By Elliot Wong
So, you have played badminton all your life and would like to try out a new sport for a change ( preferably something played outdoors, since all those years of running around in a sports hall have left your skin rather fair.)
You log on to Instagram and looked at all the other sports your buddies are playing and you come across a photo of Roger Federer, looking all suave and handsome, hitting tennis balls like nothing back and forth.
“How hard could it possibly be?” you casually think to yourself. “After all, Tennis is also played with a racket.” And that is where the similarities begin to end
Important differences between badminton and tennis
The two sports are often compared to each other, since they are both played on a court, split in half by a net, with players on each side hitting projectiles back and forth using rackets. However, there are several key differences between each sport that may make it difficult for someone who is used to playing badminton to pick up tennis.
Shuttlecock vs tennis ball
One of the most obvious differences between the two sports is that badminton is played with a shuttlecock, while tennis is played with a tennis ball. A quick look at both projectiles will reveal just how differently each of them functions in each game.
For one, the streamlined shape and lightness of a shuttle cock makes it aerodynamically stable, allowing for it to be hit at much faster speeds than a round and heavier tennis ball.
To put this into perspective, The Guinness Book of World Records shows that the fastest a shuttlecock has been shot in a men’s badminton game went up to 426 km/h, as opposed to the fastest speed of a tennis ball in a men’s tennis game being only 263 km/h.
Besides this, a tennis ball can bounce only once before the point is lost, while in badminton, the shuttlecock cannot touch the ground. These two differences immediately change the way each game is played in several ways.
The slower speed of the tennis ball, along with the concession of one bounce, makes for a less agile game overall.
Players used to intense games of sprinting back and forth, trying to catch shuttlecocks at all costs, may find that tennis offers a surprising change of pace. Less emphasis is placed on instinctive, quick time movements.
Instead, there is more focus on positioning your body favorably to receive the ball and executing the right technique to return it.
Size of the court
Having said that, tennis is by no means a sport to be taken at a slow pace. Tennis courts are far bigger in size than badminton courts, as shown in the table below.
Size of court in metres –
Length / Breadth – Singles / Doubles
Tennis 23.77 / 8.23 / 10.97
Badminton 13.4 / 5.18 / 6.1
The larger size of a tennis court means that the area in which tennis balls can land is wider, and as a result, players will have to move further distances area to receive the ball.
Tennis courts have what is known as the “no man’s land”, which is the area of the court between the baseline and the service line that most tennis balls will land in.
One common strategy tennis players employ is to stay behind the baseline to get ready to receive the ball from the opponent. At first glance, you might be deceived into thinking that tennis players would have an easier time predicting where the ball will land, given that such a zone does not exist in badminton, and receiving the shuttlecock is often a mad rush of lightning reflexes.
However, this is certainly not the case, as the larger size of the tennis court means that even when running along the baseline, players will still have to run a fair bit to receive the ball, making the prediction more complex.
To add to the complexity of the game, tennis players often execute volleys, a stroke used to receive the tennis ball near the net before it lands on the ground in order to reduce the amount of time your opponent has to return the ball.
In such cases, you may have to run into the service box (the area in front of the no man’s land) to return the ball early. While the direction of movement may resemble that of netting in badminton, once again, you will need to run a further distance to move closer to the net due to the larger size of the court.
Furthermore, because a tennis ball is heavier than a shuttlecock, the ball will travel with a lot more force, and thus, as Newton’s third law of motion suggests, tennis players must likewise apply more force into returning a heavier and more powerful tennis ball to successfully execute a volley, especially one that has not bounced off the floor.
The difference between a volley and a net is but one of the many examples of how badminton and tennis can be so alike and yet worlds apart given the different physical elements present in each game.
Which leads us to the main hurdle that badminton players struggle to overcome when learning tennis:
Differences in technique
Beyond minor issues like rule sets, scoring systems, and going from playing in a stuffy hall to a large court that exposes you to the elements (including haze), the deal breaker in answering the article’s title is whether you can get used to the techniques employed in tennis and, more importantly, execute them without letting your old badminton habits get in the way.
As established earlier, the fact that a tennis ball is heavier and round in shape, compared to a lighter and aerodynamic shuttlecock, means that more force needs to be exerted in hitting it.
Hence, tennis strokes are executed by partially locking wrists during contact with the ball and letting loose thereafter to follow through with the shot.
This is very different from how hitting a shuttlecock is mostly dependent on the flicking of your wrist. For many badminton players, such muscle memory can be extremely hard to forget.
Personally, I found myself flicking my tennis racquet a lot when I initially picked up tennis and hated it when I was told to lock my wrist, as though my forearm was an extension of the racquet itself.
The fact that the tennis racquet weighed heavier than the badminton racquets I was used to did not help either, and I found that my forearm was easily tired from just a few rounds of hitting the ball back and forth.
Apart from wrist locking, a lot of preparation goes into every tennis shot. Before the tennis ball even reaches the player’s side of the court, one will need to run to receive the ball and get ready to return it.
Because tennis balls travel with more power, you will need to prepare a myriad of stances. A lot more lateral movement is also needed in the upper body to add power to the shot.
The stances keep the player grounded, while the lateral movement allows the upper body to act as a pivot, a description more reminiscent of martial arts than badminton, which, on the other hand, can feel more like a game of whack-a-mole.
The lightning speed of a shuttlecock demands more instinctive, agile movement, whereas tennis balls require more speed, power, and preparation.
So… should I pick up tennis?
Well, that really depends on what you want out of the sport. If what you’re looking for is a nice change of pace, or just to have fun with your tennis playing friends, go ahead. Just don’t expect it to be a walk in the park just because tennis is also a racquet sport.
Very few people can claim that they are good at both sports, even though the thought of trying has most certainly crossed many of our minds. Though one can train very hard to learn new skills, a leopard rarely changes its spots, and likewise, the old habits of badminton die hard.
Sometimes you may be unable to smash the ball because your wrist instinctively bends. Sometimes you may forget that a backhand requires both hands and end up giving yourself tennis elbow. Or sometimes your hand just gets tired of holding such a heavy racket and running under the hot sun.
All these are obstacles that you may face when attempting to pick up this new sport.
And yet, it never hurts to try.
Master your game from the inside out!
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W. Timothy Gallwey, a leading innovator in sports psychology, reveals how to
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