Thursday 12 June 2014

Building Depth Footwork Skills

Alexandra Dimitrova has asked a great question, 'Can you recommend a good footwork drill for long and short play?' adding that the focus always seems to be on lateral movements and not so much on movement in and out of the table. Thanks for a great question Alexandra, as it happens I have a few great drills for this kind of footwork development! :) See more from my Coaching Blog.

Building Depth Footwork Skills
First of all let's discuss why depth footwork is important. Well for a start table tennis has evolved to such a state that most points begin with shortplay and a constant psychological and tactical battle of finding a chance to attack first and shutting down your opponents chance to do so. This means the emphasis on short serve and receiving has grown over the last decade and the points have become a lot tighter.

With the speed of the game, a ball placement can quite quickly transform from shortplay to a first attack, so there is a strong need to develop in and out footwork and to be able to execute it with speed. Often you may need to come in and short push a short serve and immediately recover to counter a flick or long push or some other scenario along those lines.

Topspin Depth Drill: This drill is used to combat varying pace in a topspin rally. One player simply controls the ball by blocking a ball soft and shallow, the attacking player must stay close to the table as the ball drops medium length. The blocker then blocks the next ball with a bit more pace and good long depth, the attacker has to move back to accommodate the deeper bounce. This alternates with the blocker placing the ball soft and shallow, faster and deep and the attacker is moving in and out alternately to match. You can vary this drill by allowing the blocker to randomise the pace of their blocking also.

Short Receive and Recover to Topspin: This drill is a reaction recovery and involves moving in and out with speed. The drilling player receives a short backspin serve by moving in and pushing the ball short, the server then flicks the ball (can be to a fixed point or random). The drilling player must recover quickly in order to attack or counter the flicked ball. This is a very important depth drill as it is becoming a more and more common scenario. The faster you can recover the more pressure you can put on your opponent, a slow recovery will not give you much time to attack and your receive of the flick may be passive. A fast recovery gives you time to be in position and execute more weight transfer and time to make strong placements. You can start practicing by recovering to block or small counter the flick then build into a fast recovery and a full counter or looping play on the flicked ball.

Short Receive and Recover to Underspin: This is similar to the above, you move in and short push off a backspin serve, the server then pushes long (most effective is to the backhand corner or body), to get the best speed development you should aim to open with a forehand loop no matter where the ball is on the table. This requires a fast recovery in order to execute the weight transfer necessary to produce enough topspin on the long push ball. This is a highly recommended drill for 3rd and 5th ball attacking players.

Flick Receive and Counter: This builds an even higher paced drill and allows you to deal with an offensive play from in-table. The server can essentially serve any spin short, you will move in and flip the ball. The server will then attack the ball you have just flipped. Once again you can start by recovering to block the ball and build up your footwork speed to counterattacking.

These drills form a good core to build the skills of depth footwork. There aren't many scenarios where you would have to go from out of the table in with the exception of dropshots on lobs or chopblocks on range loops so it is best to focus more on playing short then moving out to cover a long ball.

My favourite multiball drill for this skill was a short push wide on the forehand and a pivot loop from the backhand corner, this is possibly the biggest stretch in footwork you can achieve both in terms of depth and lateral movements.

Hope this answers your question well Alexandra and good look working on your depth footwork! :)

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