The drive can be a useful tool in your arsenal depending on your style of play and what’s going on in the game. Drives aren’t a common singles shot; nevertheless, you need to know whether to initiate a drive war, and how to respond to drives from your opponent. If you find that most of your rallies involve drives, then your singles tactics are probably fundamentally flawed. This kind of play is common when doubles players transfer to singles.

So you should know when to play drives. Before you play a drive, you must be aware of your position. How well can you cover the response? Assuming your opponent can reach the drive, he or she will usually have the option to play a drive: drives invite your opponent to drive back! Before initiating this battle, make sure you have a good chance to win it. Even if you can play your drive downwards, this may not be enough to justify the risk. It’s like playing a very weak smash, and your opponent has a good chance to redirect the shuttle into the open space on your court. The best time to play a drive is when you are balanced and in a good position, while your opponent is off balance and has not yet recovered to a central base on the court. This most commonly occurs after they play a smash.

Where should you place your drives?

When possible, you should place drives into the open space, away from your opponent. If you can make they reach the shuttle late or at full stretch, then they’re likely to play a weak reply shot. When attacking from the net against a centrally positioned opponent, drives are usually best played directly at the body. This will make it difficult for them to return the shuttle, because they cannot get their racquet into an effective hitting position. You can also try hitting drives to the sidelines, but beware: if it’s within reach of your opponent’s desperate swing, they may steal the point with a counter-drive! After your opponent’s smash, drives should be directed away from them. Attacking the body doesn’t work here, because the shuttle will be travelling upwards. So after the straight smashes, your drives should go cross-court; and after their cross-court smashes, your drives should go straight.

How should you respond to drives

If you find yourself frequently receiving drives in singles, then you’re doing something wrong. You should not allow your opponent the opportunity to play many drives! The most common shot to counter a drive is another drive. Try not to do this, however, unless you believe you can win the resultant drive war! Look for opportunities to play a lift, or block the shuttle to the net. Both these shots can be played with two different tactical purposes: to create an attack, or to neutralise the situation. If you think you can attack successfully, make your lifts flat and, if possible, aim for the corner farther from your opponent. Similarly, try to play your blocks towards the farther net corner. When attempting to neutralise the situation, play both lifts and net shots towards the centre, and play your lifts high.

These techniques and tricks are just a guide. To achieve success you need to practice the drive shot many different ways, in different situations. And of course the more shots and techniques you have in your arsenal the better player you’ll be. Happy driving!