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Singles Racquets Vs Doubles Racquets
July 17, 2011
5:25 pm
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sketchy
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How do you know if a racket will be better suited to singles or doubles play?

You could just read the marketing, but I think we all know that's rarely a good idea.

The conventional wisdom goes something like this:

* Doubles (level or mixed) is a faster-paced game than singles, with far more smashing, driving and aggressive net play.
The doubles player therefore requires a lighter, faster racket in order to execute and return these faster shots.

* Singles however, is a much slower-paced game, with far fewer smashes, drives and interceptions at the net. And if a smash is used, it's often to finish off a rally (so there's no possibility of returning it whatever racket you have), and often played into open space rather than into the body. All this means that speed and defense are not such a necessity.
The singles player therefore uses a heavier racket because it provides better control (vital in singles) and more easy power.

Of course, not everyone agrees with that:

Personally I don't think it makes sense to class a racket as (suitable) for singles or for doubles. The VT70 is, itself, a very good 'doubles' racket.” Matthew Seeley

The Voltric-70 is not light and it's not fast (maybe compared to other rackets of similar weight, but not in general terms) – nevertheless, for a certain kind of doubles player, it would be ideal.

In fact, almost any racket can be both a good singles racket and a good doubles racket – just not necessarily for the same person.

It should be pretty obvious that a player who speciliazes in speed around the net (the “Gail Emms-type”) is going to have very different requirements than a player who specializes in power from the rear of the court (the “Fu Haifeng-type”).

So, I've come up with my own little theory:

* In doubles, the players often have well-defined roles in the partnership. Through a combination of communication and proper strategy, the pair ensure that each is able to play to their own strengths, while covering the other's weaknesses.
The doubles player therefore uses a racket which will further enhance their greatest strengths – even if that means exacerbating a known weakness.
For example: The frontcourt specialist uses a lighter, faster racket; An aggressive rear-court specialist uses a heavier racket (perhaps even heavier than the average singles player) for greater power and accuracy.

* In singles however, you have no-one to cover your weaknesses. If a (smart) singles player identifies a weakness in their opponent's game, they are often able to focus on it, and devise a strategy to explot it. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and a singles player is only as strong as their weakest shot. Two singles players may be very evenly matched in virtually all respects, but if either has just a single significant weakness, the final score will often be very lop-sided.
The singles player therefore uses a racket which will ameliorate their greatest weaknesses – even if that means making a strong shot weaker.
For example: A player with a weak backhand clear might use a more flexible racket to improve it (even though this would make their forehand smashes less powerful).

Discuss… 🙂

July 17, 2011
6:50 pm
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Matthew Seeley
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sketchy – you have made some excellent points and i look forward to seeing what people have to say. You know my view already – I think if a player likes a certain type of racket, then that is good for playing BADMINTON, not singles or doubles 😀

 

As a slightly different line of thought to your strengths and weaknesses analysis, imagine this:

Fu Haifeng plays doubles with a very heavy racket. Why? Because his role in the partnership is to hit winners from the back. OR… because his strengths lie in hitting winners from the back and the racket enhances his natural game.

He now plays singles. You point out sensibly, that maybe he should choose a racket that covers some of his weaknesses – these can be exploited by an opponent. However… wouldn't that mean FHF is going away from his strengths? His strength lies in hitting powerful winners from the rear court. He is, presumably, going to play singles with a similarly aggressive style – trying to hit winners whenever his opponent lifts the shuttle, or he gets a chance to drive the shuttle. Whilst choosing a racket thats better for his defense may be sensible to cover weaknesses, will that stop him playing to his strengths – meaning he will lose anyway…

 

Lets consider his partner Cai yun, who perhaps plays with a lighter racket. when he plays singles, does he now want to play with a heavier racket to increase the pace of his smash? This is a different game style to the one he normally uses! I would imagine him as the lightning fast singles player who is always leaping forwards to attack the net and drive it at my body to cramp me. His normal racket is “best” for this style of play, changing rackets would encourage a different style perhaps?

 

This is just food for thought 🙂 the other side of your argument. I would see changing rackets almost as deciding to change your game style. Whats the point? If you like to play a certain “brand” of badminton, be it the flat and fast driving game, or the powerful rearcourt game, or the controlling rallying player etc… why would you choose to play a different way just because its singles or doubles? Obviously shot selection changes a bit, but presumably you are still looking to “win” using the same strengths you have now.

