What’s the Difference Between Singles and Doubles in Badminton?

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If you’re new to badminton, the difference between singles and doubles may be a bit confusing. We’ll help clarify the differences in this post. We also highly recommend you to check out our Getting Started page which will guide you through everything you need to know to get up to speed in badminton.

The difference between singles and doubles in badminton includes the number of players on court, the court dimensions, and the service rules. In singles, there is one player on each end of the court while in doubles, there are two players on each end of the court. Next, the singles court dimensions are smaller than in doubles, which is illustrated in the next section. Finally, there are service rule differences between singles and doubles that include service boundaries and service rotation which we will go into more details below.

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What’s the Difference in Court Boundaries Between Singles and Doubles in Badminton?

The badminton singles court includes everything except the left and right side alleys of the court while the doubles court includes them. Take a look below for a quick illustration of the different boundaries.

Badminton singles court space.
Singles Court Boundaries (above)
Badminton singles court space.
Doubles Court Boundaries (above)

While it might not seem like much of a difference, it is actually pretty significant. You can learn a lot by studying the court dimensions and come up with ways to use it to your advantage. If you want an in-depth explanation and analysis of the badminton court dimensions, I recommend taking a look at What are the Dimensions of a Badminton Court?

What are the Differences Between Singles and Doubles Service Rules in Badminton?

The differences in service rules between singles and doubles include the service boundaries and the rotation system.

Service Boundary Differences

The diagrams below show where the server and receiver must stand within for singles.

Singles service court, odd score.
Badminton singles service boundary when the server has an odd number of points

Singles service court, even score.
Badminton singles service boundary when the server has an even number of points

Similarly in doubles, the server and receiver must stand within the red and blue rectangles below respectively.

Doubles service court, odd score.
Badminton doubles service boundary when the server has an odd number of points

Doubles service court, even score.
Badminton doubles service boundary when the server has an even number of points

Note that in doubles, the players who are not serving or receiving may stand anywhere on their side of the court as long as they do not block the view of the receiver. This means that the receiver must be able to clearly see the shuttlecock and racket movement of the server. If the receiver cannot see clearly, they should make it known to the other players so that they move appropriately.

Service Rotation System Differences

The rotation system refers to where players stand and serve from at the beginning of the rally. In both singles and doubles, the server will serve from the left hand side of the court when the server’s score is odd and from the right hand side of the court when the server’s score is even.

In singles, there are no special rules, simply obey the above rotation system based off of the server’s score.

In doubles, each player must remember which side (left or right) of the court they are assigned to so that they know who should serve and who should receive. A rotation between two partners is when they swap their assigned positions from left to right and vice versa. The initial assignment is determined by the players at the start of the game and will then change by the following two rules:

  1. The server continues serving and rotating service positions with his/her partner as long as their team continues to win points while the receiving team does not rotate positions.
  2. When a point is won by the receiving team, no players rotate and the serving team changes.

In other words, only rotate positions if your team is the one serving AND wins the point. In all other cases, do not rotate.

What About Mixed Doubles? Is it Different From Doubles?

Mixed doubles rules are exactly the same as doubles. You’ll often see players serve and play differently though as the male player usually plays more of the back court and the female plays more of the front court.

Mixed Doubles Serving Position
Mixed Doubles Serving Position

What’s the Difference in Strategy Between Singles and Doubles in Badminton?

The strategy in singles and doubles are typically very different from each other because the amount space each player needs to cover is very different. In singles, you will be solely responsible for your entire end of the court. This means you cannot rely on anyone else to retrieve a shot even if you are out of position. In doubles, you have a partner to cover parts of the court you aren’t covering, which opens up possibilities that would be considered very risky in singles. In the below sections, we’ll give a general overview of the different aspects between singles and doubles but won’t go in-depth as to exactly why it is the case yet since there are many intricate details that can take up a whole post themselves. Stay tuned for future posts that will break them down into detail.

Note: Some of the strategies below will refer to the names of particular badminton shots. If you’re unfamiliar with them, I recommend taking a look at What Type of Shots are in Badminton? (With 19 Examples) where I explain each shot in-depth with videos to complement them. Even if you’ve been playing badminton for some time, you may find some new shots that you haven’t seen before!


In singles, attacking usually means smashing, dropping, or punch clearing. There are 3 main places you can smash to – the left and right sides of the court as well as the middle, which would usually be considered a body smash. The smashes can come in many different angles, but in general, more angled smashes are harder to retrieve because it’s more difficult to cut off.

Singles smash placement.
Ideal smash placement in singles

Drops usually go to either left or right front corners and punch clears are hit to the left or right back corners. These shots are meant to make the opponent have to reach and run as far as possible in order to get the shots.

Drop and clear placement for singles.
Ideal drop and clear placement in singles

In doubles, attacks usually come from smashes and drives. Smashes are usually targeted toward the player with weaker defense or in-between the players to cause confusion. Alley smashes can also be effective but are not used as often because there is less margin for error. Drives are common follows by the attacking team after a smash to try to put more pressure or finish off a rally. Doubles is much faster than singles and most strategies do not try to tire out the opponents or make them move a lot, but rather force mistakes out of them through fast paced attack.

