Guest post by Aske from Beast Badminton
Badminton service is a mix of technique and mind games.
You need a good and consistent technique to play the angles of the service box and your opponent without losing easy points. But that’s not enough if you want to advance beyond a recreational beginner’s level.
Once you have a good service base, you should start adding other essential ingredients, and the flick should be a staple in your service repertoire.
Playing a flick serve in badminton is one of the easiest and best flavors you can add to give your service an extra edge. When used right, you can control rallies better, flip the advantage on an important point, and add pressure in the constant mind game between you and your opponent(s) if you feel like you’re losing ground and get rushed with attacks on every serve.
As with everything in badminton, variation is key, and the flick is an effective technique to make yourself a trickier opponent.
Ladies and gentlemen, service ready – let’s play.
Add the badminton flick serve to your service recipe
The flick serve is one of those ingredients that doesn’t need much to add an extra layer to your badminton flavor profile.
It’s not quite the same foundation in your service game as the low serve or high serve. However, it should be one part of your service recipe to avoid becoming one-sided, predictable, and easy to return against.
A flick serve is almost always a variation of the backhand serve. It’s always hit toward the back of the service box with just enough height that your opponent would have to jump to reach it. It’s also possible to hit a forehand flick (although it’s unusual).
However, in this article, I’m referring to the flick serve as a backhand service technique.
The reason the badminton flick serve is nearly always made to look like a low and short serve, is that you want to leverage a mind game advantage. Your opponent is constantly trying to figure out how you’ll serve, so you want to trick them into thinking you’ll hit your staple low serve.
Another reason is that if they can easily see a flick coming, it’s a relatively easy serve to return.
Ideally, you want to catch them off guard as they lean forward expecting a low and short serve, and because of that, the setup is deceptive by default.
Here’s how you set up and hit the flick serve step-by-step.
Your flick serve should consist of the following elements:
- Make it look like a low/short serve. In everything you do, you want the setup to look exactly the same as the service game, you use for the majority of a match. That means where you position yourself in the service box, how you stand, how you hold your racket, etc.
- You use your thumb for last-second explosiveness. Just before you hit the shuttle (everything looks like a low/short serve up until this point), you use your thumb to push and snap the racket to give it more power and send the shuttle toward the back of the service box above your opponent.
- Lean into it like a low serve. Again, adding to the illusion that you’re serving low (specifically in the backhand).
- Flick high enough to pressure footwork and a jump. It’s not a drive serve that you aim directly at your opponent. It’s also not a high serve like you often see in the forehand. It’s in between the two. High enough to require backward footwork and a jump to reach it and fast enough that your opponent has to think quickly.
- Don’t overuse it. You’ll know if your opponent starts anticipating it. Make sure to keep the element of surprise. Most players mix this shot into their service game a handful of times during an entire match.
The flick serve might seem like a highly advanced service technique if you’re not already familiar with it, but it’s something most players can start to use relatively early, even if it’s just a few times throughout a match.
However, it does require an established backhand serve technique before you can feel comfortable adding a deceptive flick here and there.
Outmaneuver your opponent with the flick serve
The flick serve tends to be more widely used in doubles games, where people stand closer to the service line.
This is also because one of the extremely popular men’s doubles players, Kevin Sukamuljo, is considered the king of this technique.
But it’s certainly also used by single players at the highest levels.
Although Sukamuljo can play this to ace someone and wins the point on a flicker alone, that’s rarely how it turns out. For most professional players (and any of you reading this right now), it’s not about winning a serve ace.
It’s about setting up the next one or two strikes better for yourself.
For example, in the clip above between Chou Chen and Anthony Ginting, notice how Ginting stays in the middle by the T after his flick serve, almost as if he expects a weaker return.
When Chen returns a drop to the front, Ginting is prepared to quickly lunge at it for a net shot that’s so tight he ends up winning the point.
In this way, he uses the flick serve to set up a stronger attack in the following strikes.
I use it more often in my own games if I see my opponent standing high in the service box expecting a short serve.
Like in this mix double example.
After the flick is returned with a clear, it sets them up for an immediate attacking position where Watanabe can hit a smash or drop from the rear court.
As you can see in this clip below (even though he misses the opportunity), the flicker opens up for a stronger second strike.
Let’s look at a few combos you can drill with the flick serve
When you set up the flick in the best possible way, even players with fast reactions will have a difficult time getting behind the shuttle. That means, most of the time, you can expect a clear as the return shot.
Here are two common combinations I’ve used:
- You serve a flick 2. Your opponent returns a “weak” clear 3. You attack back with a strong smash (cross or straight).
- You serve a flick 2. Your opponent returns a “weak” clear 3. You attack with an accurate drop shot (short or long).
If you prepare your mind for one of these specific combos in advance (already before you serve the flick), you’ll have a lot of time to get a good and accurate hit on the following strike.
Of course, in doubles, your partner would return the clear, so you might want to communicate your service tactics to them.
In other cases where your opponent either anticipated the flick or because you didn’t hit it accurately enough, they might be able to drop or smash it back. But it often won’t be as aggressive of a return because you need strong footwork to move behind the shuttle.
Here it’s a good idea to strike back with a net shot in both cases since the return is likely to be on your front court. Again, it depends on the quality of their return, so you’ll have to make a quick decision.
