While there are no hard and fast rules in doubles positioning for badminton, there are some general guidelines like avoiding running into each other (for obvious reasons), being aware of your partner’s position and adjusting to each others rhythm.
Some of my earlier thoughts on Doubles Communication Part 1 and Part 2 focused on the verbal and body language aspect of doubles. I didn’t go into positioning partly because of the gaps in my own knowledge. But over time I’ve been thinking about why some pairs seem to click better than others. Some of the reasons that Japan’s national doubles pairs perform so well is that they train in doubles positioning, gain experience in elite competitions and have a similar height (truth). I’ve also gained some insight from my experience and observing others.
The favoured formation for a male+female pair is with the man attacking at the back and the woman near the net ready to kill any weak replies or set up the next shot. The main difference between mixed doubles and level doubles is that the woman stands near the net when her male partner serves and receives. It’s important that her position is not static. She moves back once he’s out of position so they can minimise the gaps and effectively defend. One of the key tactics in mixed doubles is to keep the shuttle below the tape, target the gaps and push the woman back to the baseline if necessary where she’s a bit less of a threat at the baseline.
Generally for a male+female pair, mixed doubles is stronger than level doubles (all else being equal). But it also depends on individual player preferences and styles. Even when a girl is strong enough to attack from the baseline, this formation is weak against a proper mixed doubles pair. One of the reasons being that a woman’s defence can be as good as her partner’s whilst men generally have an advantage in power and speed.
Level doubles, especially elite men’s doubles, is a dynamic, attacking game. Rotational play allows a player to come forward (hitting in a downward direction), whilst his or her partner moves back and maintains the attack. If they’re forced to lift and give away the attack, they usually move to side-by-side formation so that they can defend. Imagine a piece of string linking the players and it should be taut. Doubles should ideally be neither too near nor too far from each other. The clip below shows how Goh V Shem and Markis Kido are never more than 3.4 m apart or nearer than 1.7m (depending on situational factors).
One of the benefits of a left-hander + right-hander is that they have extra attacking and defensive capabilities. Left handers have a natural advantage with the element of surprise by being able to hit the shuttle at unusual angles to a right-hander. Some world class pairs with a left- and right-hander include:
- Jia Yifan (LH) + Chen Qingchen (RH) China
- Mathias Boe (LH) + Carsten Mogensen (RH) Denmark
- Kamilla Rytter Juhl (LH) + Christinna Pedersen (RH) Denmark
- Fu Haifeng (LH) + Cai Yun (RH) China