How to Serve Correctly in Badminton: All the Rules You Need to Know

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How to serve Correctly in Badminton: All the Rules you need to know featured image

The badminton serve is arguably one of the most crucial shots in the game. It’s the first shot of every rally and is often taken for granted despite its decisive impact on the game. Even though the shuttle remains still and the court quiet, executing a flawless serve remains a challenge. On top of all this, there are several rules to keep in mind. 

Join us as we delve into how to serve correctly in badminton and all the rules you need to know.

BWF Service Rules

On the subject of serving, the Badminton World Federation (BWF) says:

“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.”

So let’s break that down. 

This means that the shuttle (shuttlecock or birdie, depending on your preference), must be hit into the opponent’s half of the court with your racket. Simple enough. 

“Without the shuttle getting stuck in the net”, well this simply means it must go over the net and not into it.  

Not “exceeding the boundaries of the badminton court” means the shuttle must go diagonally over the net to the opponent’s service box, which is the area past the front of the service line and not past the back service line.

“With some part of their feet in contact with the court surface” just means that both feet should be in contact with the floor.

What is the Service Box?

A service box is area of the court which you are allowed to serve into. The center line splits the service court into left and right service boxes. 

A schematic demonstrating the areas that are playable during a singles and a doubles badminton match

For more information about the court boundaries see our article The Badminton Court: Lines, Size and Everything Inbetween.

This all seems simple enough, however, that is just the start! There are several more rules that you need to follow to perform a legal serve in badminton.

And no, this is not tennis, there are no second serves, so you need to get it right first time!

If you want to learn exactly how to serve, as well as get some tips and tricks and drills about how to improve your serve and even how to skillfully return one, then check out our in-depth serving article here.

Let’s take a look at the 6 serving rules

The Serving Rules

There are 6 serving rules in badminton for both doubles and singles:

  1. Both feet must be touching the floor
  2. No touching of the court lines 
  3. Hit the cork on the shuttle, not the feathers
  4. The shuttle must be served from below 1.15 m
  5. Serving in one continuous motion
  6. Serving time limit

Both feet must be touching the floor

So the rule says that:

Both feet must be in contact with the floor when striking the shuttle

Quotation Marks
Quotation Marks

This means that as you serve you cannot lift either foot off the ground until you have hit the shuttle. 

Only part of each foot needs to be in contact with the ground, so you may have a foot on your toes for instance.

And this rule is actually the same for the receiver also. So both the server and receiver must have both feet in contact with the floor before the shuttle is struck.

A demonstration of a serving fault in badminton. A man with a foot off the ground when serving

No touching of the court lines

When serving or receiving, your feet must not be touching any of the court lines

Quotation Marks
Quotation Marks

There are no restrictions as to where you can stand in your service box, as long as you are not touching any of the lines of the court.

This does however mean that you cannot stand outside of the court.

Hit the cork on the shuttle, not the feathers

The rules state that the base of the shuttle (otherwise known as the cork) must be hit first when serving.

The server’s racket shall initially hit the base of the shuttle

Quotation Marks
Quotation Marks

By not allowing you to hit the feathers, it prevents players from being able to create strange spin on the shuttle and gaining an unfair advantage before the rally has begun.

A demonstration of a serving fault in badminton. Hitting the feathers before the cork

The shuttle must be served from below 1.15 m

The Laws of the game state

The whole of the shuttle shall be below 1.15 meters from the surface of the court at the instant of being hit by the server’s racket

Quotation Marks
Quotation Marks

This is a relatively new rule as before the rule was vague.

It said that the server should be below your waist. This was defined as to be a height level with the lowest part of your ribcage.

This rule was subjective and also meant the service height changed depending on how tall you were.

But now, it has been standardized and it is clear allowing the improved application of the law.

Serving in one continuous motion

The fact that the serve must be hit in a continuous motion, is actually covered by two Laws

on completion of the backward movement of the server’s racket head, any delay in the start
of the service shall be considered to be an undue delay

Quotation Marks
Quotation Marks

the movement of the server’s racket shall continue forwards from the start of the service
until the service is delivered

Quotation Marks
Quotation Marks

This means that once you start your backswing, the serve must be one continuous motion. At no point when serving can you stop and start moving again.

