A Game To Improve

Believe it or not, there is a way to have all the fun of competition and improve your game. It’s called half-court singles.

Half-court singles is a game whereby the players use only one half of the standard singles court from the centre line to the inside alley line, and all the way to the back singles line. Games use standard scoring to 15 with setting allowed. The object is to win the rallies, score the most points, and win the game.

The consequences, however, are:

  • Better footwork;
  • Improved consistency and more accurate shot placements;
  • increased stamina;
  • Killer drops and net play;
  • Stronger smashes;
  • Wall-of-China defence.

Sound too good to be true? Here’s how it works: Normally, in a standard game of full-court singles, many players rely on cross-court shots to gain time or to get themselves out of trouble. Additionally, many players who are proud of their singles game have a repertoire of unorthodox shots that help them get the bird back but do nothing to improve their game (e.g. skidding faceplants into the gym floor while stealthily dinking the shuttle back just barely over the net, or clever deceptions such as feigning a pulled muscle or a detached arm, accompanied by a blood curdling grunt, and then sneakily dinking the shuttle back just barely over the net, etc.).

These crafty tactics are often just plain desperation manoeuvres employed by players who instead of mastering the basics have relied heavily upon years of in-bred bad habits to skank themselves out of one bad situation and into the next rally.

Better Footwork:
In half-court singles, the shots are quicker because the luxury of the cross court has been eliminated. Likewise, the need for backhand shots is greatly diminished. With only half the court to cover, one focuses on taking everything with the forehand. This means that your footwork has to be functional. By virtue of wanting to win the rallies, you are forced to abandon many of the old bad habits and instead concentrate on basic shots and footwork.

Improved Consistency and More Accurate Shot Placements :
Half-court singles promotes consistency and accuracy. Because you have fewer options about where to hit the bird, and because the court is relatively narrow, you are forced to hit more accurate shots in order to win the rallies. Many full-court singles players aren’t that accurate in their shot placement. They know that if they hit the shuttle in the general direction of where they want it to go, it has a decent chance of staying in the court. In half-court, again, one is not afforded this luxury. You have to abandon shots that don’t work or go out, and replace them with shots that stay in. This narrowing of your focus further hones your accuracy, producing much more consistent play.

Increased Stamina:
So now you’re hitting more accurate and consistent shots, and your footwork is better. A strange thing is about to happenď˝­your stamina is going to increase. Rallies in half-court singles tend to be longer. Both players usually hit the so-called “high percentage” shots, i.e. shots that are more likely to stay in and keep the rally going. This translates into longer rallies, particularly of the up-and-back variety. Lots of clears followed by drop shots, net play, and then more clears mean that in order to win the rallies, you’ll have to hang in there. Because it’s fun and competitive, you’re less likely to become bored or tired. Instead, your focus improves your stamina.

Killer Drops and Net Play:
With less ground to cover, your opponent will always be a fraction of a second closer to any drops you hit. It follows then that in order to win the rallies, you’re going to have to hit tighter net shots. Anything less will give your opponent the advantage. You will naturally begin hitting drops that are quicker, rather than of the “floater” strain. And when at the net, fearful that your opponent will pounce like a rabid tiger on the typical lethargic, plump, and juicy sky-high net shots that have become your full-court singles game’s calling card, you’ll again be forced into hitting more razor-sharp and accurate net shots.

Stronger Smashes:
One consequence of better footwork, improved accuracy, and increased stamina is that when you do smash, these factors help you maximize the effectiveness of your shots. That is, by getting your feet and body into the correct position, and by hitting a clean, crisp stroke that you know will be more accurate, your smashes tend to become stronger and more effective.

Also, in order to conserve energy, smashes are used sparingly, and usually only when the opportunity arises (a weak clear by your opponent, or you see they are slightly out of position, etc.).

Wall-of-China Defence:
Accountable for a smaller area of court, you are better able to anticipate and return your opponent’s smashes. Since all smashes by definition of half-court singles are straight ahead, you will be able to concentrate on pure defence rather than running to retrieve them. And, if you’re going to win the rallies, you’ll soon find yourself getting those smashes back. Your options are limited: either clear the shuttle deeply, drop it, or drive it back straight at the smasher. I favour the last approach, because someone who has just smashed has some forward momentum that can be used against him to elicit a weak return.

So, if you want to improve your game and have fun in the process, play half-court singles.