From 15x3 to 7x5 to 21x3: Evolution of badminton scoring system over the years

In the new system that has been proposed, players will contest five games and the first to get to 11 points wins.

In an attempt to attract a new audience to the sport through broadcasters, Badminton World Federation is toying with the idea of tweaking the rules ones again. Some of the changes that BWF may include in the near future is a new points-scoring system and the reduction in on-court coaching. Long matches and a supposed slide in intensity during the middle phase of the game is said to have set the alarm bells ringing.

The proposal got a mixed response from the badminton community but altering the rulebook has happened in the past too. In the era where franchise sport is ruling the roost, changes were inevitable. But this is nothing new as every sport is jostling for space on television. Here’s a look back at how the game evolved over the decades.

The beginning – 15x3 and 11x3

In the original scoring system that was devised, the match was decided in a best-of-three, 15-point battle for men’s and all doubles fixtures. In the case of women’s singles matches, the first player to get to 11 points won. In this format, only the person serving could win a point. If the receiver won the point, only the serve would change hands but no point would be added to any players tally.

If the score reached 13-all in a 15-game match, the player reaching 13 points first had the option of “setting” or directly going for the win by playing for 15. If they pick “set”, the score moved back to 0-0, and whoever secured five points first took the game. If the score reached 14-all, the player reaching 14 first would again have the option to “set” or play straight through to 15 points.

The 2002 revolution – 7x5

The legendary Taufik Hidayat in action during 2001 | Picture courtesy: Reuters
The legendary Taufik Hidayat in action during 2001 | Picture courtesy: Reuters

With the running time of matches becoming a growing concern for the world federation, a plan was put in place for the matches to be decided in a best-of-five-game contest. The first player to get to seven points won. Here, the set rules were decided on the virtue of who got to six points first, when the score was at 6-all. Players could also set up to eight points. But the format would go on to be scrapped after the Commonwealth Games in 2002. The matches continued to stretch on.

Shifting to rally point system – 21x3

The World Championships final between PV Sindhu and Nozomi Okuhara lasted for a mind-boggling 110 minutes | Picture courtesy: Reuters
The World Championships final between PV Sindhu and Nozomi Okuhara lasted for a mind-boggling 110 minutes | Picture courtesy: Reuters

In the beginning of 2006, the season started with a new set of rules. This time, the men and the women’s players were playing three games of 21 points each for victory. One of the main talking points here was the rally point scoring, which awarded a point to the player who won it, irrespective of who served. The tie-breaker rules were also fine tuned: out went the Sets. Now, there had to be a two-point difference for a game to be won in case of a tie-breaker.

The other major change was in the doubles. In the earlier system, both players in the combination served before it changed hands. But in the 21-point system, serve changes immediately after the pair serving lost a rally.

Proposed scoring system – 11x5

It was back in 2014 that the BWF first introduced a 11x5 scoring system on an experimental basis. Players can win games by a 11-10 margin unlike the two-point cushion that is required in a 21-point encounter. Many tournaments, including Grand Prix Gold events, have already experimented with the format, most notably in the Premier Badminton League – the franchise-based tournament has gone with a 11-point and 15-point set-up.

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