Badminton Net Shot: Types of Net Shots and How to Play Them

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A shuttle balance on the top of the net cord just as it is about to fall over the other side

A wonderful net rally can be a sight to behold. With delicate shots being played, with and without spin, passing back and forth, cross court and straight, it really is a wonderous skill to play a perfect net shot.

But before we talk about how to play one, what is a net shot?

A net shot in badminton is a soft shot which is played underarm from front of the court, near the net, and lands on the opponent’s side of the court, as close to the net as possible.

Net shots are an offensive type of shot that can be an outright winner, but more often create opportunities to attack with a smash by forcing your opponent to lift. However, bad net play can see you losing the rally and the point very quickly. All net shots can be played using both a forehand or backhand grip and will depend on your position in relation to the shuttle. There are four types of net shots, and each one can be played in a variety of ways. In this article, we will discuss the different types of net shots, how and when to play them as well as some useful tips, tricks and drills to make your net a winning shot.

Types of Net Shots and How to Play Them

  • Basic Net Shot

  • Tumbling or Spinning Net Shot

  • Cross Court Net Shot

  • Hairpin Net Shot

Basic Net Shot

The basic net shot is the most commonly played net shot. In simple terms, a basic net shot is when the opponent plays a shot that is going to land at the front of your court and you play the shuttle straight back to your opponent’s side also to the front of the court. In most cases you would aim to get the shuttle to land as close to the net as possible. It is important not to hit the shuttle too high over the net as this will give your opponent a chance to kill the shuttle at the net. The basic net shot can be played as a forehand and a backhand shot.

How to hit a Basic Net Shot

1) Get Ready

Stand sideways with your racket foot closest to the net. Raise your racket arm to reach out for the shuttle and to hit the shuttle as early as possible. Also your non-racket arm behind you for balance. Have you racket head angles downwards.

2) Anticipate the shuttle

When you move towards and hit the shuttle, it is very important to land your racket foot at the same time as you hit the shuttle. Landing before you hit the shuttle means you can’t adjust your body and landing after will cause you to not be in full control of your body and can also mess up the timing of your shot.

3) Hit the shuttle

When it comes to hitting the shuttle you want to have a loose, relaxed grip on your racket and you will want to squeeze your handle on impact. As a net shot is a shot of finesse, instead of “hitting” the shuttle, which doesn’t give you the required control, you will use the moment of the shuttle hitting your racket and the gentil squeeze to get a tight net shot.

4) Get Ready … Again

Use your racket leg to push away from the net and get back into the ready position so that you can either get to the back of the court after a lift, or to quickly pounce back into the net to attack your opponent’s return net shot.

Tumbling/ Spinning Net Shot

The difference between a basic and a tumbling net shot is that spin is added to the shuttle to make returning your net shot that much harder. However, this does mean that the shot is harder to execute. To cause the shuttle to spin you need to time moving your wrist whilst hitting the shuttle to add the spin to the shot. But, when executed well, it means that your opponent has to wait for it to stop spinning to hit the shuttle cleanly, meaning the shuttle will be lower down the net, limiting the shots that they can play, giving you an advantage. Similar to the basic net shot, the tumbling net shot can be played as a forehand and a backhand shot.

How to hit a Tumbling/ Spinning Net Shot

The general technique of hitting a tumbling net shot is the same as a basic net shot. The only difference is that at the point of contact with the shuttle you must move your racket head towards and under the shuttle to achieve a cutting motion that will spin the shuttle. You can achieve this in two ways. 

  1. The first way is by keeping a locked wrist and extending your elbow so that your racket is moving towards the shuttle as you hit it. 

  2. The second way you will use your wrist instead of your elbow. Using your wrist instead of your elbow will give the shuttle more spin and also give more deception in your shot as your movement is much smaller and later. To achieve this, when hitting the shuttle you should rotate your wrist so that the racket head goes under the shuttle and out to the side.

Cross Court Net Shot

A cross court net shot is, as described, when the shuttle is played from one side of the net to the other, by travelling from one side of the court to the other. It is a very difficult but beautiful shot to play with a lot of deception. When played well it can be a winner, but when played badly it can cause you to lose the point easily. Therefore, it’s best to play cross court net shots when you are in a good position and can take the shuttle early to allow for a deceptive shot.

However, cross court net shots are a risky shot to play as if played wrong or without the deception, you are often severely out of position for your opponent’s next shot. For instance, by playing a cross court net shot, you open up the court to a basic straight net reply which you are unlikely to get to, especially if your opponent has read your intention.

A cross court net shot is a smooth shot that does not use spin. Do not jab at the shuttle or try to spin it, this will lead to an infective shot.

Similar to the basic net shot, the cross court net shot can be played as a forehand and a backhand shot.

A Schematic representation of a Cross-court Net Shot

How to hit a Cross Court Net Shot

As we are trying to surprise the opponent with a cross court net shot, it is important that the starting position for your cross court net shot is the same as your standard net shot.

