Guest post by Aske from Beast Badminton
It’s considered by many to be more of a beginner’s serve because it’s seemingly less technical and more obvious for opponents to read.
The forehand serve in badminton has become an outcast in service techniques because it doesn’t go for the attacking initiative immediately. It’s taken a backseat in most disciplines, but it’s still widely used at the highest levels of women’s singles.
Even though this service style might be one of the first serving styles you learn as a beginner, few ever develop it to the point where it starts causing serious problems for your opponent and sets your own game up for stronger attacks in the following strike.
This highly developed and perfected style is exactly how you can see top players like Tai Tzu Ying and Akane Yamaguchi play successfully in the biggest tournaments.
Even though it’s taken a backseat in other disciplines, where serving styles in the backhand is the central component, a lot of opponents might have a hard time dealing with this service if you play it the right way.
There are a couple of surprising elements to this service style that might make you want to bring it into your roster when you see how effective it can be as part of your service variety.
Are you ready to deal out surprise attacks and confuse other players in your club with serve that many discard as inferior?
Let’s get on the court.
Forehand serve in badminton: the underdog service style
A forehand serve is typically always a high and long serve and is sometimes referred to as an underhand badminton serve.
It’s one of the first service styles you learn (especially at a junior level) because initially, you can get away with less focus on technique and strike with as much power as you want.
As you advance in your skill and level of competition it’s less and less the preferred service style compared to the backhand serve – the most dominating service style.
In professional badminton, the high forehand serve has diminished almost entirely to women’s singles.
Most of the reason probably has to do with how service style has evolved in badminton into being more about controlling the net and gaining initiative (attacking advantage) right at the beginning of the rally – especially if you have a very strong attack.
However, surprisingly enough, at the more advanced levels of this technique, it becomes much more refined even though many club players overlook the advantages of playing a quality high, and long serve in badminton.
It’s an excellent technique that can push aggressive players back if your backhand serve isn’t working and challenge their overhead striking technique.
As always with badminton, you want as much variety as you can get, and this is a great technique to mix up your service even more.
There are a few core advantages that you can use tactically for the forehand high serve in badminton:
- Push your opponent to the rear court. This service style should always be hit to the baseline to push your opponent back on the court. It can be used instead of a flick serve if your opponent is extremely aggressive on the net
- Always hit it high enough that it’s tricky to return. If you hit it high enough to the baseline, the shuttle will drop at a 90-degree angle (or nearly as steep). This raises striking difficulty significantly for the receiver because they’ll hit both the cork and the feathers of the shuttlecock, which diminishes the opportunity for a strong return
- Give yourself time to compose a better follow-up strike. By hitting a high and long forehand serve, you’ll have a lot more time to position yourself for the return shuttle, which can give you a defensive advantage
Long serve in badminton: play it like the best pros
As I mentioned, professional women’s singles in badminton seem to have adopted this service style while others use it less – but there’s one thing you should keep in mind…
These women play at an extremely high level, and they wouldn’t use this technique unless they stand to gain an advantage from it.
Here you see two of the best players in women’s singles – Yamaguchi and Tai Tzu Ying.
You can tell that the forehand high serve in badminton is a style that is easy to read, and most players will anticipate it every time.
Even though that’s the case, Yamaguchi has plenty of time to position herself in a defensive stance where she relatively easily defends the drop return from Tai Tzu Ying.
This is an immediate giveaway that the badminton high serve isn’t used to gain an immediate attacking initiative but rather a way to start the rally with lower pressure on the server to prepare for following strikes.
If you keep playing the clip above, you’ll see that already after two strikes, the initiative shifts, and they’re exchanging clears, where Yamaguchi pushes Tai Tzu Ying to strike it out.
It doesn’t matter that it’s a super easy serve to read because the secret to the style lies in its technical execution.
If you strike this underhand serve in badminton well, it’s difficult to return in any way that puts real pressure on your following strike.
Here are a few more examples where you see how the server can play herself into the rally without immediate pressure.
This clip shows how an excellent high serve in badminton drops at a 90-degree angle.
For everything to work as well as it does for these pros, there are two things you need to watch out for with this technique:
- Not hitting the shuttle high or long enough
- Hitting the shuttle out of the service box on the backcourt
This is the technical conundrum with the forehand serve in badminton.
You want to hit it high because it should be impossible for your opponent to jump up and attack it at the start or middle of the service box – and you want it to dive as steep as possible so they strike the feathers on the racket impact.
You also want it to be long to push them to the end of the service box.
At the same time, these important factors don’t mean much if you hit it outside the service line.
You want to avoid situations where you give away free points.
It can happen to the best.
The only way to get it right is to practice it until you can place shuttles to the rear court consistently. However, if you worry about striking too far, height is more important than playing to the margins of the service box.
Even if it’s not to the baseline, you’ll still put pressure on the receiver, who has to strike it at a 90-degree angle.
Use the badminton forehand serve the next time you step on the court
Most of the time, we can expect our opponent to stand somewhat similar to this image, relatively far back on the service box, expecting to step back and hit a high shuttle.
However, that doesn’t mean it can’t cause trouble even if someone clearly expects to return a high forehand serve.
Take a look at this clip from Tai Tzu Ying, who’s ready to return a high serve and still hits it into the net – even though there’s seemingly no pressure on the strike.