Things that you can’t do while serving include, stopping at the back of the swing and then moving forwards again and moving forwards and backwards multiple times before hitting the shuttle

Serving time limit

Is there a time limit on the serve in badminton?

Officially there is no set time limit on the serve in badminton. 

However, the laws do state that:

neither side shall cause undue delay to the delivery of the service once the server and receiver are ready

Quotation Marks
Quotation Marks

Serving in Doubles

Who serves in doubles? - When and Where

When serving in doubles, the basic service rules remain the same. But how do you know where to serve from?

We cover this in detail in How to Score a Badminton Match. But briefly, the player who serves first shall do so from the right side of the service court (the right service box). The two players switch sides every time a point is one. As the game continues, the serve then occurs from the right side for even points and the left side for odd numbers.

The pair who wins the point shall become the server for the next point.

A schematic Diagram demonstrating which side to serve from in Doubles in badminton

As badminton is a point-per-rally system when the serve changes from team to team, the server will naturally swap between the players.

For example, Team 1 is serving on an even number, meaning Player 1A is serving from the right service box. However, Team 1 loses the point, meaning Team B will now serve. Team 2 serves the next rally which Team A now winning, regaining the serve. As they were previously on an even number (so serving from the right side), they win a point making them now on an odd number. This means they will now serve from the left side, which Player 1B is currently in, meaning that they will now serve this point.

A schematic Diagram demonstrating which side to serve from in Doubles in badminton

The way that serving works is that no player will serve two serves in a row and no player will receive two serves in a row.

When the side who is serving wins the point the same player continues to serve until they lose a rally.

Serving in Singles

Serving in Singles follows the same principles as doubles, except you don’t need to swap between the players on the same team (obviously). The player who serves first in any game serves from the right side.

Like in doubles, if the server has won an even number of points, then they serve from the right side and an odd number of points from the left.

When receiving the serve the receiving player always stands in the opposite service box to the one the server is standing (as the serve will come cross-court), regardless of the number of points the receiver has.

A schematic Diagram demonstrating which side to serve from in SIngles in badminton

Tips to Master Serving

A weak serve often creates a chance for your opponent to execute an attacking shot, so improving your serve can really help! We have covered How to improve your serve in-depth in our article, Badminton Serves: Types of Serves and How to Play Them, but here are some quick tips to help.

Create a Routine – By keeping your pre-serve routine the same every time we can feel relaxed and like it’s any other training drill. If we hold the shuttle the same way or stand in the same position, we can mentally be ready and the muscle memory will take over.
Hold the Grip at the Top – Holding the racket at the top of the grip will help you have more control over the racket than if you hold it at the bottom of the grip. When holding the racket at the bottom of the grip you get more power but the higher you go up the handle the more control, perfect for serving.

Position is Key – If you want an easy quick win to improve your serve, serve to the “T”. The “T” is the point where the center line meets the short service line (to learn more about the badminton court lines see our article The Badminton Court: Lines, Size and Everything Inbetween).

It is the shortest distance between you and the opposition’s service box, so they will have less time to react to the shuttle.

Practice, Practice, Practice – And lastly, the best way to improve your serve is to practice, practice and practice some more. Like anything in this world, practice makes … well better than before.

Frequently Asked Questions About Serving

Yes, there is an illegal serve in badminton. As we have covered in this article, there are many ways in which an illegal serve can happen.

  1. If you lift one or both of your feet when serving
  2. If you touch one of the court lines while serving
  3. If you the feathers of the shuttle instead of the cork
  4. If you serve the shuttle from a height that is above 1.15 m
  5. If you don’t serve in one continuous motion (I.e if you start going forward, then stop. Like a penalty in football)
  6. If you take too long  (Though this one is a little subjective)

The answer to this is … it depends. The old rules used to state that you could not serve above waist height, however, this rule was changed as “waist height” meant the height at which you could serve was different between players of different sizes. 