Raise your racket arm to reach out for the shuttle with your elbow slightly bent and to hit the shuttle as early as possible. Have your non-racket arm outstretched behind you for balance. Your racket head should be angled slightly downwards.

When it comes to hitting a cross court net shot you should move your racket slightly past the shuttle, drop your arm slightly and, keeping your wrist locked, rotate your forearm in the direction you want to hit the shuttle. Using forearm rotation gives much better control over the shuttle than flicking your wrist. By doing this you will be guiding the shuttle, not hitting it. It can sometimes be described as like you are pulling the shuttle across the net. To give the necessary power, like other net shots, you should have a lose grip in the build up to the shot and squeeze your grip on impact.

Ideally, when playing a cross court net shot, you should be taking the shuttle high and early. However, if the shuttle has already dropped really low then you will need to flick your wrist when hitting the shuttle to add enough power and direction to get the shuttle over the net.

Position and timing are key when playing a cross court net shot. If you are off balanced or are chasing the shuttle it may be better to play a safer shot.

Hairpin Net Shot

A hairpin net shot is a net shot that is played when the shuttle has dropped too low to play a basic net shot. When you make contact with the shuttle, it loops over the net and forms the shape of a hairpin. 

A hairpin net should only be played as a last resort, often after your opponent’s tight net or drop shot. It is played because, from this low position, you cannot lift the shuttle far enough to the back of the court.

 

When you are confident at playing a hairpin net shot, you can apply spin to the shuttle to keep your net shot tight.

How to hit a Hairpin Net Shot

The general technique of hitting a hairpin net shot is the same as a basic net shot. The only difference is the point at which you hit the shuttle. As the shuttle is struck when it is close to the ground, you must use more force to hit the shuttle to get it to sail over the net. 

 

The closer the shuttle is to the net the harder it is to return the shuttle without spin. To achieve this you must slice the shuttle like when performing a tumbling net shot.

The Benefits of using a Net Shot

Force your opponent to lift. By playing a good net shot the shuttle should pass below the top of the net before your opponent has had a chance to return your shot. This means that they are limited in the type of shot they can play back to you as they must hit the shuttle upwards to clear the top of the net. Therefore, either they must play a net shot back, which you can attack quickly, or they must lift, giving you the chance to play an attacking shot back. The closer to the net your net shot is the more likely the lift your opponent will play will be half court giving you a chance at a winning smash.

 

Vary the pace of the game and get your opponent out of position. By varying your shots and playing a net shot, you can move your opponent around the court and try to work an opening to win the rally.

 

Win the rally. So far we have talked about using a net shot to work an opening to win the rally. But, if played well, a net shot can be an out-right winner. A net shot can be a winner in two ways. If the opponent can’t get from the back of the court to the front of the court in time. Or, if your net shot is so tight to the net that the opponent can’t return it successfully.

When to use a Net Shot in Badminton

So far we have talked about the types of net shots, how to play them and the advantages that they bring. However, when you play a net shot is just as important, if not more important. You definitely don’t want to play a net shot when your opponent is standing at the net for instance. We will go into specifics for both singles and doubles, but the ideal time of when to play a net shot is often similar for both disciplines.

When to use a drop shot in singles

After a good clear or lift

If you play a successful clear or lift that gets in behind your opponent and they are struggling to get to the shuttle. Often they will struggle to get back to the centre of the court and get ready for the next shot. In this situation, if they have played a drop shot, playing a net to the front of the court can either be a winner or at least lead to a winner.

If the shuttle is pushed or dropped into your forecourt

If your opponent pushes or drops the shuttle into your forecourt, this often gives you the opportunity to play a tight net shot in return. However, this is providing that you are able to take the shuttle early, either by having good movement or anticipating your opponent’s shot.

A variation from a short serve

When receiving a short serve in singles it is often tempting to always try and get in behind your opponent by lifting the shuttle over their head. However, this gives away the attack to your opponent and so it is often advantageous to play a net shot instead. Try playing a net shot to force your opponent to lift, giving you the opportunity to attack instead.

When to use a Net shot in Doubles

After a short serve

Doubles is a very attacking discipline and so not giving the attack to your opponents is often crucial. Therefore, by playing a net shot from your opponent’s short serve you avoid giving your opponent the chance to smash it back at you. However, to do this requires a very good net shot as your opponent is standing there after serving, so loose shots will be punished.

If a player doesn't move forward after a smash or drop

In doubles, when a player attacks from the back of one side of the court, such as with a smash or drop, doubles movement requires that the player attacking moves forward to if the shuttle is played in front of them. The player’s partner then rotates around the player and will take any shots that go to the back of the court. Therefore, it is often a good time to play a net shot if the player who has played the attacking shot doesn’t move forward quickly enough. There can often be indecision as to which player should receive this shot and can be a winner for you.

