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Is aiming smashes at people's body or face considered unethical?

Discussion in 'Rules / Tournament Regulation / Officiating' started by SSSSNT, Mar 20, 2017.

  1. SSSSNT

    SSSSNT Regular Member

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    In tournaments, sometimes you have varying skill degree. An obviously very strong player plays a much weaker player and then decides to aim his thunderous smashes at the opponent's face or body.

    If you are an umpire of such a tournament, would you warn the player of his behavior? What if he ignores your warning? Or worse, he starts to aim his smash replies at you instead, pretending he was trying to get it cross court? Can you make a subjective call to end the match? Should you?
     
  2. phihag

    phihag Regular Member

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    There is no rule that forbids players from aiming at their opponent's body. It's simply part of the game.

    Realistically, the only part of the body that could get injured are the eyes; getting hit by a smash at the arm or so might sting a little, but is unlikely to cause anything but a very small bruise. Since the shuttle decelerates so much, a normal smash should be fine anyway; in my experience it's the kill shots that may be dangerous.

    If a player believes they could be hit in the face, they can hold their racket in front of their head, or duck behind the net. That's what pros do when their lift is too short.

    Hitting at the face is also not a good strategy unless the defending player is way too close to the net, as simply ducking will make the shuttle go out.


    That being said, I can imagine that it is possible that a player tries to injure their opponent (instead of the presumed goal of winning the match). If that is the case, the umpire and referee will of course take swift measures up to a black card. However, the situation must be quite exceptional. Personally, I'd require at least the following conditions:
    • It must be abundantly clear that the player is playing with intent to injure and not to win points, for instance because they hit shots that don't make any sense tactically.
    • The offending player must have the control to actually hit the face. I myself have been accused of trying to hit players in the face, when in reality I just wanted to play fast shots to a the right hip.
    • I'd expect to see from the behavior of the player that they're not out to win points, but injure as well.
    The same goes for trying to hit the umpire; if a player is trying to hit me, it will be obvious from their technique. In the chair, I get hit from time to time - in my experience, warmup is the most dangerous phase. However, the players I've encountered so far are always apologetic, and even at the one occasion I ducked too slow and took a shuttle to the face, it hurt only for a couple of seconds.


    I have never seen or heard of such behavior. All of the claims of someone trying to injure the opponent where in reasonably close games where - for all I could see - all of the shots were made with the honest intention of winning, and frequently not precise enough anyways.

    In my experience, very lopsided matches look different: Just this weekend, I umpired at a regional tournament where every club player can join. As a result, in the first round some matches were between 2nd division and 10th division players. I personally umpired two of the most extreme ones; 21:1 21:0 in 11 minutes and 21:1 21:5 in 10 minutes if memory serves. In both matches, the winning side simply played good but safe badminton. In singles, that means playing shots to all four corners. In doubles, attacks go between the two defenders. If there's any shot a beginner may be able to return, it's one where they don't have to run and holding the racket up without any shot technique is sufficient. As such, both of these extremely lopsided matches consisted entirely of shots that forced the weaker side to move.
     
  3. LordGopu

    LordGopu Regular Member

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    I'm not sure you'd ever see enough disparity in skill at a tournament with an umpire that this could ever arise, but I am interested in the theory behind it. I suspect it wouldn't really happen unless you made it clear (like verbalized) that you're trying to hurt the other player.

    I unfortunately hit a woman in the forehead like three times in one mixed doubles match. She was standing at the front during the serve (where she should be) but her partner kept flicking to me and I could smash right off the serve. I felt pretty bad but she probably should have put her racket up. She wasn't that unskilled.

    EDIT: Ah, he posted while I was posting.
     
  4. phihag

    phihag Regular Member

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    A skill disparity can happen in high-level tournaments that don't have any feeder tournaments and thus allow everyone to enter. The players normally play in the open circuit. Examples include para SL4, para SU5, O35+, and U22.
     
  5. LordGopu

    LordGopu Regular Member

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    Good to know.
     
  6. SSSSNT

    SSSSNT Regular Member

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    Of course, the scenario is just hypothetical. Most players are well behaved. And I don't believe smashes to face/body will hurt anyone, except their pride.

    I'm asking because smashing to the face/body is actually a legit tactic. Some players have a harder time returning smashes to those areas. But lets say in that 21:1 21:0 game, the strong player have a killer smash and repeatedly set it up so he would smash to the opponent's face/body. It could happen for a number of reason; maybe the player don't like their opponent personally, or having a bad day, or maybe the tournament means nothing to him and he's just having fun toying with the opponent.

    Whatever the case, as the umpire, how subjective should you be? Those smashes are effective at winning points. Should you excuse this behavior because you have to be 'objective'?
     
  7. phihag

    phihag Regular Member

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    As I wrote above, I very much doubt that smashes to the face will be effective in winning points, provided the defender does stand at least somewhat near where they should.

    I am not sure what you mean by subjective here. Should you let empathy with the defending player (who may be complaining) guide your decisions? Hell no! If a player feels intimidated by their opponent's superior technique and tactics, that's their problem. The umpire must never ever intervene on behalf of a weaker player to get a more level playing field. That would mean taking sides!

    If not taking sides is your definition of objective, then of course an umpire should be objective. If there's no chance of injury, I'm not sure what's to excuse in the first place.

    If smashing to the body/face is really the best tactic, one could even argue that an umpire could caution a player who avoids it, for failing to use their best efforts to win the match (Player's Code of Conduct §4.5). In practice, umpires of course tolerate almost all showmanship and bad tactics as long as the player is not trying to lose.
     
  8. SSSSNT

    SSSSNT Regular Member

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    Subjective meaning, it's clear the strong player is only doing it to 'bully' or 'humiliate' his opponent (unsportsmanlike behavior?) but as an umpire, is it really your place to make that determination? Easy to set up against weak players. Do a drop shot, opponent do a late weak lift or net shot that's too high, then they're in prime position to get smashed at. Clearly the much stronger player doesn't need to do a full powered smash or aim at the person to win the point, but he did it anyway, repeatedly.
     
  9. phihag

    phihag Regular Member

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    How would you as an umpire know that it's clear the stronger player's motivation is not winning the match?

    Because not needing a full-powered smash is indeed a very subjective call. What if the defender manages to return 5 in 100 medium-powered smashes, but only 4 in 100 full-powered smashes? Then smashing with full power is definitely the correct tactic. Even if the weaker smash is better, the attacker may genuinely believe that they have better chances of winning the match with full-powered smashes.

    Also, holding back may be a disadvantage in the next match - if you get used to playing nice you may accidentally do so against a stronger opponent. And if you are certain you can beat your opponent easily, then why not use the match as a practice session for hard smashes?

    Humiliating players by superior play of any kind is not an offense. The attacking player seems to have found a very effective strategy. If the defending player starts to get distracted by the fact that the shuttles are flying close to their face, the strategy works even better. Getting into your opponent's head is part of any game.

    The defending player should not only improve their technique (to not get into this situation), their agility (to evade shuttles, so that they're going out), but also their mental game so that they keep their focus in "humiliating" situations and evolve effective counters, for instance holding the racket in front of their face. Until they improve, the defending player may also want to switch to a lower-ranked tournament.

    Almost certainly, the umpire should not intervene in this situation.
     
  10. SSSSNT

    SSSSNT Regular Member

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    Thanks for your opinion.
     

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