As a singles player, we’ve all faced the situation of lifting a shot short, and having the opponent win with either that smash or the next followed up push or kill shot. Some people do prefer playing defense more, but at the end of the day, playing defense still puts you at a disadvantage. It is hard to win full matches playing purely defense – we need offense to win most of our rallies and we can’t always count on the opponent making a mistake. In this post, I am going to explore the reasons why we play defense, how we can get out of a defensive state in the middle of a rally, and some game strategies to avoid playing too much defense.
Why do we play Defense?
Control the Pace of the Rally
When you are playing your opponent, you can gain a sense of what their strengths and weaknesses are. If their smash, fast drop, or general attacking shots are something you are comfortable with, there are many situations where you can intentionally play defense to wear down your opponent and control the rally. If you are able to hit the lifts and clears with good quality, you are able to limit what the opponent can hit back, and stay in control of each rally. The game will be under your pace, and the opponent can only follow you.
Set up for our own Offense
Other times, we may be intentionally or unintentionally be playing defense to set up for our own offense. We may try to find opportunities in the opponents attacking shots to hit a fast block or drive the smashes back, leading to our own offense. We can be actively looking for ways to change the rally from defense to offense, by identifying weaker shots and hitting shots to transition the rally in our favor.
Sometimes we have to
In other situations, we just may be forced to play defense. Some opponents are faster, stronger, and they could be the ones controlling the rally. We have to do our best to continue defending their shots, and trying to get them frustrated when they cannot end the rally quickly. These games are hard – you have to stay mentally strong and never give up until the shot hits the ground.
Transitioning out of Defense
We know that we do not want to stay on the defensive end forever – what things can we do so that we can change the state of the rally to our offense, or just a neutral state?
We can look for a way to get to our “Transition State“, which means that neither player is playing full offense and neither player is playing full defense. To do this, one of the best ways is to look for opportunities in the side or the front. If the opponent hits a long back drop, instead of lifting the shot or hitting a high and tight net drop, you can try to hit a long net drop past the service line. This limits the opponents next shot angle as it is hard to push, hard to lift, and hard to hit a tight net drop back. On the side, we can try the same thing. Instead of lifting, driving, or hitting a tight block, we can also look to hit a long block shot back. This again limits your opponents angles and shot variety.
If your opponent is attacking with punch clears or high lifts, we can still try the same thing. Instead of drives or clearing back to your opponent, try hitting a long back drop to reduce your opponents angles.
In all of these methods, this can lead to a transition state. Here, you will try to play a long game where most shots are flat towards the back, and most shots in the front are long and past the service line. In this state, we can start looking for opportunities to attack if the opponent hits a loose shot – jump on these opportunities and you will find yourself attacking instead of defending and transitioning.
Sudden Defense to Counterattack
We can also have a sudden transition from defense to attack. For example, if your opponent smashes one shot and hits a lift in the next shot, rather than continuing to clear and allow your opponent to attack, you can explode to the shot and attack the new lift with a smash immediately. If your opponent smashes the first show and hits a net for the next shot, instead of waiting for the shot to come down and lift it again, you can try to react faster to the bird and cut the angle with a cross net or a faster unexpected net or push shot. Both these example situations show how you can transition instantly from defense to offense using a sudden counterattack.
Game Strategies to Avoid Too Much Defense
Now that we know why we play defense and how to change from defense to offense, let’s look at a few strategies to help us avoid playing too much defense from the get-go.
Playing a Transition Game in the Back
Playing a transition game in the back court, like I mentioned above, will help you to avoid giving your opponent too many attacking opportunities. In the back, try your best to hit long back drops and non-full power drives. These shots make it hard for your opponent to find chances to hit tighter net drops and transition to their own offense. If you can stay consistent and continue playing the transition game, you will be able to eventually find your own offense if your opponent cannot keep up playing their own transition game with you.
Catching the Shot Early in the Front
Another method to avoid playing defense is to catch the shots earlier in the front. If you catch the shots low, your only shot choices is a high lift, or a late net drop. Unless you have practiced these excessively, your opponent will be able to take advantage of both of these shots. However, if you force yourself to catch the shots early and quickly in the front, your shot variety increases greatly. You are able to hit quick control lifts, pushes, tight or long net drops – essentially anything. Try your best to catch the shot early during your matches so you can control the pace and find your own offense.
The main goal of defense is to get out of it. We are constantly trying to survive during the rally so that we are able to eventually find our own offense and end the rally. To get out of defense, try playing a transition game or finding sudden opportunities to counterattack. To avoid playing defense too much, again try playing a transition game and instead catch all the shots in the front.
Let me know in the comments below what you think about this advice! If you are interested in any more badminton drills to work on your defense, please check out the full length videos on my YouTube channel!