Having only ever played badminton casually, I have often wondered what the differences between tennis and badminton really are. Both sports being racquet sports, I was sure there would be mainly similarities but wondered what the main differences were. Since my experience was mainly with badminton, I set out to research tennis and what I didn’t know about badminton to compare the two games.
Tennis vs. badminton. At their core, both tennis and badminton are racquet games, but the differences in scoring and mechanics are more pronounced than the similarities. Tennis has more complicated scoring, while badminton has more popularity as a casual sport.
To really understand the differences between the two sports, we have to take a closer look at how each is actually played.
What Are the Main Differences?
When I set out to figure out the similarities between tennis and badminton, I was surprised to find that the two sports are more different than they were alike. I had assumed that both sports being a racquet sport there couldn’t be that much of a difference, but everything from how they score the games, the rules, even just point scoring, to the speeds seemed to have what seemed like a small difference but added up to be two very separate and unique games.
The table below shows some of the basic differences and similarities between tennis and badminton:
|Number of Players||Two or four||Two or four|
|Longer and smaller racquets|
|Scoring Games||Scored in Games, Sets, and Matches||Scored as best of three games.|
|Origination||Birmingham, England in the 1800s||British Indian colonies around the mid to late 1800s|
|Court Dimensions||Singles – 78 ft x 27 ft|
Doubles – 78 ft x 36 ft
|Singles – 44 ft x 17 ft|
Doubles – 44 ft x 20 ft
Even when looking at their origin, both games have some differences. Tennis was believed to have developed from a game made popular in France initially, even made popular by King Louis X of France. This original game eventually evolved into the game we are more familiar with sometime in the mid-1800s. It was around this time that the first tennis club was also created. The documentation of where the game came about is slightly clearer than badminton.
Badminton is assumed to have originated from other similar games like battledore or shuttlecock, but there wasn’t as direct history for badminton until the late 1800s, but under a different name, Poona. The name was based on a town in British India where the game became popular and was the site where the original rules were documented but were amended to more like the game we see today in the later 1800s.
The difference in tennis getting its foundations in the French and English courts versus badminton getting its start in a less formal environment may explain why the scoring and match structure took on a more complex scoring structure, and badminton maintained a simpler method of scoring.
To understand where the rest of the differences in the two games were, I had to take a much closer look at exactly how a match worked for each and some of the mechanics of the games. Given the differences in the equipment that is used, it became much more apparent the two games had their distinct styles, and that beyond both using a type of racquet and offering singles or doubles version of gameplay, that was where most of the similarities ended.
How Does a Match of Tennis Work?
At its core, gameplay for tennis revolves around opposing players, or teams of two players (doubles) alternating service on opposite sides of the net. The server will hit the ball over the net and attempt to have it cross diagonally across the court. The court is divided into sections, with each side having a service line. When serving, the ball must cross the opposing side’s service line for the service to count.
Once the service is good, the play then moves to a rally where the players alternate hitting the ball. In tennis, the ball cannot bounce twice, on their side of the net, and cannot be hit twice on the respective player’s sides of the net. A point is scored when a team or player fails to send a legal hit or return.
One of the things that most people find difficult to understand about tennis is the scoring structure. Something that people who aren’t even familiar with is the saying “Game, Set, Match.” To help explain it, I have it broken down a little more clearly:
- A match consists of several sets, generally best of three for women’s and best of five for men’s.
- A set consists of several games, where the service (the team/player who serves) alternates.
- Within the set, one player must be leading by at least six and leading the other by two-game wins.
- There is an additional set of rules for a tie-break when the set score ends up six to six, which allows one more game, where the winner will then win the match.
- A game consists of scoring four times, though the points scale from 0 (or “love”), 15, 30, and 40.
- If both players have scored (making the match 40-40), the match is considered “deuce.”
- The score is always called with the server’s score read first. For example, if the server had scored one point, and the opponent none, it would be read as 15-Love.
Relate: Tennis 101: How to Play Tennis
How Does a Game of Badminton Work?
Badminton consists of similarly singles players or doubles players on opposite sides of the net alternating service as well. Instead of a ball, a smaller shuttlecock is used, usually, with feathers or a net attached, which causes more drag. Because of this, the hits in badminton can gain more speed than tennis because of the types of speed that can be generated.
In the event a game that is tied at 20 points to 20 points, the gameplay will continue until one of the teams has at least a 2 point lead on the other. This continues unless the game reaches 29 points to each side. At that point, the game will go to a golden point where the next team to score wins.
A match of badminton is played in sets of best out of three games. Teams or players alternate service from one to the other. A service must cross from the server’s side of the court across the net without touching the net and across the service line on the opposite team’s side of the court. Play then continues with each team hitting the shuttlecock back and forth in a rally. Points are scored if the shuttlecock touches the ground in bounds on the opposite team’s side or is hit out of bounds by the opposite team.
The racquets used in badminton are smaller in size of the racquet itself but have a longer handle and are much lighter weight. This length and style of racquets give many more options and range for the players to use different hit methods, whereas tennis, you have the two basic options of forehanded or backhanded hits.
How to Choose Which Sport is Right for You
One of the factors that many people often ask themselves is which of these two sports would be right for them. If you are strictly looking for a pastime, badminton is much easier to play in casual settings like at the beach and backyards as there is no requirement to have a firm court for bouncing a ball, like there is with tennis.
If you are looking for a sport that may be more widely recognized, tennis may be the preferred option. While badminton clubs do exist, and it is a recognized Olympic sport, it is not as often recognized. From a collegiate standpoint, tennis has a more widely recognized presence than badminton does.
For anyone who has difficulties with their wrists, the lighter weight racquets that are used in badminton are much easier on the player, as well as the lighter weight shuttlecocks. Additionally, the long reach of the racquet means that there is often less running than what is seen in most tennis matches.
Either way, both sports do have the benefit of being able to be played casually or in professional settings.