Are you wondering how to return a serve in badminton like a pro?

If you’ve ever watched a professional game, you’ll notice that players don’t always go with the flow. They try to control their response to each serve, and they don’t let their opponent dictate the match. They fight each other for control the entire time.

Through finesse, accuracy, and strategy, pros know how to throw an unexpected return at their opponent. And these strategies can be the beginning of gaining the offensive position.

If you want to learn how to return a serve in badminton like a pro, this post covers five essential tips to help you get there.

The Pro Serve Return Tips

Below are a few tactics that advanced badminton players use to return serves. Feel free to practice these until you’re comfortable with them.

Beyond these tips, you can also watch footage of professional players and keep collecting limitless strategies for serve returns. There’s always a way to put a little surprise into your shot!

1. Return Flat Drive Serves with an Unexpected Soft Shot

Returning a flat drive serve is tricky, especially as a beginner. But if you can maintain control over your racket, a soft return shot can give you the strategic advantage you need.

Your opponent won’t expect a soft return, and you’ll have an even greater advantage if you can aim the shuttle down either side of their court.

After a flat drive serve, most opponents stand at midcourt, expecting a hard smash. With that being said, this technique can throw your opponent off drastically. Once you hit your soft shot, they’ll be scrambling sideways and forwards to get to the shuttle.

The struggle to reach the shuttle in time can force your opponent to hit a frantic lift shot, setting you up for a winning smash.

2. Deceptive Backhand Return

This deceptive backhand return is another excellent strategy to surprise your opponent and win the point.

The goal here is to deceive your opponent by making it appear as if you’re hitting a straight shot. But you’ll actually hit a cross-court shot at the last second. 

To achieve this serve return, position your legs and racket as if you’re going for a straight shot. Then, drop your shoulder and pinch your thumb and fingers together to hit the cross-shot at the last possible second.

This strategy works best when your opponent serves towards your body or near the centerline in your frontcourt. It’s important to keep in mind that it won’t work well if they hit the shuttle to the outside of your court.

3. Aggressive Net Shot Returns

An aggressive net shot return can cause your opponent to rush forward to hit the shuttle as it spirals to the ground. Even if they do manage to reach the shuttle in time, they’ll need to hit a lift. And this can set you up for a nice smash shot later on!

To execute this badminton serve return properly, you’ll first need to hold your racket strings parallel to the net. Then, hit the shuttle towards the top of the net without letting it drop too low.

When done correctly, this strategy will send the shuttle spiraling out of control after it rolls over the top of the net!

This return strategy is best when you receive a short serve to your body or court centerline. Aside from that, remember to hit the shuttle at net level and not let it drop any lower. Allowing the shuttle to drop too low can hint to your opponent that you’re planning to hit a soft shot.

4. Master Your Service Return Ready Position

Mastering your serve receiving position means you’ll be ready to move quickly in all directions, giving you an edge in any scenario.

Your ready position for a serve may vary, depending on what type of serve you expect. In any case, you’ll want to position yourself so you can easily maneuver forwards, backward, and side-to-side.

Most players stand in a ready position with their non-racket leg forward, with their body positioned near the front or mid-court. In this stance, your racket should be in front of you with your elbow slightly bent.

When receiving a serve, your ready stance can change with each opponent. Every person has favorite serves and placements for the shuttle on the court. So, expect that you’ll need to frequently adjust your position based on what kind of serve is headed your way.

5. Return a High Serve with an Unexpected Half Smash

When learning how to return a serve in badminton, different serves require different strategies to win. And if your opponent hits a skillful high serve, it can be tricky to return with a winning shot.

When the shuttle is falling vertically on your side of the court, your first instinct may be to return with a classic, 100% power smash towards the baseline of your opponent’s court.

However, a better option may be to hit a steep half smash. This technique offers the element of surprise and forces your opponent to bend lower to return your shot.

When done successfully, you can force your opponent to hit a lift. And this means that you just gave yourself the opportunity for a powerful follow-through smash.

How to Return a Serve in Badminton: The Takeaway

If watching the badminton pros leaves you in awe, just know that they’ve spent years practicing badminton serve return techniques.

The only way to get better at badminton is to hone your skills, learn new strategies, and practice. If you use these serve returns regularly, you will eventually excel — even if you’re a bit shaky at first.

Imagine being able to roll the shuttle over the top of the net like a pro or surprising your opponent with skillful deception. That would be awesome, but it also takes superb control and accuracy, which both come with practice and time!

So, find a buddy or a shuttle launcher and get started on brilliant serve returns!

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