Home Badminton What Is An Illegal Serve In Badminton? All You Need to Know

What Is An Illegal Serve In Badminton? All You Need to Know

Badminton is a dynamic and fast-paced sport that requires precision, agility, and strategic skill. Among the various elements that contribute to a fair and competitive game, the serve holds a pivotal role. The serve is the initial shot that starts the rally and can significantly influence the outcome of the match. As such, the rules governing the serve are strict to ensure fairness and consistency. An illegal serve in badminton can disrupt the flow of the game and give undue advantage to the server, making it crucial for players and officials to understand what constitutes an illegal serve.


Basic Rules of Serving in Badminton

Before delving into what makes a serve illegal, it’s important to understand the basic rules that apply to every serve in badminton. According to the Badminton World Federation (BWF), these rules are designed to ensure that the serve is delivered fairly and gives no undue advantage to either the server or the receiver.


Position and Stance: The server and receiver must stand in diagonally opposite service courts. Both feet of the server and the receiver must remain in contact with the court surface until the shuttlecock is struck. This ensures stability and fairness, preventing any sudden movements that could unfairly deceive the opponent.


Serving Motion: The serve must be delivered with an underhand stroke. This means the racket must make contact with the shuttlecock below the server’s waist, and the racket head must be pointing downward. The waist is defined as the lowest rib of the server.


Continuous Motion: The serve must be performed in one continuous forward motion. Stopping and starting the serve, known as a double motion, is not allowed as it can confuse the receiver.

Correct Court: The serve must land within the boundaries of the diagonal service court. For singles, this is the narrow and long court, while for doubles, it is the wide and short court.

Common Types of Illegal Serves in Badminton

Understanding these basic rules helps in identifying what constitutes an illegal serve. There are several specific ways in which a serve can be deemed illegal:

Faulty Contact with the Shuttlecock:

Above the Waist: If the shuttlecock is struck above the server’s waist, it is considered an illegal serve. The waist is generally defined as the lowest rib level, and this rule ensures that serves are delivered in an underhand motion, preventing overly aggressive or deceptive serves.

Racket Position: The racket head must be below the server’s hand holding the racket when it makes contact with the shuttlecock. If the racket head is above the hand, it is an illegal serve as it gives an undue advantage.

Incorrect Stance:

Foot Fault: If the server’s feet are not in the correct position or if they lift a foot off the ground before the shuttlecock is struck, it is a foot fault. Both feet must remain stationary and in contact with the court until the serve is completed.

Incorrect Court Position: Serving from the wrong side of the court or stepping over the boundary lines before hitting the shuttlecock is also considered illegal.

Double Motion:

The serve must be a single, continuous motion. Any hesitation or stop during the serve motion can be deemed illegal. This prevents the server from using deceptive techniques that could unfairly confuse the receiver.

Serving Out of Turn:

In doubles, serving out of turn or from the wrong service court is illegal. This ensures that the proper sequence of play is maintained.

Shuttlecock Not in Play:

If the shuttlecock is missed during the serve attempt, it is not considered in play, and a re-serve is not allowed. This counts as a fault and the opponent gains a point.

Specific Scenarios Leading to Illegal Serves in Badminton

To further elucidate what constitutes an illegal serve, let’s explore some specific scenarios:

Height Violation: A player serves by striking the shuttlecock above the waist level. Despite the player’s skill in delivering a powerful serve, this action breaches the rule concerning the height of the serve, making it illegal.

Incorrect Racket Angle: During a serve, the player’s racket head is positioned above their hand at the moment of contact with the shuttlecock. Even if the serve lands perfectly within the service court, this technicality makes the serve illegal.

Foot Fault: A server steps on or crosses the service line before striking the shuttlecock. This positional error leads to an illegal serve, giving the opponent the advantage.

Interrupted Serve Motion: A server starts the serving motion, hesitates, and then completes the serve. This break in continuous motion can confuse the opponent and is thus considered illegal.

Out of Sequence in Doubles: In a doubles match, Player A serves when it was actually Player B’s turn. Serving out of turn disrupts the sequence of play and is counted as an illegal serve.

Impact of Illegal Serves in Badminton

Illegal serves have significant implications for the flow and fairness of a badminton match. They can interrupt the rhythm of play, cause disputes, and potentially alter the outcome of a game. For the server, committing an illegal serve results in the loss of service and a point awarded to the opponent, which can be crucial in a closely contested match.

From the perspective of sportsmanship, consistently illegal serves can lead to frustration and tension between players. It is therefore essential for players to practice and adhere to proper serving techniques. For officials, vigilance in spotting illegal serves ensures that the match remains fair and within the rules.

See also   How To Play Badminton Singles Rules

Tips to Avoid Illegal Serves

To avoid committing illegal serves, players should focus on the following:

Practice Proper Technique: Regularly practicing the correct serving technique, including the right stance, grip, and motion, can help players internalize the rules and perform legal serves consistently.

Body Awareness: Players should develop a keen sense of their body position, particularly the height of their racket and the positioning of their feet. Using video analysis or feedback from coaches can be beneficial in refining their technique.

Consistent Motion: Players should practice delivering the serve in one smooth, continuous motion. Drills that emphasize rhythm and flow can help eliminate hesitations or interruptions during the serve.

Understanding the Rules: Players should thoroughly understand the serving rules and be aware of common mistakes that lead to illegal serves. Knowledge of the rules is as important as physical practice in ensuring fair play.

Pre-Serve Routine: Establishing a consistent pre-serve routine can help players maintain focus and execute the serve correctly. This routine can include checking their stance, grip, and racket position before initiating the serve.


In badminton, the serve is a critical component that sets the tone for each rally. Understanding and adhering to the rules governing the serve is essential for fair play and competitive integrity. Illegal serves, whether due to technical faults or rule violations, can disrupt the game and provide undue advantage. By focusing on proper technique, body awareness, and a thorough understanding of the rules, players can minimize the risk of committing illegal serves and contribute to a fair and enjoyable badminton match. For officials, vigilance in enforcing these rules ensures that the sport remains competitive and equitable for all participants.


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