Are Side Arm Serves Legal in Badminton: In tennis, squash, and table tennis, you’ll often see this as the default. In most other forms of racquet sports, an overhand serve is acceptable. In racquet sports, executing a solid serve might be the deciding factor.
When learning how to play Badminton, most people’s first inclination is to try serving under their arm. The shuttlecock must travel over the net, thus an underarm serve seems reasonable.
But that begs the question, is it possible to do an overhand serve in Badminton? The BWF now provides two sets of rules for the sport of badminton following a regulation change in 2018.
This is the new and different set of guidelines. When using the alternate ruleset, overhand serves are prohibited. Technically, under the new rulebook, you can; nevertheless, doing so is not recommended.
But why is an overhand serve forbidden in Badminton? What’s the distinction between the new and the other sets of rules? Let’s take a better look.
Are Side Arm Serves Legal in Badminton: Badminton’s Serving Regulations
Badminton’s serving regulations are spelled out in the sport’s governing statutes, which may be accessed at the BWF website. The regulations can appear daunting to a first-time player, but they quickly become second nature.
Some ground rules have been established to ensure that the server and the receiver both get off to a level playing field. We’ll focus on the ones that are directly relevant to our discussion here: the reasons you can’t serve overhand.
The BWF presently provides two sets of rules that outline the regulations for the sport of badminton. Both the existing ruleset and a proposed new set of rules. This resulted from a change in the laws regarding service that was enacted in March of 2018.
When the racket hits the shuttle, the entire shuttle must be below the server’s waist, according the new regulation at 9.1.6.a. A server’s waist is defined as the imaginary horizontal line that passes through the centre of his or her body at the level of the server’s lowest ribs.
Since the shuttlecock must be held below the player’s waist, breaking this rule would disallow an overhand serve.
When the rules were changed, they left out law 9.1.6.b, which stated that “the shaft and the racket head of the server’s racket at the instant of hitting the shuttle shall be oriented in a downward direction.”
Due to this regulation, serving overhand is no longer an option as the racquet must be held in a downward position.
Both of these regulations are now part of the Badminton alternate legislation. All other provisions of the Laws of Badminton remain in effect and are superseded exclusively by these rules.
As of the moment the shuttle is struck by the server’s racket, the whole thing must be no more than 1.15 metres above the court surface, under the new Rule 9.1.6. Since the height of 1.15 metres may now be measured, the validity of the rule is under question. Disagreements arose during matches due to the fact that players’ waist sizes varied widely.
The legislation that specifies “the flight of the shuttle shall be upward from the server’s racket to pass above the net so that, if not intercepted, it shall land in the receiver’s service court (that is, on or inside the boundary lines)” remains unchanged.
Because the shuttlecock has to go up before it can go out, there is another challenge to serving overhand. Almost no overhand serve can be made without breaking this rule.
Why do We Need to Restrict Behaviour in this Way?
The goal of these rulesets is to ensure that both the server and the receiver have a level playing field once the rally begins. The server would always have an unfair edge without them.
For example, being unable to serve overarm eliminates players being able to just play a smash as their serve from the net which would be impossible to return. Combined with the law that stipulates the shuttle has to move upwards first implies the server is in control of the shuttle but the receiver is in control of the answering shot.
If the server serves well it should make the return tough or at least controllable. And if the server serves poorly the receiver had a chance to take the initiative.
Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s a pair of Malaysian brothers, Rashid and Misbun Sidek, invented a serve which would go on to be termed the S-serve. They’ve become famous in the world of Badminton for their successes both on the court as players and off the court as coaches.
The S-serve was devised by the two and was later prohibited by the BWF for providing an undue advantage. The serve entailed hitting the shuttlecock by the feathers instead of the cork.
This would force the shuttlecock to spin uncontrollably and perform erratically as it was coming over the net. This made it almost impossible to return. This lead to the BWF creating the regulation that specifies you must hit the base of the shuttlecock first.