Once you lift the shuttle into the opponents’ court high enough for one of them to smash, you and your partner must wait side-by-side and square to the direction the shuttle is coming from. Being square means that the cross-court defender is slightly closer to the net than the down-the-line defender, because the shuttle has to travel farther going cross-court.

Moving From an Up-and-Back Position to Side-by-Side 

– Move straight back if you lift from the net, no matter where you hit the shuttle to. Your partner can see you choose the side, and since your partner is already deep, he or she is less vulnerable and so can take the time to move cross-court to defend. 
– Move back so that you will be cross-court from the shuttle if your partner clears from the back. This is safest one. Moving back from the net into the teeth of a down-the-line smash is suicide.

If you are in the habit of clearing from the back while your partner is at net, you are not considerate of your partner’s health and safety. Clearing cross-court from the back is even worse, because your partner’s first reaction is to move back cross-court away from you (and be highly vulnerable to a face-high down-the-line smash).

Taking Court Position 

The most important factor of defense positioning is that it is fluid – the defense moves around in the court depending on where the shuttle is on the other side of the net.

Stay close together, and protect the alley 

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Suppose the opponents are about to smash the shuttle from one of their corners. The down-the-line defender moves over toward the sideline, using it as part of the defense, and stands almost straight in front of the smasher. The cross-court defender should sidle over too, to right around the center line, so that the two defenders can graze each other’s rackets when they take a normal smash return stroke. Suppose the smash return is directed cross-court to the attacker’s opposite corner. Now the two defenders shuffle towards the other sideline as a unit, much like a zone defense does in basketball, maintaining their tight spacing.

Move forward and backwards together as well, depending on how deep or shallow the lift is. If the lift is right to the back line, the defenders could move to half way up the court, as close as possible to the net and still return the smash. This allows them to meet the smash as high as possible so that they don’t have to lift the shuttle as much, and also allows them to return the smash as quickly as possible to give the opponents less time to recover. If the lift is mid-court, the defenders should move back, almost to the doubles long service line. Defend deeper (from the back third of the court) too if the opponents have an above-average smash. Defending deep is less preferable because it is harder to regain the attack. The defenders have to hit the shuttle farther, the net man has better chances of cutting the smash return off, and the defenders are more vulnerable to a varied attack where the offense mixes in drops and half-smashes.

Defending closer together seems to invite the smasher to hit wide cross-court, since it looks to be undefended (the “wide” means that the shuttle goes wide to the outside of the cross-court defender, away from the body). As the defender, you are hoping for the wide cross-court since it gives an opportunity for an outright winner. The shot has to travel farther, it takes the smasher’s partner out of the rally, and exposes the smasher’s down-the-line court. The only advantage such a shot has is that it is unexpected; the cross-court defender therefore has to “look for” the shot. Against a properly positioned defense, the attacker really has a limited range of where to hit the shuttle: from the outside shoulder of one defender to the outside shoulder of the other defender. Any other spot is risky for the smasher (attacking in doubles will be the subject of a future “Play Better Badminton” article). click to read more father-captions