 

Something else I have just thought of, is why wouldn't Fu Haifeng choose to play doubles with a lighter racket to improve his defensive skills. He is now up agaisnt the world class attack of TWO opposing players, not just one. How can there possibly any place to hide your weaknesses in that scenario than in singles.

I know that there are many factors influencing this second point – styles of play can help “cover” each other etc, but again, this is just for people to get thinking – is singles REALLY that much different to doubles? Hmmm…

 

Good topic

 

Matt

July 17, 2011
11:05 pm
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Paul Stewart
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Interesting thoughts about choosing a racquet for doubles or singles.
 
Following the line of explanation earlier, there is a slight flaw. If most doubles players “should” use head light racquets because of the speed of the game, and/or enhance their greatest assets, then why is Boe using VT80? He has a poor defence so shouldn’t he use a head light racquet? His greatest asset is his net game so shouldn’t he use a head light racquet? Erm, this doesn’t compute.
 
At the end of the day, players spend a lot of time testing racquets and they decide which has the best feel for their overall game, without making their weaknesses stand out even more. They also look to further improve their strengths, otherwise there’s no point in changing from their existing racquet (unless they change sponsor).
 
Paul

July 18, 2011
12:13 am
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sketchy
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I really didn't want to talk about professional players.

I think all theories go out the window when you talk about pros – they're all over place with racquet selection. You have someone like Jenny Wallwork, playing mixed doubles with an AT900P, which can't be explained any other way than it just feels “right” to her. That's why I didn't want to use pros as examples – that's why I said “Gail Emms-type player” rather than “Gail Emms”.

I think at much lower levels – perhaps average club standard – it makes a lot more sense, because players actually often do have a very one-dimensional game. You see generally quite skilled players with one or two really significant weaknesses, and you also see players who are not very good overall, but have one or two shots that they can perform to a really high standard. You also see that changing a racquet can seriously affect the way these players play. While some professionals are better in certain areas than others, none really have a genuine weakness – they are all very, very good at everything, regardless of what racquet they use. 
They certainly don't need someone on an internet forum to tell them what racquet they should be using, so my explanation was aimed at the kind of people who might actually be reading this, looking for answers.

July 18, 2011
12:43 am
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Matthew Seeley
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sketchy: Thats fair enough about not using the professionals as an example. However, my reason still stands: why would YOU personally choose to play a different way in one discipline over another. Lets say you enjoy rallying and have an even balanced racket that helps you play drops and clears with accuracy. Why would it make sense for you to play a rallying style in singles or doubles and a different way in the other discipline?

 

To illustrate my point, lets go with the player you described earlier: he has a great club level smash but a weak backhand. A flexible racket gives him a bit more beef on the backhand, but, understandably, reduces his ability to smash. He is now playing singles against an opponent of similar standard (playing someone better – no amount of racket changing will save you). Why would this player, knowing his strength when he plays doubles is his smash, start playing in a way other than trying to set up your rally to demolish them with the killer smash.

This player starts the game with a “better” backhand clear, but at the expense of being able to win rallies. We have hence replaced this players strengths, his identity on a doubles court, with a weakness that is still a weakness, if not so bad as before. If that smart opponent pressurises that backhand, it will STILL break down sooner rather than later, despite changing the racket to help with the initial few backhands.

Furthermore: if the opponent is pretty smart and of a similar standard, I assume the player is also equally tactically able, and if this is the case, should be able to work out how, in singles against a single opponent, to outmanouvre and pressure him so much that he can't attack the backhand much, whilst creating opportunities to use the smash. If an opponent can attack a players weaknesses, then he should be able to attack his opponents weaknesses in kind, or impose his tactical and technical strengths on the match.

 

In my opinion, its the same, regardless of standard. The racket doesn't change your skills, strengths and weaknesses, it changes the game you are capable of executing. As far as I can tell, changing your racket to cover your weaknesses is not just going to make some shots better that aren't normally, at the expense of reducing your strengths, its going to force you to play in a different style – you take the smash away and add a backhand clear – you are now a rallier/defender, rather than an attacker. But your strength was in attacking? I don't think that makes sense!

In my opinion, every player has an identity, a style of play that is unique to them! They enjoy certain shots and are not so good at other things. They must be trying to win their rallies in a certain way, to match their identity – this is tactically sound! They have chosen a racket that helps them execute this game plan, enhances their identity. I believe that changing the racket changes the identity – the game plan must have changed. Instead of protecting the backhand, we are now happy to rally with it. I find that idea very confusing!

