Saturday 18 April 2015

Focusing on Strong Placement Skills

I received another question today from a player who struggles with placement. Placement is a key tool for winning points in table tennis and can often be a more effective skill than being able to play with absolute power. Good placement is key in controlling the table and being able to anticipate plays by forcing more probable returns from your opponent. See more from my Coaching Blog.

Samsonov, one of the masters of angles and placement
Image from
So what are some important points for developing strong placement?

Avoid Strength Zones: Your opponent will have some key strengths and you want to avoid them in order to stay dominant in a point. Weak placements usually involve the middle of the forehand and backhand zones and the middle depending on your opponents table position. The middle offers the ability to play at an angle to the backhand and forehand both breaking the table, if the opposition is in position to take advantage of it.

Be Aware of Opponent Table Position: It is imperative that your placement takes into full account where the opposition player is. You need to play table placements which will either produce a particular return for your next shot, target an open space, or aim to create a space to attack. You need to focus on making the ball difficult for your opponent.

Key Target Areas: Wide backhand and forehand along with the body shot (a.k.a playing to the elbow) are known as strong target areas and can be effective against most opponents. Sometimes you may need to move the ball around and open up the opportunity to make this placement most effective.

Avoid Continuous Placement: Some players make the mistake of playing a similar ball back to the same point many times in succession, this gives the opponent time to move into the right position or to take control of the point and become comfortable with your returns until such a time as they open up a weakness in your play. It is important to try and keep moving the ball around, unless you have exploited a weakness and are slowly playing the opponent off balance or are having success with the repetition (less likely on most occasions).

Mix Placement with Shot Selection: Different placement can be paired with variation in the spin and speed of your shots. A prime example is playing the opponent into the corner or wide on the backhand, increasing the spin to invoke a softer block and then playing with more pace to the forehand corner. Mixing the pace and spin in combination with strong placements is a real skill which will help your table tennis improve a lot.

Get in Position Fast: Being in position is pivotal in being able to direct the ball and create good placement. If you are off balance or out of position, your placement options are limited, as is your ability to produce a quality stroke. Be sure to get your body in position so that you can direct the ball and be more accurate with your placements.

Waldner shows placement is the winner against Boll

Practice Placement:

Practising your placement is vital, you can do random drills with blocking from the backhand to the entire table. Similarly you can have a player block from anywhere to your forehand as you attack to your opponent anywhere on their half. There are many drills which can help and remember it is not just on attack where placement is vital, every shot you make must have  strategic placement value.

I received some great feedback on my article yesterday about pendulum service which I really appreciated. Please if you have any other ideas or comments along with other questions or topics for me to write on, do not hesitate to contact me via the blog contact page or via my facebook page at MHTableTennis.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, i'm a casual table tennis player in high school!
    I wanted to ask if there was any guide on the placement of yourself (your body), and how to predict where the ball will go instinctively. I keep having to rely on my reaction and mental cognition to return the ball, making me miss alot of shots and make alot of mistakes.


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