Fastest Rackets Sports in the World – Badminton or Rackets?

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Which do you think is the fastest rackets game in the world?

For many years, I have maintained that the 18th century game, Rackets (aka Racquets in American English), was the fastest rackets game in the world. I have generally thrown in Jai Alai or Pelota Basque as equally fast sports. However, having just spent the better part of an 1/2-hour searching the net for substantiation of my claim, I am confounded to say that it may not be so. [I remember losing handsomely a squash match at Queen’s to rackets former world champion and super talented Willie Boone, despite his doubling my age — and he cracked a wicked soft ball. Boone is still evidently ruling the rackets world (winning the Masters 40s in 2006).]

Here is what I have found out about the speediest rackets sports:

Badminton — which claims to be the second most popular participation sport in the world behind soccer/football — is the fastest, with the fastest shuttlecock coming in at 332 kph or 206 mph hit by Fu Haifeng in 2005. Here are some interesting facts on badminton courtesy of the BBC which I found through Chanchow’s Asia-loves-fast-sports post. This 2006 article by the BBC speaks to this conclusion about badminton; however, there is no reference to rackets (in the “fast” department). Some say that Badminton is the fastest growing sport in the world as well. Introduced into the Olympics in 1992, badminton was watched by 1.1 billion spectators at its Olympic debut. For fun, go to YouTube here and check out this 2007 All England semi-final match involving Fu Haifeng. It is rivetting stuff.

Pelota Basque or Jai Alai (as it’s called in the US) – the ball, covered in goat skin, has been measured at 302 kph or 188 mph. (see photo right of a pelota basque player).

[updated] Lawn tennis comes in decidedly lower and slower. At time of writing the initial post, the fastest serve registered at a paltry 249 kph or 155 mph, courtesy of Andy Roddick in 2004 (Davis Cup match against Voltchkov of Belarus). Updated June 2021: The tall and well built Sam Groth punched a serve out at 263 kph (164 mph) in a tournament in Korea in 2012. It’s grainy, but there is a recording of it (see below). Of note, it was on match point. TennisPoint has logged the 37 fastest lawn tennis services ever. See here.

Apparently, the golf ball struck off the tee hits 180 mph or 290 kph. You have to experience driving at top speed the best Formula 1 cars (example at the fast Monza race track) to hit 205 mph or 330 kph, which is comparable to the lightening speed of Fu Haifeng’s blast.

So, until I can substantiate my claim about rackets being the fastest game, I am going to have to adjust my pitch and refer to badminton as the fastest racket sport in the world. Anyone beg to differ?

12 Comments, RSS

  1. James C.

    I guess it’s all down to the potential damage. Badminton shuttle will maybe make you squeal and leave a nick, but not much more, no? Squash ball stings like heck, and leaves a nice halo on your butt (is you have moved too slowly out of target area). Tennis ball can definitely wake you up (as I have done to suffering doubles partners by sending one right at their heiny), not to mention any close quarter vollying into the nether regions. Jai Alai pelotas are lethal, but those guys have the helmets and all. Raquets is more like sitting in a vast chamber while someone unloads a .38 saturday night special, and your looking to swing your racket at the ricochet…pure murder. I don’t know if it is now common, but one guy I know started wearing a helmet when another top player got the final conk of life administered to him courtesy of a raquet ball to the temple. So, my point is, to properly calibrate the speed question, you also have to take into account the consequences bit, and for that raquets is probably the winner.

    • arun s.

      Sorry to bust your bubble there my friend. Did you see the you tube video clip of a recent episode where a top Korean badminton player sank a shuttlecock (birdie) into a watermelon. Ya seriously.
      Lee Yong Dae is demonstrating various badminton skills/shots in front of a home crowd. Toward the end he hits the birdie at over 200 mph at the watermelon and it impales the gourd. He does it again and it splits. The spectators then promptly proceed to devour the melon, laughing as they do so.
      This again is not the point. It is without a doubt the top racket sport. Check the many reliable sources and forget about it’s other backyard image played recreationally w/ inferior equipment. Seek the truth and you will be rewarded!

      • minterdial

        There’s no doubt that badminton is more than a recreational sport in the backyard… The physical effort, dexterity and speed are mind blowing to watch at the professional level.

        • Arun s.m

          Thank you. I so wish that more people would have exposure to it as you and I do. Both as a player and a spectator.
          I’ve been fortunate to have seen it up close on the world stage, so close that I’ve been splashed by sweat….yes their sweat. It’s almost an honor if you know what I mean. Didn’t mind it a bit.
          Maybe it’ll rub off on me. I rather think it has….from proximity. It is uncannily dexterous and explosively mind blowing.
          Got me fingers crossed. Go Badminton!

  2. Forman

    Have had to ask Queen’s: apparently, good players regularly play at 150+ mph and the ball can get up to 170-175 mph. Some would even suggest as much as 180 mph.

  3. Minter

    @Forman: thanks for looking that up. Many of my friends have been surprised to hear that rackets is only 180mph, but they counter by saying that the ball is likely maintaining its velocity longer, making it perhaps the fastest projectile to hit. Speed off the racket is one thing, but hitting a moving ball is a whole other issue.

    @James C: love your POV. The other dangerous component is the racket itself and a rackets racquet certainly delivers a wicked bruise …

  4. Gustavo

    So… does one practice sports to be exposed to danger or to bring a man’s mental and physical capacity to its limit?

    If you want danger, you can play Indians and Cowboys with arrows and guns. They will surely be more dangerous.

    I definitely enjoy playing a lightning fast, extenuating and extremely fun sport as Badminton.

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