts.

The powerful serve in tennis quite often determines whether a player wins or loses a match.

For badminton, especially in singles play, it is not obvious. In doubles play, it is more obvious, and quite a number of matches are won or lost because of the service.

Many young players do not realize that the service is the most important shot. To a good number of them, the service is just to start a point in a game.

Do you know that you can begin to gain advantage and control over your opponent by just using your service but only if it is effectively executed.

A good low service is one where the shuttle is about an inch over the net and is falling immediately after passing over the net to the opponent's court, but has speed to cross the service line.

For a good angled shooting service, it should be played in such a way that your opponent has to bend backwards while running backwards to retrieve the service.

For the high service, the opponent must stand between the two baselines to retrieve the service, he should stand nearer the outer baseline.

I would like to concentrate more on the high singles service because it is not so obvious to a lot of young players that such a service, when effectively executed, is the most important shot to play.

Quite a number of you have experienced this.

Sometimes, in a match where you are able to serve high and deep into your opponent's court so that he has to step near the outside baseline to take your service, you feel that you have put pressure on him just by that service alone.

You know that it is difficult for him to smash because he is so far back, and, if he smashes, it is not difficult for you to retrieve.

On the other hand, sometimes when you lose a point during a game it is because your service is poor and your opponent either smashes it easily or is able to play a shot to put you under pressure.

Quite often, it is the service which determines whether you win or lose a point or even a match.

This can be obvious in doubles play, where you may have watched time and time again on TV that the doubles pair which won the tournament was the one that served well under pressure.

One of the main reasons why Park Joo Bong was so superior in doubles play is because of his low service which combines sharpness with deception.

If you still have videotapes of Park Joo Bong playing doubles, just count how many times an opponent was able to tap his service compared to the services of other doubles players.

Very few times indeed.

During my time, there were two players in the same class as Park Joo Bong. They were Christian Hadinata of Indonesia and Tan Yee Khan of Malaysia.

Both of them had consistently high quality low services, almost impossible to tap and they used it to force their opponent to be on the defensive.

Let me explain to you how you can use your service in singles play to take advantage of your opponent's weak point.

Let us assume that your opponent's forehand stroke at the back court is weak and because of this, you are able to anticipate easier his forehand stroke.

By playing a deep high service to his forehand more frequently, just from the first shot, i.e. your service, you would gain an advantage over him already.

The chances of you receiving a good shot from his forehand is less than if you serve to his overhead corner. This initial advantage can lead to a bigger advantage and finally you would score the point.

These are the four fundamentals in badminton players should know and master if they want to play to their maximum capabilities.

Written by Tan Aik Huang

Monday, July 14, 2008

The fundamentals part I

badminton racket
Badminton Shots. I would like to highlight four "fundamentals" in badminton which I think are very important, especially for young players. A good understanding of these fundamentals and performing them correctly will go a long way to achieving maximum capabilities.

These four very important fundamentals are the grip, footwork, stamina and the service.

I would not go into their technical details which one could get from most books on badminton. However, I would emphasize on the importance of their application and what to watch for when you practice these four fundamentals.

Today, I will touch on the first two "the grip and footwork", and the next two "stamina and service" in the following article.

1 The grip. If you grip the racket incorrectly, your progress will be greatly affected. Just a simple thing like gripping the handle of a badminton racket can almost determine the future success rate of your badminton 'career'. An incorrect grip will limit your stroke production capabilities, and there would be a loss of power in your shots.

To test whether the grip is correct or not, do a forehand and a backhand flick as if you are retrieving a smash to your forehand and backhand. If you feel that your forehand and backhand flicks are approximately equal in power and quickness, then the grip is most probably correct.

The whole idea of a good grip is that it must not lock your wrist when you hit a backhand or forehand shot. The wrist's fast cocking and uncocking greatly provides the acceleration of the badminton frame, imparting the power to the shuttlecock. You cannot play effective badminton without a good grip. So, young players, make sure that you have a good grip, otherwise you develop strokes which are awkward, with no power and deception.

And you probably would have no future in the game.

2 Footwork. Almost as important as the grip is footwork. To keep it very simple and not to confuse, I would like you to think of good footwork as consisting of two essential elements 'springs' in your legs (a fast starting position) and balance, during and immediately after you hit a shot, whether it is a smash, a lob or retrieving a drop shot or a smash from your opponent. These are the two important things you need to be aware of in footwork.

Some coaches and books will go into a lot of detail on weight on the right foot, weight on the left foot, body positioning, number of steps forward and backward and sideways, in playing the various types of strokes.

This can be confusing and most of the time in badminton, it would be too fast for you to react as you think of what your footwork should be. So, my recommendation is that you keep in your mind only these two things about footwork a fast/active starting position and balance.

What is an active starting position? It means putting your weight more on the balls of your feet, with an easy bouncing action in the knees, preparing your body to move in any direction very quickly and steadily wherever you are on the court and after executing a shot. It is akin to a tiger getting ready to pounce on its prey.

Balance is having a momentary steady/firm position whenever you execute any shots, be it a smash or a lob or retrieving a drop shot or a smash, or making a net shot, etc., etc., in a rally. It is less important to determine how many steps you take to go to the back of the court to execute a smash or how many steps to the front to retrieve the drop shots.

I also do not think that it is important to determine whether it is the left leg or the right leg that you use as the foreward leg when you retrieve the drop shots. Champions display a range of variation in footwork. Some champions appear not to have footwork at all. Some run in small steps, others appear to have smooth gliding big steps and they are a pleasure to watch. Whether it is small quick steps or big gliding steps, there must be two important elements present in good footwork, which all champions have. They are an active starting position, with springiness in the movement of their legs and balance when executing their shots.

These are two of the four fundamentals in badminton every player should know if they want to play to their maximum capabilities.

Written by Tan Aik Huang