The Differences Between Tennis & Badminton

Young woman playing tennis, elevated view

Other than being played with rackets on a court or grassy area with a net, tennis and badminton have little in common. Some differences are dictated by the rules of each sport while others, such as subtle strategic and technical differences, can best be understood by athletes who play both. Even if you’re not an athlete, it’s easy to see differences and grasp the games’ concepts simply by watching both in action.

Court Layout

The biggest difference is with the courts. Tennis courts are larger, 78 feet long and 36 feet wide, while badminton courts measure 44 feet long and 20 feet wide. Both courts have a baseline or back line at each end. In badminton, this line is also called the long service line when playing singles. Badminton courts also have a second long service line, about 30 inches in from the back line, which is used for doubles play. A net is set up in the middle of both courts, dividing the courts in half. The top of the tennis net is 36 inches above the court's surface in the middle and 42 inches high at the side net posts. In badminton, the top of the net is 60 inches above the surface in the middle and 61 inches high at the sides.

Equipment Differences

Tennis rackets are bulkier and heavier, and the heads are larger than badminton rackets. The weight of a tennis rackets can vary from about 9 to 13 ounces, while badminton rackets typically weigh less than 100 grams, or 3.5 ounces. A felt-covered ball is used in tennis, and a shuttlecock is used in badminton. Also called a shuttle or birdie, the open-ended, conical shuttlecock has natural feathers or a plastic skirt attached to a rounded base.

Match Formats

A typical tennis match requires winning the best of three sets. In general, sets are won by the first player or team to win six games with a margin of two or more games, and you must win four points and have a lead of two or more points to win a game. Similarly, a badminton match consists of the best of three games. You or your doubles side must be the first to win 21 points to win a badminton game.

Scoring Methods

The points in the tennis scoring system are "love," or zero points, "15," "30," "40" and "game." A tennis game that becomes tied at 40-40 can be resolved in one of two ways. Either play continues until one player or team has won two consecutive points or one more point is played to determine the game winner. If a set becomes tied at six games, a 12-point tiebreaker game is played to determine the set winner. Badminton uses a numerical scoring system of "love," 1, 2, 3 and so on. During a game, if the score becomes tied at 20 points, play continues until one player or team has a two-point margin. If a player or team becomes tied at 29 points, one more point is played to determine the game winner.