 

I still think you have made excellent points, but what I said (and what Paul said) applies perfectly well to many many club players. I know simon on this forum loves his VT70 for doubles, when, by all that you said, he shouldn't (just like Boe and his VT80). I love my VT80 for singles and doubles and mixed. I am a regular old club player too. Why should I worry about which event I am playing? I have one identity, with multiple (ever changing and updating) game plans.

 

Now that we have considered a “club” player, what do you think? Given we are talking about club players, I would imagine its even harder to imagine this player having mastered one “style” for singles and one for doubles. Perhaps you disagree that changing rackets changes your style? From a tactical point of view, I think it does!

 

This is a very good topic 🙂

Matt

July 18, 2011
2:50 am
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sketchy
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Matthew Seeley said:

To illustrate my point, lets go with the player you described earlier: he has a great club level smash but a weak backhand. A flexible racket gives him a bit more beef on the backhand, but, understandably, reduces his ability to smash.


This player is a lot like me actually.

I'm a very aggressive doubles player, who likes to use power from the back of the court (mixed-doubles is my favourite). I have good round-the-head shots, and in doubles I can usually avoid ever having to play a backhand clear under much pressure (which is why I've never really made a concerted effort to improve my backhand, since I don't often play singles) – why play a backhand clear when I can play a RTH smash?

For doubles, I like to use a fairly head-heavy and ultra stiff racquet (PP Ultra Pro), which is great for smashing. In singles though, if I'm playing someone who knows my game, they can can exploit my backhand quite easily, because it's not possible for me to position myself to both cover the net and play around-the-head shots in the opposite rear corner.

Now just from my own personal experience, I find a lighter, more flexible racquet (PP Precision) does greatly improve my backhand (it's not perfect, but it's not a weakness that can be easily exploited), and while my smash does suffer a bit, it's still adequate for singles. I also believe that even the most attacking singles player is not nearly as aggressive as an attacking doubles player – smashing almost every high shot is simply not an effective strategy in singles, even if smashing is your greatest strength as a doubles player. Similarly, not all strategies that work in singles are viable in doubles. I believe that the nature of the game forces you to play differently, and that a different racquet can help you to adapt (I guess this is kind of a chicken/egg question though).

Also, the main compromise in racquet selection is always between power (weight) and speed/defense (lightness). Singles actually doesn't require much of either (go back to my first post to see why) – the main requirement is for control, and for other skills which are not influenced by the racquet at all (footwork, endurance, deception, etc – still important in doubles, but arguably much less so). Having the wrong racquet can lose you a game, but having the right racquet can't win it for you (I'm exaggerating, but you get what I mean?). If you don't have any major weaknesses, you can use almost any racquet for singles (including the same racquet you use for doubles), whereas in doubles there are greater advantages to be gained by using a racquet that suits your style of play.

I don't know much about your style/level of play (or Simon's), but if you're fairly well-rounded players, using the same racquet for different disciplines doesn't really conflict with what I've said. It may well be that you'd play slightly better singles (or doubles) with a different racquet, but this advantage would be outweighed by the negatives of switching racquets each time you play (so you never truly adapt to either).

It's very interesting to hear your opinions though. 🙂

July 18, 2011
9:58 am
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I think this is a very interrsting discussion.

 

The difficulty in stereotyping is that we all like what we like for different reasons. Some players cannot use the same racquet for each event they play. Others need the consistency of one racquet and prefer an identical spare.

 

I’ve seen ladies at club and league level preferring the head heavy Armortec racquets over Nanospeed range, despite the fact they play mixed doubles most of the time. I’ve seen very strong guys with good technique using Nanospeed racquets because they don’t like head heavy racquets, and yet they have appalling defences and net game. I’ve seen great defenders using head heavy racquets and they have a poor overhead. What a mix.

 

I do think it’s fair to make a generalisation about racquet choice, however I think we have to concede it’s just that. Personal preferences may not follow the thinking process behind these generalisations. Also, some players do not have the opportunity to play with a different racquet for long enough to get past the “this feels weird” part and into “well, actually my smash has now improved” etc. If you really wish to test an alternative racquet, the best way is to take it on court for an hour or so and then make a decision.

 

Paul

July 18, 2011
12:18 pm
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Matthew Seeley
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sketchy: you have given a brilliant answer!

