By Larry Hodges, USATT Hall of Famer and National Coach

There are basically seven different directional placements in table tennis, though only five or six are available at any time. They are:

  • Outside forehand corner
  • Forehand corner
  • Middle forehand
  • Middle (opponent’s elbow)
  • Middle backhand
  • Backhand corner
  • Outside backhand corner

Generally, you never want to put a ball to the middle forehand or middle backhand, where your opponent is just standing there, ready to hit a forehand or backhand. Most often you should be going to the wide corners or the opponent’s elbow. The other options are outside the corners, but these can be tricky to play into – you have less table, and so it’s easy to go long (or more specifically, off the side). Here are your options for going outside the wide corners:

  • Off a short ball in the middle of the table, you can play either wide angle.
  • Off a deep ball toward the middle of the table, it’s difficult to play either, though with good topspin you can. You can also sidespin loop at a wide angle.
  • Off a deep ball from one of your corners you can play diagonally outside the corner, especially if you can sidespin loop. This gives you the most extreme angles, and should become a staple of every player.
  • When serving you can serve from a corner and, with a breaking sidespin, serve at extremely wide angles.

When you can play into those wide angles outside the corners, your opponent will have great difficulty as you greatly increase the amount of table he has to cover. So add these angles to your repertoire and turn table tennis into a truly full-court sport.

And Happy Groundhogs Day – say hello to Pingpongatawney Phil