How to serve it right in badminton: All the rules you need to know

The service or serve forms a crucial part of a badminton player’s drill. Here’s how it works.

By Rahul Venkat ·

The starting point of any badminton match, the service of the shuttlecock is an art in itself.

Most of the world’s leading professionals prefer a short backhand serve, just to initiate proceedings. Or, it could even be a high-toss serve.

Someone like Olympic silver medallist PV Sindhu prefers to go long with her forehand serves, pushing her opponent to the baseline and then stretching the play.

A serve from left-handers like Olympic champion Carolina Marin or men’s world No. 1 Kento Momota brings with it its own set of challenges, depending on the angle at which the shuttlecock arrives.

A serve in badminton may not be as decisive as say, a serve in lawn tennis – where the speed and accuracy of the ball are crucial to winning points – but it nevertheless forms an important part of a shuttler’s gameplay.

Let’s take a look at the badminton service rules laid down by the Badminton World Federation (BWF).

A correct service is when a player hits the shuttlecock with their racket over the net to the opponent’s side -- without the shuttle getting stuck in the net or exceeding the boundaries of the badminton court -- with some part of their feet in contact with the court surface.

If the server’s shuttle touches the net or goes out of bounds of the court, the receiving player/side wins the point.

The shaft and head of the server’s racket should point downwards when the shuttle is hit during a serve and the server’s racket should initially hit the shuttle on its base.

The shaft and the head of the badminton racket have to point downwards during a serve.

Importantly, at the instant of being hit by the server’s racket, the entire shuttlecock should remain below the waist of the server, with the waist being defined as an imaginary line level with the lowest part of a server’s bottom rib.

Once both sides are ready for the service, the first forward movement of the server’s racket head should be for start of the service and the server should ensure there is no undue delay of the service once both the server and receiver are ready.

Both the server and receiver stand on diagonally opposite sides of the court without touching the boundary lines.

The server in a badminton match is determined by a coin toss, and whichever player/side scores a point shall become the server for the subsequent point.

Singles service in badminton

The player who serves first in any game shall do so from the right side of the service court on which they begin the match.

If the server has won an even number of points during a game, then they shall serve from the right side of the service court for the subsequent point.

In case the server has won an odd number of points during a game, then he/she serves from the left side of the service court for the subsequent point.

Doubles service in badminton

The doubles service rules are slightly more complicated in the BWF’s laws.

The basic service rules remains the same – i.e. the player who serves first shall do so from the right side of the service court and continue to do so each time after gathering an even number of points during a game while a serve after winning an odd number of points shall come from the left service court.

The receiver must stand on the alternate service court and the pair who wins the point shall become the server for the subsequent point.

The server and receiver have to stand on diagonally opposite sides of the badminton court.

The right to serve in a doubles game shall be as follows:

  • From the initial server who started the game from the right service court
  • To the partner of the initial receiver
  • To the partner of the initial server
  • To the initial receiver
  • Back to the initial server and so on.

No player on the receiving side shall receive two consecutive services in the same game.

If any player has served or received out of turn or served or received from the wrong side of the court, it is deemed a service court error and it is immediately corrected.

The players on either side can take up any positions on their side of the court as long as they do not impede the sight of the server or receiver.

The scoring system dictates that a point is scored if the serving side or the receiving side wins the rally. A rally is defined as a series of shots exchanged between either team until the shuttlecock touches the ground, hits the net, or goes out of bounds of the court.

The first side to reach 21 points, with a two-point difference, wins the game and a match consists of three games.

The sides are required to change sides after each game, and any player from the winning side can serve in the next game, and similarly, any player from the losing side can receive in the next game.