A tall player would therefore have a distinct advantage over a shorter person. 

Therefore, the rule was changed to “The whole of the shuttle shall be below 1.15 meters from the surface of the court at the instant of being hit by the server’s racket.” (BWF Laws of Badminton 9.1.6)

So in answer to the question, yes you can serve above the waist if that height is still below 1.15 metres and no you cannot if your waist is above 1.15 m. 

In the context of badminton, the terms “foul serve” and “illegal serve” are often used interchangeably to refer to a serve that violates the rules of the game. 

However, some players and officials may use these terms with slightly different nuances.

Generally, a “foul serve” is any serve that results in a fault. Therefore, you can take all the rules that make a serve illegal, and add serving into the net or out of the court boundaries and you get a “Foul Serve”.

The server starts the game serving from the service box on the right. During the rest of the game, the service is performed from either the left or the right box, depending on the server’s score. If the server’s score is an even number (0, 2, 4, etc) then they will serve from the right box. 

First Serve: At the start of a match, one player from Team A serves to a player from Team B, starting from the right service court.

Even Points: If the server’s score is an even number (0, 2, 4, etc) then they will serve from the right box. 

Odd Points: If the server’s score is an odd number (1, 3, 5, etc) then they will serve from the left service box.

If the serve hits the net but continues to travel over the net (lets say it just catches the top of the net), play continues as normal. It is not like tennis, there is no let played. However, if the shuttle hits the net but lands short of the service line or out of the boundaries in anyway, then the receiver wins the point, just like if the shuttle had not hit the net.

We have a full article, What Happens When the Net is Hit in Badminton, about everything that happens when the net is hit, there is more than you think!

In badminton, it is generally not permitted for a player to lift their foot before making contact with the shuttle during the serve. Doing so would result in a foot fault.

As we have already seen, according to the Badminton World Federation (BWF) rules, during the serve, both feet of the server must remain in contact with the ground. Lifting one or both feet off the ground before striking the shuttle would constitute a foot fault and at elite level, result in a fault being called by the umpire.

Maintaining contact with the ground ensures that the server does not gain an unfair advantage by moving before serving.

Obviously, when talking about “lifting a foot before the shuttle is served” refers to during the serving action. You are allowed to walk to the spot you want to take the serve from without it being a foot fault!

Yes, there is a time limit when serving in badminton. According to the rules set by the Badminton World Federation (BWF), once the server is ready to serve, they must do so without delay. While there isn’t a specific time limit stated in the rules, excessive delay in serving can result in a fault being called by the umpire at an elite level.

The purpose of this rule is to maintain the pace and flow of the game, ensuring that players do not unnecessarily delay the start of each rally. Once the server is ready and has assumed the correct serving position, they should proceed with the serve promptly to avoid any potential delays.

Yes, there are differences in the serving rules between singles and doubles in badminton. While many of the basic principles remain the same, there are specific differences that apply uniquely to each format of the game.

The obvious one is that in singles, every time a point is won, the winner serves. Whereas in doubles every time the winning pair wins back the serve, the serve alternates between the two players. Player A serves until they lose a rally and Player B will serve the next time they win the serve back. 

The major difference between singles and doubles (aside from the obvious), is the size of the service court. 

The singles service court is long and narrow, whilst in doubles it is shorter and wider. See the image below for reference.

A schematic demonstrating the areas that are playable during a singles and a doubles badminton match

Conclusion

It is no good having an inch-perfect serve if it is illegal. 

While the serve may seem like a simple act, it is so important when it comes to shaping the outcome of a match. A well-executed serve can set the tone for the rally, while a fault hands the point straight to your opponent.

Mastering the serve in badminton is not just about hitting the shuttle over the net; it’s also about understanding and adhering to the rules that govern this crucial aspect of the game. From ensuring both feet remain firmly planted on the ground to serving within a continuous motion, each rule plays a significant role in maintaining fairness and integrity on the court.

So, the next time you step onto the badminton court, remember the importance of serving correctly and the impact it can have on your game. 

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