We’ve all had it, the frustration that comes from losing a match when you were paired with a weaker player. It’s hard to get over and most of the time you’re not sure what you could have done differently. In this guide, I’m going to talk you through strategies and tactics to help you win even when playing with a weaker player.
So, how do you play Badminton doubles with a weaker partner? When playing with a weaker partner in Badminton doubles you want to avoid playing at a higher pace then they can handle. You want to avoid hogging the court and the shuttle. Lastly, you want to make bullying your partner as difficult for the opponents as possible.
Want to know how to implement this advice? Keep reading.
It’s cliche but it’s a cliche for a reason. There are two people on each side of the court. The challenge with doubles is learning to play together.
Most players make the mistake of focusing on winning points by themselves. The truth is that way of thinking won’t get you very far. You should be thinking, “how can I play ourselves into a better position?” or “where should I place this smash so that my partner has a chance to follow up?”
If you try to play every rally by yourself you’re effectively making the match a 2-v-1 game and that’s rarely good odds.
Watch this rally from the Yonex All England 2020 and see how hard each player is working for their partner. No matter who got themselves or their partner in trouble they’re fighting together.
It’s easy to get frustrated when you see your partner miss a shot or fail to return a smash. It’s frustrating because you feel helpless watching it happen over and over again. Here’s the thing, you need to get over it.
You can’t play your partners shots for them. Getting frustrated and shaking your head every time they miss a shot will help nobody. Instead of getting annoyed do this instead:
Empathise - if your partner is getting peppered with shots all the time I doubt they’re enjoying it. It’s never fun to be under so much pressure. If you were the weaker player on the court I doubt you’d like it.
Think tactically - if your partner is missing a certain shot or getting stuck in a particular situation try and think logically. How can we adapt our play to avoid these difficult scenarios?
Both of these points focus on both of you, not one player or the other. You need to focus on the thing’s you’re actively doing, leave your partner to play the shots that come to them.
Very important note: You should never try and muscle your way into a game. No matter how frustrating it is there is nothing more demoralising to a partner than playing with someone who’s taking shots that are clearly yours.
The best players in the world understand that they cannot control all aspects of the game. You can’t control what your partner does. You can’t control whether the opponents’ playback to you or your partner. You can’t even control whether you’ll win or lose the point.
The only two things you have full, 100% control over are these two things:
1) Your serve
2) Your actions and responses
Wow, that’s a small list right? Well, this is just the truth. People talk about controlling the rallies but no player will ever have 100% control of the rally. You can influence what your partner does by communicating and agreeing on tactics. You can influence your opponents to play a particular shot back. You can increase the likelihood that you’ll win the point. But no more than that.
I mention the serve as one of the two things you can control because when you’re serving you have the shuttle in your hand. It’s not in flight, it’s in your direct control. You can choose where to serve from and to, you can choose how to serve (within the rules) and you can choose when to serve.
Many people forget the second point. The fact that we are always, always able to choose our own actions and responses to situations. This is a powerful thing because sometimes it feels like you have no options left. Believe me, there’s always a choice. Choose to be in control of yourself, think logically and your game will improve immensely.
We’ve talked about teamwork and one of the best ways to feel like you’re part of a team is to feel like you’re contributing to the win. So, you need to learn to set up your partner for easy wins. Play so that they’re able to score some points themselves. How can you do this?
One simple scenario is to try and force a weak defensive reply from the opponents so that your partner can intercept and kill the shuttle from the net. This is easier said than done but if you set up your attacking pressure in the right way it’s a reliable consistent way for you both to score points.
Communication in doubles is key. No matter who your partner is, to win you need to communicate with each other. This goes doubly for playing with a partner who might not be on the same page as you tactically.
They might have a different way of playing doubles, they might have shots they really struggle with, they might not be mobile enough to cover most of the court. Whatever it might be you need to communicate and agree on a basic strategy to play well together.
Now don’t start out in a condescending manner, talk to your partner on equal footing. They’re there to play with you and deserve your respect regardless of the skill gap.
If they’re not comfortable with talking about tactics try to at least communicate during the game but don’t overdo it. The best way to approach communication without your partner feel like you’re trying to coach them is to ask them what they think you should do.
You’re listening to them which will make them feel valued and will provide you insight as to why they’re doing certain things. Be collaborative and make beating the opponents the focus. Ask questions like:
1) How can we win the next point?
2) How can we avoid them winning like that again?
3) What do you think we should do?
4) Who should cover the middle when defending?
Tricky to implement but effective if done right. If your partner is vastly weaker then you are or the opponents are just constantly playing it to them and you’re barely getting a look in, make it difficult for them to do so.
Play shots into spaces that make it harder for the opponents to play to your partner effectively. Make it so that they have to play shots they’d otherwise never play if they were playing a more balanced pair.
You rarely see cross-court smashes in doubles, so if you have to lift it try and make sure that the opponent is in the worst position possible to hit a cross-court smash.
Get on the attack so that the opponents have fewer opportunities to attack themselves. Fight for the initiative and force them into the reactionary play instead of being proactive.
If your partner is a weaker plate than you are the chances are that they play Badminton at a much slower pace. If they were playing with someone closer to their level they’d be playing a lot more high lifts and drop shots.
Slowing down the pace of the rally might be exactly what they need. Perhaps the rallies are too fast and they simply can’t keep up. Sometimes all that separates two skill levels is the speed of execution. They have all the shots, can get around the court well enough but just can’t do it at a higher pace.
In this situation slow the pace of the rallies down. Force more high lifts and shorter drop shots. Control the pace of the rally so your partner can keep up with you and vice versa.
Never forget that. It’s too easy to blame our partners. When you lose accept responsibility as well. There are two players on the court so two players have the opportunity to win or lose.
No matter how much better you are compared to your partner you will still have flaws. You’ll still have things that you’re not perfect at. You’ll still make mistakes. You’ll still lose points. Nobody is perfect so don’t expect perfection from your partner.
It’s not always your partners’ fault that they lost or point or couldn’t defend themselves. Maybe you put them in a bad defensive situation that many players would struggle to cope with. On the flip side maybe it wasn’t your fault but it’s your responsibility to respond to that lost point as a team.
At the end of the day, Badminton doubles is a team game. You can’t win without your partner and they can’t win without you.
Doubles is about playing together as a team. Learn to adapt your game to compliment your partner. No two players play exactly the same so be flexible.