Playing badminton casually, most people whack the shuttlecock in pure enjoyment, often stopping only when fatigue dictates. However, badminton is a sport with spectators. And with that, there is an expectation to contain the length of the match so that it does not endlessly go on for eternity.
A typical modern day badminton match lasts between 40 to 50 minutes. The fluctuation in a match’s duration is primarily due to: the skill level difference between players, the number of games the match goes to, and the amount of rest taken by players between rallies. Other reasons include the frequency of shuttlecock changes, toweling off sweat, or taking water breaks. The shortest recorded badminton match was six minutes long. While, the longest recorded badminton match was two hours and 41 minutes long.
For all its speed and technical requirements, badminton is, without a doubt, a fast game. However, when it comes to how long a match lasts, things can be unpredictable.
There aren’t any hard and fast rules when it comes to the duration of a match, and maybe that’s the beauty of it.
Having done some research on the longest and shortest matches in history, we go beyond answering the above question in this article.
What Is the Longest Badminton Match in History?
The longest recorded badminton matches in the record books were nearly a decade apart. These matches took place in 2016 and 1997.
The reason I’m separating them is not that they were both equally long (because they weren’t) but due to the different badminton disciplines they were played in. The 2016 marathon match between the Japanese and the Indonesians was in the women’s doubles discipline whereas the 1997 match between China and Denmark was in the men’s singles discipline.
Let’s kick off the discussion with the 2016 match between Japan and Indonesia.
Kurumi Yonao and Naoko Fukuman vs. Greysia Polii and Nitya Krishinda Maheswari: Two Hours, 41 Minutes
The epic semi-finals match between Japan’s Yonao and Fukuman and Indonesia’s Polii and Krishinda was one for the record books. Lasting a lung-burning two hours and 41 minutes, the Badminton Asian Championships semi-finals match remains the longest in history.
In 2016, the pressure was on for the Japanese duo of Kurumi Yunao and Naoko Fukuman. In another semi-finals match, the Japanese duo of Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi had already defeated a formidable South Korean team to advance. Yunao and Fukuman needed to win the semi-finals match to bring home the Asian Championship trophy to Japan and qualify for the Rio Olympics.
Yunao and Fukuman were in for the match of their lives as they faced the dominant tandem of Greysia Polii and Nitya Krishinda Maheswari. Indonesian skill and dominance were established early on as Polii and Maheswari chalked up 21 points in the first game.
Beating Japan by eight points, Polii and Krishinda went into the second game with confidence. However, the tides would turn as Japan would snatch a narrow 21-19 win in the second game.
The third game was pivotal and would decide who advances to the final. After long rallies, Japan would eventually bag a well-deserved albeit 24-22 win. It was a trading of salvos that lasted almost three times the length of an average badminton match, making it the longest in the sport’s history.
Peter Rasmussen vs. Sun Jun — Two Hours, Four Minutes
Nine years before Japan’s 2016 semi-final victory, the men’s single’s final match between Denmark’s Peter Rasmussen and China’s Sun Jun was the longest. In 1997, Glasgow played host to the World Badminton Championships and would be the ground for the longest singles match in history.
In the first game, Jun fought tooth and nail against Rasmussen to secure the win. The two fiercely played against each other in a nail-biting game that would result in a 16-17 win for China.
Rasmussen regained momentum in the second game, beating his opponent by three points (18-15). He would later triumph in the final game, bringing home the championship to Denmark.
Besides walking away from Glasgow with the trophy and accolades, he walked away with a place in the sport’s history.
What is the Shortest Length of a Badminton Match? Six Minutes!
Badminton isn’t always a game of endurance. Sometimes, speed and cunning can lead to a match lasting a matter of minutes — six minutes, to be exact.
That’s right — six minutes! This was the shortest match in badminton history, occurring on May 19, 1996, when Hong Kong hosted the Uber Cup.
The historic match was between South Korean, Ra Kyung-min, and seasoned English shuttler, Julia Mann. The two players met and competed in a match that would be over in quick fashion.
For two games, the talented South Korean, Ra Kyung-min, bombarded Mann with strokes that would cause her to miss and miss frequently. The outplay would lead to an easy victory for the South Korean. Ra Kyung-min won the first game 11-2, and the second 11-1. Winning by a landslide, the South Korean shuttler did not have to ready her racket for a third game. Back then, women’s singles matches only needed to reach a culminating score of 11 points.
Whether the result was out of one player’s skill or the result of the other player’s folly, the history books have spoken. The match between Ra Kyung-min and Julia Mann went down as the shortest match in badminton history, as confirmed by Guinness Book of Records.
What Factors Contribute to the Length of a Badminton Match?
If the longest and shortest games in badminton history can show one thing, it’s that the length of a badminton match can vary greatly. The variation in duration can occur as a result of several factors. Ultimately, the length of a badminton match comes down to the necessity for a third game and the rests that occur between games or sets.
Let’s look at these factors in detail:
The Need for a Third Game
A match will almost always go the distance if both players have played well enough for a match to go to the third game.
A match consists of three games, where two players or pairs playing against each other target 21 points. The first to get 21 points and establish a two-point lead by doing so wins a game.
