The Sidek brothers are no strangers in the world badminton circle.
While many of us grew up as fans of Lee Chong Wei, the Sidek brothers were credited for 1) popularising the sport in Malaysia and 2) putting our name out there.
Led by their father Sidek Abdullah Kamar, the five-member squad -- Misbun, Razif, Jalani, Rahman and Rashid -- started training at a very young age.
In a span of 15 years, the Sidek brothers became world-class players; winning medals in almost all major international tournaments, including the prestigious All England Championships, the Badminton World Cup and even the Olympics.
Their biggest accomplishment, one would argue, was when they clinched the Thomas Cup in 1992 on home soil.
The win solidified the Sidek brothers' legacy as true badminton legends, and their names still ring loud and proud in the country.
An invention that rocked the world
Among the five brothers, Misbun, the eldest of the lot, is known as the most accomplished of the family.
As a player, he won numerous international tournaments, incuding two Swedish Opens and two German Opens.
After hanging up his racquet at the tender age of 29, Misbun turned to coaching: in fact, he was one of the coaches of the 1992 Thomas Cup-winning squad.
He was then credited with nurturing, training and turning Lee Chong Wei into a world champion.
While his off-court achivements as a coach would most likely define his illustrious career when its all said and done, it was a move that he invented on the badminton court during his playing heydays that shook the badminton world.
Known as the 'S-serve
' (which stands for Sidek-serve, not 'soft-serve', 'kay?), the infamous move caused outrage among the players as when used correctly, it could help a player win a match without breaking a sweat.
It was so sneakily lethal, in fact, the world badminton governing body had no choice but to ban it permanently after the Sidek Brothers, led by Misbun, demolished their competitors over and over again using the move back in the 1970s and the 1980s.
What is the S-serve?
To perform the S-serve, a player would hold the shuttlecock with the feathers pointing down, and the base of the shuttlecock pointing upwards.
Then, holding the racquet in a backhand position, the server hits the shuttlecock with a flick of the wrist instead of moving the whole arm.
By slicing the shuttlecock across the feather, it causes the shuttlecock to behave erratically and its trajectory hard to predict; sometimes the shuttlecock would drop sharply, and other times it would spin uncontrollably.
“We created this ‘S” service, where we served by hitting the shuttle from the feathers. This caused the shuttle to move erratically and made it difficult for the opponents to return it, unfortunately, it was banned," Razif told The Star Online
in an interview in 2019.
Although the S-serve was easy to pick up and learned by other players, defending against it was hard to do.
As the Sidek brothers started winning matches by exploiting the technique, more and more players started using the S-serve.
In fact, an unknown player managed to beat
Luo Xia, the winner of the 1978 Asian Games and the 4th All China Games, with an eye-opening score of 0-15, 5-15 at the 1983 All China Games by using the S-serve the entire match.
Here's a video of the S-serve in action:
Putting an end to the technique
Not long after, more and more players started using and winning matches with the S-serve, and certain quarters, namely the English and Danish players, called for the move to be banned as they deemed it illegal.
The badminton community was soon divided into two camps: those who've learned and mastered the S-serve, and those who have not.
By then, even the Chinese players have adopted the S-serve, and when the move was put to a vote, China sided with Malaysia and Indonesia and hence, the serve remained legal.
Immediately after that, all hell broke loose at the 1982 All England Open; Chinese players were effectively using the S-serve and winning games, while our very own Sidek brothers even won the Men's Doubles crown.
As the S-serve made its way to the Thomas Cup competition in May that year, the call for the move to be banned got louder and louder.
Finally, on 1 July 1982, the International Badminton Federation (now known as the Badminton World Federation) decided enough is enough and proceeded to deem the S-serve illegal.
Badminton experts considered the S-serve to be violating the 'double contact rule' as the racquet was brushing both the feathers and the base simultaneously.
The motion to ban the S-serve was put to the vote once again, and this time, the move was voted 9 against 1
in favour of Denmark.
Since then, a rule was written which states that a player can only hit the base of the shuttlecock while serving.
It was too little too late by then, as the Sidek brothers have shown the world that a little creativity goes a long way.