What's your ideal playing distance?

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Slim Dragon
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Joined: 05/07/2012

Yesterday I decided to adjust my playing distance and came closer to the table. I am primarily a hitter on the backhand after making my opening backhand loop against underspin. I noticed once I came closer, my backhand punch improved off of the bounce and I was able to take time away from my opponents. My forehand however, was somewhat compromised, as I found myself too close to adjust to incoming topspin balls and I hit a lot of forehand topspins out that I would usually make.

My question is;

  1.  How do you know what is your ideal playing position?
  2. Should it vary during the rally like in tennis when players come in to the net?
mts288
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Joined: 03/05/2011
Re: What's your ideal playing distance?

My favorite position is about 6 feet from the table.  I hear players talk about close to the table, but they usually don't say how far from the table "close" is.

I don't move in and out as well as I would like so I loop from both sides at 6 feet.  I receive serve about two feet from the table.  If I attack the serve I usually step back a little.  If I'm looping with more power than spin, I continue to step back with each hit until I'm in my comfort zone.

Larry Hodges
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Joined: 11/19/2010
Re: What's your ideal playing distance?

You sound like a standard two-winged mid-distance looper. It's probably the most popular style at the highest levels, though of course at that level they can usually play from all distances. The only thing I'd suggest is to make sure you can loop aggressively from close to the table when the ball comes out soft but low - many mid-distance loopers have difficulty with this, and instead of looping an easy winner they let the ball drop low and soft-spin. 

Larry Hodges
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Joined: 11/19/2010
Re: What's your ideal playing distance?

Hi Slim Dragon,

I was going to answer it here, but this is such a good question that I'm going to make it the Tip of the Week on Monday. I don't remember this being covered online anywhere, though I've coached this very topic many times and even lectured about it in camps. There are several options, but the most likely one is to move your feet into a slight forehand stance after your opening backhand loop, with the right foot (for righties) a little bit back. You don't need to be in a backhand stance or square to the table to punch the backhand, so many players learn to stand in this slight forehand stance when hitting or blocking backhands. (Though the foot is back, you still face the incoming ball directly for the backhand.) This opens up the forehand side some, making it easier to take the ball later in the forehand zone. Another option is to simply practice diagonal footwork, where when you move side to side from backhand to forehand you move both sideways and also slightly back. You can experiement with these over the weekend, and I'll have a longer version on Monday.