When you’re new to badminton, you might spend all your time on the technical skills — like your smashes, grips, and footwork. But as you level up, anticipation is one often-overlooked skill that can make or break your game.
At first, it can be challenging to figure out your opponent’s next move. But with a few key tips, you can learn to pick up on patterns and prevent them from catching you off guard.
Below, discover five of the best badminton anticipation tips to help you better predict your opponents in every match.
1. Pay Attention to Their Playstyle
When it comes to reading your badminton opponents, the best first step is to take note of their preferred playstyle.
Do they lean offensive? Defensive? Do they ever try to surprise you with deceptive shots, or do they stick to straightforward attacks?
Identifying these overarching patterns can help you get a broad sense of how your opponent plays the sport. Some common playstyles include:
- Power offensive: Hitting toward your body, smashing aggressively
- Placement offensive: Strategically hitting to open areas on the court, hoping you won’t reach the shuttle in time
- Net player: Frequently using net shots to try to force lifts and other weak shots
2. Look for Favorite Shots
During a match, you might notice that your opponent frequently uses a few select favorite shots. And once you pinpoint what these are, it becomes much easier to predict their game.
Ask yourself: Does my opponent always respond to specific situations with a specific shot? For example, do they always choose a smash when responding to a lift, or do they sometimes mix in an attacking clear?
If you feel confident enough, you can also start testing this at the beginning of a rally. Send a few shots to different corners of their court to see how they respond. If they show any patterns in these early rallies, it will be easier to read their game later on.
3. Notice Their Positioning
Your shot placement and timing can limit the types of shots your opponent can respond with — and it will show in their positioning.
With that in mind, here are some giveaways to look for in your opponent’s positioning:
- Body: Are they in the ready position? Or are they still recovering from their last shot?
- Grip: Are they using their forehand or backhand grip?
- Racket: Are they going to hit the shuttle early? Late? Are they hitting high or low, and which side are they hitting from?
Manually paying attention to all of this can be tough, especially when you only have a split second in between shots. But with enough practice, you’ll learn to analyze and react to certain situations more quickly.
4. Watch Professionals Play
Another powerful way to improve your anticipation skills is to watch professional badminton matches.
This can help you get a feel for the typical responses players have in specific situations. Not only that, but you’ll start to pick up on when and why pros anticipate specific shots from their opponents.
For example, you might watch a rally where a player moves immediately to the frontcourt when anticipating a net shot from their opponent (instead of returning to the center). You can then go back and watch their opponent’s body positioning to understand why they might have predicted that shot.
While not the only — or best — way to improve your game, this can give you some deeper insight into how to read your badminton opponents.
5. Keep Yourself Prepared for Any Scenario
Keeping yourself prepared doesn’t exactly relate to reading your opponent’s game. However, it’s worth mentioning since it can help you better respond to any shot they play.
To give yourself the best odds of returning the shuttle, remember to:
- Get familiar with the ready stance.
- Use a split step before your opponent hits their shot.
- Take note of your opponent’s racket angle.
- Practice grip transition drills to save yourself time when switching between your forehand and backhand side.
The Bottom Line on Badminton Anticipation
Whether you’re a new player or are just trying to hone your skills, badminton anticipation can make a world of difference in your game. By keeping these tips in the front of your mind, you can set yourself up for more winning shots in every match.
As a start, remember to take note of your opponent’s body positioning, favorite shots, and overall playstyle. Beyond that, you can also spend some time watching professional players to get a better sense of how anticipation looks on the court.