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How to Play Badminton - Rules, scoring, equipment, Olympics guidelines

Know all about scoring, rules, court dimensions, and history of badminton at the Olympics

PV Sindhu Quiz
PV Sindhu — India's youngest Olympic medalist.

Yuvraj Kandathil

Updated: 22 March 2021 4:50 PM GMT

The badminton tournaments at the Tokyo Olympics is scheduled to take place between 24 July and 2 August 2021. A total of 172 athletes will compete in five events: men's singles, men's doubles, women's singles, women's doubles, and mixed doubles. Badminton will serve as a chief attraction for India at the Tokyo Olympics, afterall, the country has secured two medals in two consecutive Olympics - Bronze in London 2012 and Silver in Rio 2016.

The sport of badminton is played in two different orders, 'singles' and 'doubles'. 'Singles' is a face-off between two players, whereas, 'doubles', include four, meaning two players per team. The rules vary for singles and doubles format of badminton.

What equipment is needed to play badminton?

Since badminton is a racquet sport, it requires a badminton racquet. Unlike other racquet games like squash or tennis badminton does not use a ball. It is played with a feathered projectile, which is called a shuttlecock.

How to serve in badminton?

To start off, the person who is in a position to do service has to hit the shuttlecock with his racquet from the right-hand side of the court, to the opponents' side (diagonally across), and if the opponent receives it with his racket and delivers it back to the servers side, it is said that they have engaged in a rally.

How a shuttlecock is served (Source: Paul Stewart Badminton)

In the process of a service, the player is supposed to keep the shaft and the head of the racket in a downward position, while in contact with the shuttlecock. And he is to have some part of his feet in contact with the courts surface. Whilst in contact with the racket during a service, the entire shuttlecock should be handled below an imaginary waist level (below the lowest rib) of the server.

How to play badminton?

  • A game starts with a coin toss. The winner gets to decide whether they would serve or receive first OR what side of the court they want to be on. The side losing the toss shall then exercise the remaining choice.
  • A player should not touch the net, with his racquet or his/her body
  • A serve must be done crosscourt (diagonally).
  • During the service, a player should not touch any of the lines of the court, until the server strikes the shuttlecock. During the serve, the shuttlecock should always be hit from below the waist.
  • A point is added to a player's score is and when he wins a rally.
  • A player wins a rally when he strikes the shuttlecock and it touches the floor of the opponent's side of the court or when the opponent commits a fault. The most common type of fault is when a player fails to hit the shuttlecock over the net or it lands outside the boundary of the court.
  • Each side can strike the shuttlecock only once before it passes over the net. Once hit, a player can't strike the shuttlecock in a new movement or shot.
  • The shuttlecock hitting the ceiling, is counted as a fault.

Badminton court dimensions

The next question to consider is, "What are marked areas?". A standard badminton court has a length of 13.40m (44 ft), with its width at 6.1m (20 ft) in a doubles fixture, and limited to 5.18m (17 ft) in a singles fixture. From a visual understanding, you can see that a hung net, at the centre, separates the court into two halves, measuring 6.7m (22 ft) each. The net is proportionately aligned to be at 1.55m (5ft 1 in) in height at the ends, and leaning to 1.52 (5ft) at the middle. Midst of a rally, a player is expected to not entertain any sort of contact with the net, neither with his body nor his racket. If the player happens to be in contact, the opposition shall be awarded a point, in default, by nature.

A badminton court

Further, a vertical division allocates four service courts to the game, each carrying a length of 3.96m (13ft) and width of 2.59 (8.5 ft), through which the player/players transits during services. To the last bit of it, 'service lines' dictate the quadrants within which one has to perform the service, and deliver the shuttlecock after the service. There are two lines, a 'short service' line, marked at 1.98m (6.5 ft) from the net, and a 'long service' line 0.76m (2.5 ft) in from the baseline.

As mentioned above, the rule provides that, one, in a singles competitive pattern, has to perform a service, within his serving quadrant, and the shuttlecock has to be displaced (served) beyond the short service line and within the boundary line, into the quadrant diagonal to the server. Whereas, in a doubles pattern, with the rules aligned to the short service line remaining the same, the server is limited to boundaries marked by the long service line.


Moving forward, as once a rally is completed and a point is won, depending on whether the point won has an odd or even nature, a player shifts serving positions across his court. If the point won is odd, the consequent service is done from the left-hand side of the court, and if it is even, evidently the service shall be provided from the right-hand side.

On the other side, for doubles, teammates shift between their two allocated quadrants, as points are won, adhering to the odd-even rule. Provided that, no opposition player shall receive two consecutive services. And prior to all this, a simple coin toss determines the person who is to perform the first service of the game.

As we have explained how one can score a point, the next step is to know how far one has got to go, in order to win a match. A match is won if a player or a team wins, the best of the three games. A game is won after rallying for 21 points. The first to reach the mark of 21, with a two-point margin, condition winning a game. If both players tally with 20 points each during a game, the rally for winning a game ought to continue till the 30th point if either of the two players is unsuccessful in grabbing a two-point margin.

What is the history of badminton at the Olympics?

Since making a beautifully orchestrated presence in Munich Olympics in the year 1972, the sport deservedly made its debut among the major Olympic programme in the 1992 Olympics. Ever since the sport has gained popularity throughout all continents. On a progressive course, from 1992 to the late 2010s, sheer athletic dominance was portrayed by the Asians. Bagging 69 from the 76 medals during the course.

The Chinese still stall the leaderboard, locking the top four places for most medals won, with Gao Ling as the all-time leader for winning the most medals at Olympics, with two gold, one silver, and one bronze medal; Fu Haifeng with two gold and one silver; Zhang Nan, Zhao Yunlei and the South Korean Kim Dong-moon slipping in among the list at 5th, having two golds and one bronze each.

Till 2016, no woman had prized the Olympic gold in singles event apart from an Asian. In Rio Olympics, it was upturned when Carolina Marin from Spain beat India's ever loved PV Sindhu. Whoever witnessed the brawl, would shelve it as an epic between the two. From a bronze at the 2012 London Olympics, dedicated by Saina Nehwal, to an exalted Silver medal, by PV Sindhu, India has made a decorated transition in badminton. Hopefully, we see more pride and glitter from the dust that the stadiums of Tokyo shall concoct.

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