Ordinarily, a player only needs to win two out of three games to attain victory. When a player wins two games, or sets, consecutively, the match does not need to go to a third game. However, the following situations can force the match into a longer duration:
- A deuce, or tie, occurs at 20 points a piece, or
- A player reaches the 21-point goal but is only a point ahead of the opponent
This lengthens the game because once a deuce is reached, each team must continue battling it out until one side achieves a two-point differential from the other. The maximum score cap is 30 points, so as not to allow the game to go on forever.
When both players have one game each, the match goes to a third game. The third game will decide who wins the match, and often, this makes for a longer badminton match. This is best exemplified in the match between China’s Sun Jun and Denmark’s Peter Rasmussen.
When a match goes to a third game, you can envision it to increase the total time of a 2-game match by 50%. Imagine that the maximum collective points in a game is 59 when the score is 30 to 29. In a two-game match, the total point value is 118 (59 * 2), while in a three game match, the total point value is 177 (59 * 3). As you can see, a three-game match can substantially increase the duration of a match by 50% ((177 – 118) / 118 = 50%).
Intervals are fixed rest periods that make up part of the total time of a badminton match. The first interval occurs as soon as one player or team scores 11 points. The total amount of time for rest is 60 seconds before play continues.
The next interval occurs between games or sets. Sets are separated by 120-second rest periods.
Assuming that a match goes on for two games, you can expect four minutes of rest from intervals. If a match extends to three games, then a total of seven minutes from rest is provided.
While players have the ability to cut these intervals short if both side agree to it, in competitive matches, most players take the entirety
|Interval #||Duration||Definition||Total Cumulative Time|
|Interval 1||60 sec||First game, when first player reaches 11 points||60 sec|
|Interval 2||120 sec||At the conclusion of the first game||180 sec|
|Interval 3||60 sec||Second game, when first player reaches 11 points||240 sec|
|Interval 4||120 sec||At the conclusion of the second game||360 sec|
|Interval 5||60 sec||Third game, when first player reaches 11 points||420 sec|
Skill Level Difference
Skill level difference is an interesting factor as it can potentially shorten OR lengthen a badminton match. Either way, the difference in players’ skill level definitely has an impact on the duration of a match.
Big Skill Gap
A big skill gap is when there is a noticeable difference in the level of play between the two competing teams. When this occurs, the games can end in quick fashion. In many such cases, one side can be completely dominated, which makes for an overall short match duration.
Case and point is observed in the shortest match in history I mentioned above between South Korean Ra Kyung-min and English Julia Mann.
In the most extreme cases, one side may even get bageled. What this means is that one side gets absolutely destroyed with a score of 0 – 21.
Evenly matched skill level
In evenly matched games, both players or players have comparable skills and level of play. In such match ups, the winner is oftentimes determined by which side has the better endurance.
When players are able to match each other stroke for stroke, rallies can drag on while total point values for a game can stretch the limits and go into deuce or at the most extreme times hit that 30 point cap.
When players are so evenly matched, one or both sides may end up pacing around the court more often to recuperate their strength and catch their breath, or even ask more towel-off or water breaks. Additionally, working longer and harder can result in players sweating more. When this happens, players will oftentimes ask for an official to help mop the sweat off the floor so that it doesn’t pose as a health risk when playing.
The events mentioned above occur most frequently when players are evenly matched, which contribute to long match durations.
How Does the Length of a Badminton Match Compare to the Length of a Tennis Match?
In a nutshell, tennis matches are generally longer than badminton matches. Given that an average badminton match is between 40-50 minutes in length, let’s take a look at how it compares to tennis matches.
When it comes to tennis, there can be some variations in duration owing to the various surfaces of courts. Nonetheless, My Tennis HQ sets the match duration of tennis to be anywhere from an hour and 30 minutes to two hours and 45 minutes.
When we compare the average match duration of both sports, it’s easy to see how badminton compares to tennis. Even longer matches like the 2016 match between Japan’s Yanao and Fukuman and China’s Luo Ying and Luo Yu are shorter than a tennis match. The former match lasted 117 minutes whereas a best-of-five match in tennis can last for nearly three hours!
How Has the Length of a Badminton Match Changed Throughout the Sport’s History?
We’ve gone over how long the average badminton match lasts. We’ve also talked about the longest and shortest matches in the history of the game.
A quick comparison of the games mentioned can beg the question: “Are badminton matches becoming longer or shorter?”
At a glance, it seems that there’s no definitive answer. After all, games take place and finish at varying degrees of duration. Nonetheless, a study conducted in 2019 might give us clues.
According to a study published in the National Library of Medicine, badminton matches are becoming longer. Early on in the study, the researchers attributed the longer matches to changes in the scoring system. The evolution of the system, according to the researchers, has called for a greater need for more aggressive playing styles.
More aggressive playing styles can greater number of strokes per rally, which increases not only rally time but also rest required between points or taking longer during the intervals.
When players are of equal skill, a match can either require more time per set or a third deciding game. This is especially true at the elite level, as explained in the same study.
Come to think of it, we can look at two matches and draw conclusions. These are the 1964 All England Badminton finals match and the 2016 Asian Badminton Championship match between Indonesia and Japan mentioned earlier.
Master Badminton observed in one of its articles about the sport’s historical development that the 1964 match is generally slower. The article also goes on to say that, compared to the games of the past, matches today are played with a more aggressive style. This observation is consistent with the 2019 study mentioned earlier.
However long a match today lasts or how the length has evolved throughout badminton history, one thing is for sure; part of badminton’s allure is that it can be both a marathon and a sprint.
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