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All you need to know about the new experimental serving rule in badminton

Vemuri Sudhakar, right, guiding players like Ashwini Ponnappa on the new service rule.   | Photo Credit: V.V. Subrahmanyam

A new experimental service rule in badminton, that came into effect from March 1, 2018, will be implemented at the All England Championship in Birmingham from March 14-18. The Badminton World Federation (BWF) last November announced a series of proposed rule changes to the game, covering areas including the serve, coaching and the scoring system. The serving rule in particular has not gone down well with some players.

What is the new serving rule?

According to the new rule, “the whole of the shuttle shall be below 1.15 metres from the surface of the court at the instant of being hit by the server’s racket”. Basically, the point of contact at the start of the serve cannot be more than 1.15 meters from the court. The earlier rule had it that the shuttle had to be below the player's waist when serving. How is the waist defined in this case? The waist is an imaginary line drawn around the waist of a player, level with the lowest part of the server’s bottom rib.

If a player exceeds 1.15 metres, it will be declared a foul and the server not only loses his right to serve but also concedes a point.

What was the need to experiment with the existing rule?

It was brought about to bring more clarity to service faults. In a doubles match for instance, you may have four players with different heights. There is a lot of human effort required from the service judges (umpires) to determine if the serve is legitimately below the waist. The service judges at times have been helpless and there have been situations when the service judges have called 10-15 faults in a match, much to the disgust of the players. This has resulted in lots of discussion on the calling of the faults. The BWF had been contemplating for a while on finding a solution and 1.15 m has been used a fixed service height.

There also have been instances where players have raised their heels to the extreme extent possible to serve because it gives them an extra 5-6 inches height. The law says that some part of both the feet have to touch the ground in a stationary position. And the 'waist' is an imaginary line. Therefore if there is a fixed height, there can be far less of this approximation or imagination.

How will the service height be measured during the game?

Fixed Service Height Experiment Device

Fixed Service Height Experiment Device   | Photo Credit: BWF


There is an equipment placed on either side of the net posts, called Fixed Service Height Experiment Device, within an arm’s length from the service judge. The service judge will watch the serve through the transparent plates where a horizontal line is drawn across at a height of 1.15 m from the surface. These two transparent plastic sheets are fixed to the top portion on either side of a metal tube with a steady base standing vertically straight from the surface of the court. The eyesight of the service judge is raised or lowered to such an extent that both the lines on both the sheets are merged and seen as one single line. That’s the line determining 1.15 m height. During a service, when the shuttle is hit, any part of the shuttle going over and above the black line is called a fault.

This equipment was tried out at the German Open recently.

Why are some players objecting to it?

The taller players would have to make more of an adjustment. A 1.15 m restriction would mean that the player would have to serve from a lower level from the ground up. Shorter players, though, may not complain too much.

One top player who has been a vocal critic of the rule change is world No. 1 Viktor Axelsen of Denmark. Axelson's height is 1.94 metres and he said it was ridiculous that the rule would be implemented at a tournament as prestigious as the All England Championship. He hoped that other players would also object.

“I think it is a ridiculous rule,” Axelsen said in December. “You don’t lower the basket in basketball because taller players have an easier time dunking. I know there might be some issues in men’s doubles but I don’t think a fixed height will change it. This is just making it harder for taller players, so it is not fair at all.”

Chinese star Lin Dan and India’s Sikki Reddy also spoke out against this experiment.

How are Indian players preparing for this?

Badminton India appointed experienced umpire Vemuri Sudhakar, who has the distinction of officiating in three Olympics (Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney), several international and national championships, to familiarise India’s leading players with the new rule. Mr. Sudhakar, now Member of Umpires Assessment Panel of Badminton Asia, has been training them at Gopichand Academy in Hyderabad.

“I talked to them about the need to accept change. While training them, there have been many players who have quickly understood,” he told The Hindu on Tuesday. “Some can be slow in adapting to the system. For word-class players, if they really do want to bring about a change, they can. Mentally, they need to accept it. I strongly believe that this system will stay.”

In which tournaments will this be implemented?

According to the BWF, this rule applies to all Grade 1 events – except the BWF World Junior Championships – and Grade 2 events (the new BWF tournament series) and continental championships in April. As of now, testing is expected to run until the end of the year.

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Printable version | Jul 21, 2021 9:41:43 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/other-sports/all-you-need-to-know-about-the-new-experimental-serving-rule-in-badminton/article23237237.ece

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