Defense in Mixed Doubles
lieber mit einem Weltmeister als immer nur wie ein Weltmeister trainieren
In "traditional" (i.e., up-and-back) mixed doubles rallies the woman darts to and fro along the short service line, trying to cut off cross-court drives and half-courts, while her male partner plays behind her, trying to make the opponents lift the shuttle so that she can put it away. When a mixed team is forced to clear, the up-and-back formation must be modified since it leaves the alleys wide open. This companion article to Al Allott's describes how to defend in traditional mixed doubles.
Mixed doubles can be no fun for the woman if her team clears, because she is in danger of being hit in the face from the opposing man's smash. The first thing to do on defense therefore is for the woman to get away from the smash (and the man will likely smash at her because she is so close to the net) by quickly taking a position cross-court from the shuttle about three feet behind the short service line and half-way between the center line and the inside side line. This lengthens the distance the shuttle must travel to get to her, yet allows her to keep her position fairly close to the net. Furthermore, it forces the opposing man to take a risk smashing at her, since he must hit cross-court. At the same time, she helps her own partner by giving him a good view of a shuttle hit to the center, as well as allowing him to move to a position in front of the opposing smasher to cover the down-the-line alley.
Consider the consequences of the woman not moving cross-court but staying at the "T", a common fault in C mixed doubles. Now the opposing man can literally hit any shot effectively except a drop shot to the middle. Drop shots to the alleys, either cross-court or down-the-line, will fall in for winners most of the time, as well as cross-court or down-the-line smashes, since the defending man is forced to stand right behind the woman at the "T". Even a smash down the middle is effective: if it doesn't hit the woman, she is blocking his view.
Once the woman is on the cross-court side, she must lower her center of gravity and get her racket head up in front of her. This way both the net and her racket head protect her. If she is right handed, and on the right hand side of the court, she uses a backhand defensive posture; from the left side of the court she uses her forehand. Returning the smash for the woman is like hitting drives, except the woman doesn't have to drive the shuttle back hard. Any return past the opposing woman will be very effective.
Meanwhile, what does the man do? He becomes responsible for all down-the-line shots, including the straight drop, and must also cover the cross-court clear. It is plain that lifting gives the opposing man a large variety of shots that can be hit for winners - that is why I believe the mixed battle is won or lost with low or net shots. Since the man has to cover both sides of the court, he cannot move too far to one side to defend the down-the-line alley. I keep one foot near the center line.
This is essentially the defensive formation in classic mixed doubles, with the woman close to the short service line but cross-court away from the opposing shuttle, and the man to one side of the center line on the same side of the court the shuttle is on. Given this formation, if the man must lift, it is safest to lift straight, so that his partner would be closer to her cross-court defensive position. Likewise, if the woman must lift, it is safest for her to lift cross-court so that all she has to do is take a step backward to defend.
Many mixed teams defend side by side like regular doubles. Although this is a better defense, this presents other problems for a traditional up-and-back team since now the opposing man may try to isolate the woman in the back, unafraid of any shot she executes. If the opponents do force the woman deep, she must hit a shot that gives her time to follow it to the net, either a down-the-line drop (if the opposing woman is in her proper cross-court position), a half smash down-the-line, or a cross-court clear.
Ultimately the best defense is a style of play that precludes lifting to the back. The quicker one gets to the shuttle the better, because it is harder to hit a successful net shot or half-court when the shuttle is near the floor. The woman should dominate the opposing woman at the net (it helps if the woman can hit a cross-court net shot), while the man must finesse the shuttle past the opposing woman and force the opposing man to hit up (it helps if the man can fake cross-court to freeze the opposing woman, then hit down-the-line). Unless the opposing man is slow-footed, drives are usually ineffective in mixed and take the woman out of the rally. Drives are only worthwhile if the shuttle gets behind the opposing man to force a weak shot to the net; likewise cross-court shots are only worthwhile if they are outright winners. Remember you lift, you lose.