- You serve a flick 2. Your opponent returns a smash/drop 3. You return with a net shot.
A psychological threat to keep your opponent at bay
People hate when they lose points on a flick serve, especially if they get aced.
It’s probably because this serve isn’t as frequent as the low serve, and it’s so tricky that you’re almost taunting your opponent when you pull it off.
That’s another reason for adding a flicker to your service game.
It can be great for shaking the mental focus of your opponent, even if it’s just for a few rallies.
I also love to use it more often when I notice my opponent is getting super aggressive in returning my low serves. If they’re quick on the net and good at taking the shuttle before it dives under the net cord, that can quickly become dangerous.
If they also start getting so confident that they’ll jump at it to try and get a net kill then you’re really starting to feel the pressure.
To put a stop to this, I typically start mixing in more flickers.
It’s almost the antidote to any advantage your opponent has in speed and anticipation on the return because they’ll get tricked and aced if they’re fully committed to returning a short serve.
If you’re successful in winning the rallies where you hit the flicker, it will likely create hesitation in the back of their mind because they have to account for random flick serves.
This is a great way to deter someone from being very aggressive on low serves since they have to defend the back of the service court too.
Just take a look at the clip above from Kevin Sukamuljo, who uses the flick serve to live rent-free in his opponents’ minds.
Returning the flick serve in badminton using Jedi mind tricks
If you’re on the other side and receive service, you might feel that flick serves are hard to deal with, especially if your opponent is good at disguising them and packaging them randomly throughout their service game.
However, they’re not that difficult to defend against if you have a simple framework for doing so.
Here’s a video that shows how you can return flick serves while still maintaining your position to attack short and low serves.
Another part of this framework that made it even easier for me to return flickers is to limit decision-making in advance.
After testing how to deal with this throughout several games I found that I often overcomplicated the return on flick serves by thinking out all sorts of tactics and possible solutions – (after all, there aren’t that many flickers throughout a match).
I’ve since decided on two relatively simple things that any badminton player can start practicing the next time they step on the court.
I deal with the “danger” of flick serves the same way every time.
- If I’m caught off guard (or if it’s a fast flicker), I always return with a clear.
- Everything else, I decide based on how quickly I’m able to move behind the shuttle.
It’s not a very analytical approach, but it works because it frees up your mind to think and react quickly, which is exactly what’s needed to defend a flick serve.
The reason my default reaction is to return with a clear is that it’s the only real strike you can hit properly if you didn’t get behind the shuttle.
(There’s a good example of this in the previous clip above from Watanabe/Higashino vs. Lane/Pugh).
The rest is something you’ll have to evaluate in a split second, depending on the situation.
If you manage to react fast and get behind the shuttle to smash or drop, those might be better options. But if you’re caught off guard, or the flick is too fast, a clear is likely your best option every time.
Here are a few examples. Sukamuljo is caught off guard and returns a clear, which gives his partner time to get ready (he also ends up winning the point).
If you keep watching this clip, in the following rally, there’s a flick serve in the other direction – but it’s easily returned with a smash.
Here’s one from a singles match where Axelsen returns with a smash.
And here are a few examples from amateur matches.
Here the receiver doesn’t get far enough behind the shuttle and returns a clear.
What am I trying to show with all these scenarios?
One thing – it’s not super difficult to return a flick serve in badminton.
Yes, I realize that the pros are on a different level, but if you practice the technique and use the framework that lets you make quick split-second decisions depending on the situation, flick serves are not as “dangerous” to deal with anymore.
All that’s left to do is go and practice hitting and returning flick serves the next time you go on the court and begin weaving these badminton shots into your service so you control the mind game and not your opponent.
Here’s a video on flicking techniques you can practice on the court next time.
Quick-fire questions about the badminton flick serve
What is a flick in badminton?
Also known as a “flick serve” in badminton, it is a service technique where you typically disguise your shot, pretending to hit a low and short serve. Instead, you hit the shuttle with more power at the very last second to send it over your opponent towards the back of the service box – ideally catching them off guard.
Is flick serve legal?
The badminton flick serve is completely legal provided you follow the official service rules from the Badminton World Federation that apply to all service techniques.
How do you do a flick shot in badminton?
To hit a flick in badminton you have to use your wrist and thumb to push with a more explosive hitting power in the last second before serving the shuttle. It takes practice and refinement to avoid hitting it too far (out of the service box) or hitting it too low and short, which makes it easy for your opponent to return.
- Always set up your flick serve to be as deceptive as possible. Keep the same stance, movement, and position as if you’re doing a low/short serve
- Start using the flick serve in practice to drill combos to get familiar with certain outcomes that set you up for stronger attacks
- Try to take advantage of the opportunity created from the flick serve to hit stronger shuttles that outmaneuver your opponent in the next couple of strikes
- Use it to turn the tables in the service mind game and push opponents back when they attack your low-service game aggressively
- Defending against flick serves is a lot easier if you practice quick movement and decide on a standard practice for how to return that service so you can react fast
Aske helps badminton players who are returning to the court after years away from the game. If you’re looking for a new racket, consider reading this guide on good badminton rackets for doubles, next.
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