How To Play With A Weaker Partner In Doubles (Badminton) – 6 Tips

If you’re playing against a doubles pair where one player is a lot weaker than the other, you’re probably going to try and hit the majority of your shots to the weaker player. This means that if you’re the same situation, your opponents will likely do the same to you!

When playing with a weaker doubles partner in badminton, it is important to get your partner to the net as much as you can, and ensure you cover more of the court, play intelligent shots where the reply will likely come back to you, and communicate with/encourage your partner.

We understand that it may be frustrating at times, but getting annoyed isn’t going to help the situation, so here are 6 tips on how to still win badminton matches even when you’re playing with someone worse than you!

Tip 1: Get Your Partner To The Net

It is very common to see players forcing the weaker player to the back of the court as they will likely get a weaker reply and therefore win more points – so you want to try and get your partner to the front as much as you can!

how to play with a weaker partner in doubles badminton 6 tips
Front-back formation: S represents the stronger player, W represents the weaker player

It’s better to be in this front-back formation (with the weaker player at the net) as:

  • It’s generally easier at the net as these shots require a shorter swing and often less power/skill.
  • It’s harder for your opponents to keep hitting to the net because they are more likely to play a loose shot (which makes it easier for your partner), or they have to play it really tight, which means they have a higher chance of making a mistake.

How can you get into this formation?

  • When you’re side by side, you can play a block into space on the court and your partner can move forwards to the net straight away. Most players will play a lift from this shot, so the shuttle will likely go to you. And if they do try and play to your partner at the net, there is a higher chance of it being a looser shot, which your partner can hopefully kill and win the rally!
  • When you are returning the serve, reach it as early as you can and hit them down your side of the court, then move backwards straight away with your partner moving forwards. If you play a good quality return of serve, it will be very difficult for your opponents to play the shuttle cross court over your partner’s head.

💡 If your weaker partner is returning the serve, they can return to the net and stay at the net. It’s your job to encourage them to do this!

Tip 2: Cover More Of The Court

Covering more of the court means you will play more shots and therefore (hopefully) win more points as a result. 

When you’re in a defensive position (i.e. side by side), you need to have an agreement with your partner that you’ll take everything down the middle, and they’ll just need to get anything around their body or tramline.

how to play with a weaker partner in doubles badminton 6 tips 1
Defensive coverage: S represents the stronger player, W represents the weaker player

This graphic may of course slightly change depending on where your opponents are playing their shot from.

💡 We wouldn’t advise doing this defensive formation if you’re playing with someone of a similar standard to you as you can get much better coverage defending the ‘right’ way!

Tip 3: Play More Intelligent Shots

Playing more intelligent shots in badminton will help you to:

  • Set yourself and your partner up to win more rallies.
  • Be more in control of the game.
  • Minimise your partner’s weaknesses.

Here are 3 examples of how you can play more intelligent shots (from easiest to hardest):

1. If you NEED to lift, DON’T lift cross court. If you’re playing with a weaker partner it will be more difficult for them to defend a straight smash because they have less time to react, as the shuttle is travelling a shorter distance. Playing a straight lift instead will help to keep more of the attacking shots going to you, and also give you the best possibility of covering these attacking shots.

💡 For a similar reason, you should also aim to hit straight shots in your attack too, for example when driving or smashing.

2. Don’t play hard shots from the mid-court. This can expose a lot of gaps in the court as your partner might not be good or fast enough, or read the game well enough to cover you. Instead, you should play more controlled shots, especially to the middle or between your opponents to create indecision and reduce the angles they can play. Of course if you are in a good position to play a winning shot with a hard drive then you should still play this shot!

3. Drive or smash to an awkward position where it’s really hard to hit it cross court to your weaker partner. For example, to the right hip for right handers or the left hip for left handers. This is more advanced than the previous 2 examples but will really help you control more of the rallies. 

how to play with a weaker partner in doubles badminton 6 tips 2
Arrow pointing to the right hip (for right handers)

Tip 4: Dominate The Serve And Return

If you are the better player, you are likely to have a better serve and return of serve. So, to dominate the serve and return, you can:

  1. Play to both of your strengths. For example, if your weaker partner has a good serve then you would let them serve first, or you would return first.
  2. Try and win the point in the first 3 shots as this is a great opportunity to win the rally without your partner even hitting the shot (without being too reckless of course)!

💡 Don’t try and change your partner’s serve and return too much during the match as it can lower their confidence. Try letting them do their favourite serve and return and you as the stronger player can work around this.

Tip 5: Communicate With Your Partner During Rallies

Communicating with your partner during the rallies will help you avoid confusion and that horrible moment of the shuttle landing in the middle between you and your partner!

It’s important to shout ‘yours’ or ‘mine’ during rallies. And as the stronger player, you’ll likely have more confidence on court, so don’t be afraid to take the lead on this. Doing this will help you always know who is taking which shot, making playing together a lot easier! 

Tip 6: Encourage Your Partner

We know it can be frustrating to play with a weaker partner, but constantly waving your arms or rolling your eyes when they miss a shot will most likely make them feel bad and therefore play worse!

So try to accept that they are weaker than you and don’t put loads of pressure on them. Instead, you can use the tips we’ve mentioned here to try and use your strengths to your advantage!

Having a positive attitude towards your partner can:

  • Enhance their creativity. Since they feel more relaxed, they will have more confidence to try different shots rather than only playing safe and predictable shots.
  • Improve their ability to process information, which can help them develop and implement tactics a lot better, therefore strengthening your partnership!

Learn More

We hope these 6 tips have helped you when playing with a less skilled or weaker partner in doubles, so that you can go into each game with a clear plan of how to make the most of your strengths and avoid your partner’s weaknesses!

We have also made a YouTube video on this same topic, so if you’d prefer to see more visual explanations of each tip, you can watch the full video below!