A schematic showing When to play net shot - After Drop

When not to play a Net shot in Badminton

We have talked about some of the best times to play a drop shot in a badminton match, but there also are some specific occasions when you should not play a drop shot. Such as the obvious, when your opponent is standing at the net for instance.

When you are out of position

If you play a net shot when you are out of position or struggling to reach the shuttle there is a good chance that your execution of the shot will be poor. Therefore, you may end up playing the shuttle into the net or too high over the net, giving your opponent the chance to kill the shuttle at the net.

If you are tense or nervous

Playing a net shot is all about finesse and accuracy. So, if you are nervous or tense then you may grip your racket too hard and cause yourself to play a poor net shot. Staying relaxed can be a major help when playing a net shot. Or practice, practice, practice, then you will have confidence in your net shot, making you less nervous and in turn helping you play a better shot.

How to Defend Against and Return a Net Shot

So far we have talked about using net shots, but what if your opponent uses a net shot against you. There are some general things that you can do to defend against a net shot.

Improve your footwork

If you have good footwork, then you have the best weapon to counter a good net shot. Just by getting back to the middle as quickly as possible allows you to be ready for wherever your opponent next puts the shuttle, even if it is a good net shot. Also, having a good split step can help you spring forward to defend against, or even attack, a good net shot. If you want to improve your footwork then check out our article on footwork drills for badminton.

Take the shuttle as high as possible

Firstly, by taking the shot as high as possible, this will increase your chances at playing a successful shot. For instance, it is very difficult to play a good net shot or a good lift from close to the floor. Secondly, by taking the shuttle as high as you can takes time away from your opponent, giving you back the advantage in the rally. In badminton, every second counts. And finally, if you take the shuttle high, it gives you the opportunity to put spin on the shuttle for a return net shot, making it harder for your opponent to return back.

Tips for Improving Your Net Shot

Balance is key

Practice your shot movement so that you have good technique and balance. If you hit a net shot while off-balance you are more likely to make an error. You can easily shadow this movement without a shuttle. Be conscious to keep your core tense to give you good balance every time you go through the motion.

Take the shuttle early

Taking the shuttle as early as you can gives you major advantages when playing a net shot. Firstly, the earlier you take the shuttle the more likely you are to execute a successful shot. Also by taking the shuttle early you can perform a tumbling net shot and put spin on the shuttle to make it harder for your opponent to return the shuttle. And lastly, arriving at the shuttle early gives you more opportunity to be deceptive and play a cross court net shot.

Hold your racket parallel to the net, not perpendicular

The angle at which you hold your racket can also make a big difference to how deceptive your net shot is. If you hold your racket perpendicular to the net your shot options are limited. Whereas, if you hold your racket more parallel to the net then your range of shots that you are able to play is much higher, leaving your opponent clueless as to what shot you are about to play.

Practice your footwork

Quick and agile footwork to get you in position to play a net shot is just as, if not more important than the racket swing itself. By having good footwork, you give yourself time to get into position and prepare to play the shot. This is also important for getting back to the middle after the shot so that you are ready for the return too.

Practice, Practice, Practice

And lastly, the best way to improve your net shot is to practice, practice and practice some more. As we have already said, the net shot is a delicate shot, and so if you are nervous and tense then you are more likely to make a mistake. Practicing gives you confidence, which will help you play a better net shot!

Badminton Net shot drills

Here are five net shot drills that you can do to improve your net shot. If you want to see a full description of each of the drills check out our net shot drills article.

  1. Multi-shuttle Net Shot Drill (Feeder Drill) – A good drill to practice the net shot motion. One player feeds (throws) shuttles to one side of the net and the other player plays a net shot back. Change sides to work both forehand and backhand net shots. Variations can be added for complexity.
  2. Drop-Net-Lift (Pair Drill) – A good drill to practice a net shot with movement. Player 1 lifts, player 2 plays a drop, player 1 plays a net shot back. Player 2 now lifts and player 1 plays a drop. Variations can be added for complexity.
  3. Net Cord Challenge (Feeder Drill) – Complex drill for more advanced players. The feeder throws shuttles over the net, mimicking a drop shot. The player working has the play a net shot back, aiming to hit the net cord and tumble over. See how many you can get!
  4. Net Battle (Pair Exercise) – You can only play net shots! A fun way to practice all of the types of net shots. Who will be the champion of the net?
  5. Footwork (Solo Drill) – Not just good for practising your net shot, as anytime you are working on your badminton footwork, you’re improving every area of the game from helping you reach the shuttle quicker to returning to the middle of the court faster.

Conclusion

So as you can see from this article, there is a lot to know about the beautiful net shot. I hope you have a new appreciation and a desire to go out and improve yours!

In this article we have talked you through what a net shot is, the types of net shots and how to play them. From there we went on to discuss the benefits of playing a net shot, as well as when you should and shouldn’t play one. We have given you some useful tips on how to defend against a net shot and how you can improve yours as well as some drills to achieve this.

Now that you have mastered the net shot, why don’t you look at our drop shot article to become a master of deception!

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