At lower levels of competitive badminton, the strategy in mixed doubles badminton may be as simple as targeting the female. While this is a valid strategy, even at the professional level, it is a much more complicated game than that!
What Makes Mixed So Hard?
The underlying strategy for mixed doubles is the same as general doubles. At a very high level, attacking downward shots are the best opportunity to win the rally and points. This is obviously very general and it gets deeper than that. But it’s the way this strategy is implemented that makes it much more complicated.
One of the most obvious differences is that there are two different sexes on court with inherently different abilities. Generally, the male player is more powerful which makes them more suited to the rear court role. In short, setting up the female player in the front court to finish the rally. You can read more about the role of the rear court player here.
Female mixed doubles players are usually front court specialists, focusing on finishing the rally from this position or setting up their partner in the rear court. You can learn more about the front court role here.
What we can determine from this is that there is a clear formation that the partnership would prefer to be in during a rally. The difficulty lies in working into this formation and maintaining it during a rally.
Rear Court And Front Court Differences
There is a very obvious formation when attacking. For the man in the rear court, he must play attacking shots which help to keep the pair on the attack while also ensuring he plays shots that keep them in that formation. The rear court can be very physically draining as he is pushed from side to side as well as forced to step forward into the midcourt.
For the female, the front court is comparatively more difficult mentally with a higher chance of errors. The front court player has little time to react if intercepting and has to make sure any net shots or pushes are very low to the net. Otherwise, they’re likely to be punished. So each role is very challenging in different ways.
Strategic Differences To Level Doubles
Reversal Of The Optimal Formation
In level doubles, one key strategy is playing to the opponents’ weaknesses. For example, moving a strong front court player to the rear court to limit the damage they can do in a rally. This is also a key strategy in mixed, but the effects are much more obvious.
When the female is pushed into the rear court, the pair becomes much weaker in the attack. It can be difficult to move back into the prefered formation simply because the female attack is weaker compared to the man. This means the defensive pair can simply lift to the female, effectively isolating her and cutting her partner out of the game. There is little the male can do in this situation and so the female must engineer a way to move back to the front court.
The male player must wait patiently for the opportunity to move into the rear court. Too early and the front court becomes open. Too late and he will be late to the shuttle and likely give the attack to the opponent.
If you want to learn more about how to achieve moving back into the right attacking formation, you can check out this article: Mixed Doubles – Attacking With The Female In The Rear Court
One situation in which this cannot be avoided is the serve. The receiver must be the only person who returns the serve so her partner cannot help in this situation. Moving the female to the rear court can easily be achieved if the female is flicked. This is why keeping the service in mixed is very important! You can learn more about serving in mixed doubles here.
Attacking In The Optimal Formation
Even if the pair has the male in the rear court and the female in the front court, this still poses difficult challenges. If we consider level doubles, we often see the players moving around each other, covering where they need to in order to maintain the attack. This is called attacking rotation.
However, in mixed doubles, there is comparatively less attacking rotation. Generally, the situation arises when the female attempts to move from the rear court to the front court. Otherwise, the male player usually does not rotate forward. The reason is simply so that they can stay in the best formation to win the point.
The difficulty, therefore, lies in both players playing shots which keeps them in this formation. While the other pair are trying to force them out of it. Therefore there is more emphasis on placement in mixed doubles than levels. Playing mixed as you would level doubles would create many open areas on the court for your opponent to play into. Placing your shot carefully helps you to minimise these open areas of the court.
There’s also the difficulty of the midcourt shots. The midcourt is extensively used in mixed doubles badminton to try and neutralise the rally. These shots can creat uncertainty between the male and female partnership. Should the male step in, or should the female try and cut it out? There are advantages and disadvantages to both and good chemistry within the partnership is required to make sure this shot is covered effectively.
Attacking The Weaker Player
The higher you move up the levels in badminton, the stronger defences badminton players will have. If both players have a strong defence who do you target?
This poses a problem for many players, particularly club players. Suddenly it’s not so easy to target the female any more. Players need to analyse their opponents more closely to find defensive weaknesses. In mixed doubles this can be very difficult. Smashing cross court to the female suddenly becomes riskier. But smashing straight to the male player might mean they’re forced to work harder.
The man can often be weaker in defence. Not because their defense is weak, but rather they are simply not as creative or astute as the female player. The female must find ways to move forward and so will they will often be better at picking out gaps on the court which allow them to move forward.
Defending in mixed is also more difficult. There is some validation to attacking the female player, especially when you play at lower levels. Of course in any competitive badminton game, if a player has a weak defence, you should absolutely target them. If this is the case, their partner can do little to help if the shuttle is being directed to them all the time.
Additionally, if you’re not used to mixed doubles the movement in defense maybe very difficult to get adjust to. For example, if you play a lift, it’s easy to just come straight back into a defensive position.
However, in mixed it’s slightly different. If the male lifts from the net, they usually come back straight to take the straight smash and allow the female to take the cross court. Whereas if the female lifts from the net, she should move cross court rather than straight back.
This is not because the female is weaker defensively, but because of the strategic advantage this offers. A cross court smash is slower than a straight smash. This allows the female to more effectively counter attack and put them back into their strongest formation. This is a difficult concept to get used to, especially for intermediate players.
This is but a few of the complications in mixed doubles. At every point, the partnership must consider how to stay in the strongest formation to compensate for the relative weaknesses of both the male and female player.
When we watch professionals, it looks as though all out attack is the best way to go but this is not the case. Players are just so strong in all aspects of their game that they make it look so easy. Trying to do the same is extremely difficult and most players do not have the same speed, agility, power or technical ability to cover the court in the same way.
If you’re interested in mixed doubles – check out these articles: Mixed Doubles
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