Doubles smash placement.
Ideal smash placement in doubles


In singles, your standard defensive position will be near the middle of the court so that you can reach most of the court easily and cover the spots your opponent is likely to hit to. Smash returns will mostly be blocks to the front of the opponent’s court with occasional lifts to catch them off guard.

In doubles, you have more defensive options available to you because you cover less of the court. However, the attack is usually fiercer and you have less margin for error because you have two opponents that can get to the shuttlecock quickly. Smash returns are usually lifts to the far corners of the opponent’s court, flat and fast drives, or short precise blocks. Smash lifts are considered very defensive while drives and blocks have the potential for counter attack but gives the opponent’s front player opportunities to follow up on the attack.


To trick someone in singles, you essentially need someone to start moving in a direction before you strike the shuttlecock and then hit the shuttlecock another way. A common example is an underhand shot that disguises as either a drop or a fast lift. Other examples include drops that looks like clear and reverse sliced straight drops that look like a cross court smashes. In general, there are more options and possibilities to trick your opponent in singles than in doubles because there is only one person you need to trick. However, it can be more difficult to perform the deceptive shot because it’s more difficult to be in the correct position in singles.

The most effective deceptive shots in doubles are fake smashes and fake drives. Fake smashes and fake drives both look like hard shots towards the mid or back court but are changed in the last moment into a drop, forcing your opponents to suddenly move to the front of the court. Since the pace of doubles is typically very high, shots that slow it down suddenly can put your opponents off balance and can set your team up for a winning shot. These are pretty difficult to pull off and most of the time, it’s better to just go for the power play. But if your opponents’ defense are quite solid or they’re standing really far back, these might be good options to attempt.

Take a look at the below video for some examples of deception used in professional matches.


In singles, speed is not as important as footwork. Efficient footwork allows the player to save energy as well as reach the shuttlecock in time while focusing on speed will usually leave you off balance and out of position. Remember, the faster and harder you hit the shuttlecock, the faster it comes back. Staying balanced and in control is much more beneficial than getting to the shuttlecock as fast as possible in singles. With that said, if you have good footwork and can be fast at the same time, you will have more opportunities to attack because catching the shuttlecock high gives you more shot options.

In doubles, speed is much more important than in singles. Getting the shot early and gaining the attack is much more crucial and getting off balance is not as easily punishable. It is important to gain the attack because it is easier to win points and also it is much more difficult to regain the attack from defense than it is in singles. Furthermore, if you get off balance from hitting a shot, your partner can help out with the next shot. This allows you to commit more without as much fear of having to cover certain return possibilities.


While control and consistency are important in both singles and doubles, you can be a bit more lenient in your net shots in singles and more lenient in your placement in doubles.

Net drops don’t have to be as close to the net in singles because it’s difficult for your opponent to cover all your possible shots and therefore is usually not waiting to kill your net drops. In contrast, net shots have to be very tight in doubles because there is usually someone waiting on the other side of the net ready to pounce.

Placement in singles is very important to keep your opponent moving around the court. There is a saying to “make the court as big as possible” for your opponent – which essentially means that you should use as much of the court as you can to keep your opponent running around. In doubles, placement is not as important as in singles because power and speed can usually win the rally. As long as you can continue with downward angled shots, your team has a good chance of winning the point.

Badminton Singles vs Doubles Strategy Summary

DefenseBlocks are often used against smashesUses a combination of blocks, lifts, and drives
OffenseSmash on the left/right/center, drop and clear to the 4 cornersSmashes are usually aimed towards the weaker player or in-between the players
DeceptionTry to get your opponent to move before you hit a shotTry to change the pace suddenly
SpeedFootwork is more importantImportant to use speed to get the attack, getting off balance is less punishable
ControlCan be more lenient in net dropsCan be more lenient in placement

Should I Play Singles or Doubles in Badminton?

The benefit of playing singles is that you get full control of the shots hit on your side since you don’t have a partner. If you like to do everything yourself and not rely on anyone else, singles would be for you. This means that no one can boost you up – or drag you down – in a game, everything is up to you. You’ll have 100% responsibility of how well you do and can’t blame anyone else.

Doubles involves lots of teamwork and communication to play well. Teams are playing at their best when they are in sync with a common strategy in mind. Furthermore, doubles is fast, explosive, and precise. Therefore, if you enjoy working together and have fast reaction times, doubles is for you. Moreover, you will often see pairs that specialize in different aspects and can prove very successful in doing so. For example, many doubles pairs specialize one person in the front court and one in the back court. This works well in doubles but not in singles – where you have to be more well rounded. So if you would like to specialize in a particular area like smashing or cutting off, doubles would also be for you.

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  1. Great explanation of singles and doubles badminton! It’s helpful to know the differences between these two types of games, especially for beginners like me who are just starting out in this sport. Thanks for sharing!

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