One of the biggest conceptual obstacles is creating a true agenda with regards to the shots that you have in your arsenal. Most players are consumed with making sure that they are executing the correct mechanics with regards to the shots they have developed. Where your game can become stagnant is when the approach does not shift. Most players in this situation are focused on executing technical shots when they are in a competition environment. One of the best concepts that you can implement that will shift your focus and make you more competitive is Ball Placement.
I will break down is a complete and total approach to “Mastering Ball Placement” during match play. There are so many different and unique approaches that it will start to seem exhausting and repetitious. What you have to understand is that you may not have all these approaches, but you do need to develop the approaches that are native to your best skillsets. Don’t look at what you will see here as shots, because you have already developed them. You need to look at them as specific plays that you need to analyze how well you can execute them, as well as how your opponent responds to them.
3rd Ball Attack
The most straightforward way to implement ball placement is the 3rd ball attack. Exposing a trending position by following up with an attack after the serve will reveal itself. The most important factor for securing a trending position is where you place the serve. You can see in this clip that the middle position is exposed right at the point that the opponent made the serve return.
In this next clip you a step around Forehand attack that targets the middle. Because stepping around the corner exposes your position, you can neutralize your opponent by playing the ball to the middle.
In this next clip you a step around Forehand attack that targets the wide backhand. Because stepping around the corner exposes your position, you can neutralize your opponent by playing the ball to the wide backhand, which will prevent the opponent from playing outside your range of attack.
If you can’t win the point with your 3rd ball using ball placement, then the approach is upgraded to executing a combo shots. This is the next level of complexity with regards to controlling the sequence of play. What you will see in this clip is a two shot combo to expose the open court.
If you reach this point that is more than two shots, then the point upgrades to multiple attacks. What you will see in this clip is an opening attack to the forehand, an attack to the backhand, followed by an open winner to the wide backhand.
The next clip is complex because footwork is an added element into the sequence of play. As you will see the theme of ball placement was still the focus as footwork and ball placement was implement for each shot played until the point ended with an attack to the wide forehand.
In this clip footwork is implement along with ball placement with the point ended with an attack to the wide backhand.
In this clip you will see that from the backhand position ball placement was still executed. The goal was to keep the player in the backhand until an attack could play to the open court in the forehand.
The counterattack is an advanced level shot, and when you compound the execution of it with ball placement, it can paralyze your opponent. In this clip, you will see the backhand counterattack to the middle of the table after the opponent did an opening backhand attack.
In this next clip the opposite sequence happens with the opponent making an opening attack from the middle. You will see that the wide backhand position is open for a counterattack.
There will be times when you are put in a situation that you have to push the ball deep. When you do, commit to pushing the ball wide and deep in hopes of creating the ideal environment for two things to happen. The first one is exposed an open position, and the second one is to be able to execute a counterattack. That is what you will see in this clip.
Attacking the Serve
One of the best ways that you can implement ball placement is attacking the serve. Most players that serve the ball deep are hoping for an neutral exchange, and you can surprise by not only attacking the ball, but playing the ball to the open court. You will see a perfectly executed attack to open court forehand position.
A few points later the opponent did the same serve, and to keep tactical control the attack went to the wide backhand, and as you can see the opponent wasn’t prepared for an attack in that position.
Adjusting Ball Placement
In all these clips the attack has been executed perfectly, but it doesn’t always work out like that. When you make a bad play, it is important to understand if it was tactical or technical.
Pop Quiz 1
In this next clip, was the error:
- Technical Error – Stroke Mechanics
- Tactical Error – Ball Placement
If you chose A. Tactical Error, you would be correct. The serve return was placed right in the opponents attack radius, which in result an attack to the open court. This is where the proper return should have been made to control the sequence of play.
Pop Quiz 2
In this clip, was the error:
- Technical Error – Stroke Mechanics
- Tactical Error – Ball Place
- Positional Error – Body Position
If you chose A. Tactical Error, you would be correct. The opening attack was placed in the middle of the table right where the opponents racket is. That resulted in an block to the open court. The next clip shows the optimal position to play when attacking the same serve from the same position.
As you can see, Ball Placement is one of the most advanced concepts that you can implement in game play. It has a multitude of benefits that will reduce anxiety because it allows you to create an objective in the point. The best benefit of ball placement is it will streamline as your level improves, and won’t be a concept you have to change as you face higher level players.
Now, get out there and start executing some placement on your shots.
See you on the table.