 

If we can go back to your game with the backhand and the smash, you have highlighted the difference in our thought process extremely well! when you are playing your singles, you feel your smash is good enough because of your control and placement with a touch less power. You feel this smash is fine for singles, but not powerful enough in doubles, where you can get away with not using the backhand too much, hence the switch in racket makes sense, given you are not playing as aggresively in a singles. This is the point at which we differ. Whilst I agree smashing everything that comes high enough is risky business, I also know that my opponent is probably worried about me smashing. He knows my game, he understands the smash is big and well controlled. Thus, I have put the fear in him already! When an overhead shot comes, I could smash 1 in 5 (and use a variety of drops and punch clears) but he would STILL be worrying about that killer smash, maybe to the point that he starts making errors, lifting out, net shots too tight etc.

 

This is the interesting difference! A player who knows our strengths and weaknesses is either going to exploit our weaknesses OR we are going to impose our strengths on the game enough to counteract the threat of him winning 2 or 3 points agaisnt our weak backhand. I argue that if he is able to exploit us, he is probably faster than us, and perhaps more accurate with his shots.

 

In your scenario however, you highlight a combination of “weaknesses” – the slightly weaker backhand, AND the feeling you can't get the shuttle around the head effectively in a game scenario (because of what you said about the positioning). You KNOW that you will HAVE to play a different way. You haven't chosen it, but your particular skillset means you have little choice against a skilled opponent. I now agree with you about changing the racket – because your racket isn't just helping that backhand (in itself, not necessarily what it needs to do) but it helps the backhand GIVEN you will HAVE to play an unusually high number of backhands because of footwork that is suited more to doubles (where you are fine moving side to side) than singles (which is more backwards and forwards). You have understood this about your game, and come up with a sensible solution.

 

The other side of the story is that you change your racket to cover up your weaker backhand, but because you have sublime footwork and speed, you take everything round the head. Does it still make sense to change racket? Not for the same reason.

 

sketchy: this is a very good discussion 🙂 ultimately, i feel its a personal choice. From what you've told me, I can entirely understand why someone prefers a certain racket in different disciplines! However, I still feel that there is no such things as a doubles racket and a singles racket. There IS such thing as someones preference for a certain racket in one event compared to the other however.

 

Out of interest, do you play mixed? Do you choose a different racket for mixed? Or you use the singles racket? Or the doubles racket? Presumably this comes down to how many backhands you are having to play in that particular game?

 

Matt

July 18, 2011
1:25 pm
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sketchy
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 “This is the interesting difference! A player who knows our strengths and weaknesses is either going to exploit our weaknesses OR we are going to impose our strengths on the game enough to counteract the threat of him winning 2 or 3 points agaisnt our weak backhand. I argue that if he is able to exploit us, he is probably faster than us, and perhaps more accurate with his shots.”

 As always, I think it's a little more complicated than that. I think a player who is average at everything should generally beat a player who's great at some things and bad at others (I think being a well-rounded player is an advantage in itself). I also think there can be kind of a rock-paper-scissors effect with different styles of play. I quite often see a scenario where B beats A, C beats B, but C loses to A.

“However, I still feel that there is no such things as a doubles racket and a singles racket. There IS such thing as someones preference for a certain racket in one event compared to the other however.”

 I agree completely.

“Out of interest, do you play mixed? Do you choose a different racket for mixed? Or you use the singles racket? Or the doubles racket? Presumably this comes down to how many backhands you are having to play in that particular game?”

Around two-thirds of the games I play are mixed doubles, and it's the discipline I most enjoy. I normally use the same racquet as for level doubles (the heavier, stiffer one) – with backhands not normally a problem.

 

Paul:
I accept that it's a generalization, and as such, there will be a lot of times when it won't be accurate.
However, here in the UK, shops generally don't let you demo racquets before you buy, and most players don't have a coach who can look at their game and recommend something. If they're lucky, they might have borrowed a few of their friends' racquet (probably strung at all different tensions) for two or three games to see what they think, or maybe just swung a racquet in a store (that's if you can even get them to remove the security tags). Basically though, players are deciding how much they're prepared to spend, and then picking a racquet close to that price, based on little more than guesswork.
Surely a generalization is better than nothing here?

July 18, 2011
1:52 pm
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Matthew Seeley
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Thanks for the response sketchy! I have enjoyed this topic 🙂 I agree that things regarding styles and skillsets tend to be very complicated. Interesting to know that you don't have a problem with the backhand in mixed 🙂

I look forwards to hearing what other people think about all this. Is there such thing as a doubles racket or a singles racket? Should players be choosing a racket to enhance their strengths or cover their weaknesses? Does it matter which event they play?

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