Most of the time, you probably won’t win a point like this, but if you strike an excellent forehand high serve, your opponent’s return shuttle will still be much less accurate, and weaker because of the steep drop.
Because the long and high forehand serve is so obvious, using it in combos is all about the return shuttle.
The nature of the high forehand serve in badminton lends itself to three typical returns – clear shot, smash/jumping smash, and drop shot.
We can’t expect this to be the outcome every time, and the quality of the return shuttle will differ from opponent to opponent – but we can use this as a rule of thumb for practicing combos and later use these in real matches.
The main thing about these types of returns is that they’ll rarely be close to the net, in the same way, a net shot would be.
If we assume there’s a good chance for a rally to unfold in this way for the first few strikes, you can anticipate specific returns and position yourself accordingly.
You’ll have plenty of time after your serve to move a little further back on the court and position yourself in the middle with a ready stance to return the shots.
Here are a few combos you can start using during practice.
Combo 1 – trip their toes
1. High and long forehand serve // 2. Clear return // 3. Clear follow-up.
It’s often natural for your opponent to start moving forward after they hit a clear. If you get a clear return on your forehand serve, you can easily clear the shuttle back to catch them in their forward movement.
Here’s a real match example of the combo.
This is also a relatively easy return shot to modify your response when you have so much time to position yourself, which opens up more options.
If you have the extra mental capacity to notice your opponent’s position after their return shot, you could opt for an attacking smash or drop to their front court instead, if they don’t move forward on the court.
Combo 2 – net nerves of steel
1. High and long forehand serve // 2. Drop return // 3. Net shot.
Opponents might expect that a drop shot would cause problems but because of the ideal positioning the forehand serve provides it’s much easier to be ready for a drop shot and respond with a net shot that forces your opponent to the front court.
Here’s a real match example of the combo.
This can be an especially deadly way to strike back if another player isn’t fast at recovering with a split step because they’ll get stuck on the rear court after your serve.
Combo 3 – the long push
1. High and long forehand serve // 2. Smash return // 3. Lift.
Your high forehand serve can get riskier when your opponent is good at smashing it back since this will be the most aggressive attack.
However, since they’ll likely hit the feathers, it won’t be as powerful, and most opponents will move forward after a smash as they expect a weak short return.
As a response to this, you can lift the shuttle back, which will challenge their footwork and often force an overhead strike when the shuttle is behind them, which is extremely difficult to hit with power and accuracy.
Here’s a real match example of the combo.
There’s one thing all these combos have in common. Did you notice it?
They all build an attacking scenario based on the return shuttle.
It’s all about provoking specific returns that you’re ready to attack more efficiently because you have time to get a ready stance and position.
If you’re on the receiving end of this service style and aren’t sure how to respond, here’s a quick note on returning a long and high forehand serve.
Returning a high serve in badminton
- If you clear, try to clear to their backhand, which makes it harder to return, and you stand a better chance of gaining the attacking initiative
- If you drop, try to make it look like a powerful shot to catch them off guard
- If you smash, smash around 80% of your power and focus on hitting a more accurate shuttle to provoke a short defensive shot
Here’s a tutorial on how to strike these return shuttles.
If you want to practice tricking your opponent, here are a few ways to return deceptive shuttles on a high serve.
How do you do the forehand serve?
You start by holding the shuttle up high just above your head with a loose grip around the feathers. Then you let it drop/throw it slightly in front of you and take a big racket swing (almost like a one-armed golf player) and hit it high and long to the baseline of the rear court.
Can we do forehand serve in badminton?
Yes, you can always serve a forehand serve in badminton as long as you stay within the regulations of service. Remember that this is only one style of service variation, and you might want to switch to a backhand serve if you find your opponent returns your forehand serve too easily.
How do you do a forehand high serve in badminton?
The forehand high serve is typically the same as the forehand serve. You do it by swinging your racket almost like a golf club, so you hit the shuttle from below and send it with a high trajectory over your opponent and make it drop towards the baseline of their service box – ideally at a 90-degree angle.
Which is better forehand or backhand serve in badminton?
For higher-level players who want to gain the attacking initiative immediately and win the net game, the backhand serve is better as it offers more control and serving variety in comparison. However, a long and high forehand serve can be used successfully to start the rally away from the net and push your opponent to the rear court, which gives you more time to plan a follow-up strike. It all depends on how you prefer to play. Ultimately, you want variety in your service, so knowing both and switching between each will likely add an advantage to your service game.
- Use a forehand serve in badminton to push your opponent to the backcourt and start the rally away from the net
- The high forehand serve is most effective when you hit the shuttle as high as possible to drop at a 90-degree angle toward the baseline of the service box. Striking the shuttle accurately with refined technique is essential for a successful outcome
- One of the biggest advantages is that it gives you time to position yourself ideally and strike a better shuttle back on almost any return shot
- The forehand high serve in badminton is not a deceptive service style and easy for your opponent to anticipate. However, the strength of this technique is the opportunity to strike a trickier follow-up shuttle at your opponent and play yourself into the offensive initiative
- The biggest margin for error is striking the shuttle out of the service box and awarding an easy free point
Aske helps badminton players who are returning to the court after years away. If you are looking to protect your feet from injuries, consider reading this comparison of the best badminton shoes for performance and protection next.
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