The aim of this fast-moving and exciting sport is to hit the shuttlecock with a lightweight racket so that it passes over the net and lands inside the opponent's court.
Unlike other net sports, badminton uses a shuttlecock instead of a ball. A shuttlecock is an open conical object formed by goose feathers embedded in a rounded cork base. The speed at which this projectile moves is higher than in any other racket sport.
Badminton became an official sport at the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games. The competition at Tokyo 2020 will consist of men's and women's singles, men's and women's doubles, and mixed doubles.
A match consists of best-of-three games, with the first player or pair to reach 21 points winning the game. If the score is 20-all, the side that gains a two-point lead wins that game. If the difference is less than two, the game continues until the two-point difference is achieved. If the score gets to 29-all, the side that reaches 30 first wins the game.
A match is won by winning two games. Either the server or receiver can win a point by winning the rally.
In singles events, players are divided into 12-16 groups of three to four players each for a series of round-robin matches. The top-ranked player in each group then advances to the round-of-16.
In doubles, players are divided into four round-robin groups of four. The two top-ranked pairs in each group then progress to the quarterfinals.
- Singles (Men/Women)
- Doubles (Men/Women)
- Mixed Doubles
Essence of the sport
A test of strategy as well as skill
Players aim to win points with a variety of tactics, incorporating attack, defence, deception and extended rallies. Subtle ‘drop shots’ are played at the net to force opponents out of position. Hard attacking shots such as smashes are used to try to win points outright.
High-level players typically anticipate two or three strokes ahead as they play. This mental battle to outwit an opponent is one of the most enthralling aspects of the sport.
In the singles game, it's important to move an opponent around the court to create open space into which the shuttlecock can be hit. In doubles, competitors play at a dizzying pace as they rotate from attack to defence and back again.
In doubles, the weakest player may come under sustained attack, placing the focus on their ability to return powerful shots from the opposing player.
Outlook for the Tokyo 2020 Games
Badminton's Asian strength
People's Republic of China have long enjoyed a deep pool of badminton talent to draw from. The country has won a total of 18 gold medals — the most by any nation. At London 2012, People's Republic of China won all five titles.
Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia (where badminton is the national sport) and Denmark are also traditionally strong contenders. The power balance has significantly changed in recent years, with Japan emerging as a power in the sport, while players from countries/regions like Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong (China), Thailand and India can also be found high in the rankings.
In the men's singles, Kento Momota (JPN) has dominated over the last two years; his main challengers are Shi Yu Qi (CHN), Anthony Ginting (CHN), Viktor Axelsen (DEN) and Anders Antonsen (DEN). In women’s singles, Chen Yu Fei (CHN) has emerged in recent months, followed closely by Tai Tzu Ying (TPE). Others, like Carolina Marin (ESP), Akane Yamaguchi (JPN), Nozomi Okuhara (JPN), Ratchanok Intanon (THA) and Pusarla V Sindhu (IND), are also strong contenders.
China, Indonesia, Korea and Japan are the strongest teams in the paired events. The period after Rio 2016 saw the retirement of many senior players, so Tokyo 2020 will see many young pairs in action.
The line judge covers her eyes with both hands to signal to the umpire that she wasn't able to see where the shuttlecock landed. If the umpire is also unable to make a call, the play is treated as "a let", the play since the last service shall not count and the player who served shall serve again.