May 11, 2015 - Covering the Wide Backhand

Playing backhands at the start of a rally is easy, since you are in position. But what do you do when you've been moved to your wide forehand, and have to move quickly to cover the wide backhand? You have three movement options - diagonally in, diagonally sideways, and diagonally back.

  1. Diagonally In. For this, you would move in to cut the ball off quickly, before it has a chance to get past you. If you are a close to the table player, then this is what you'd want to do. You also might want to do this if you were moved off the table when covering the forehand; moving in gets you back to the table. By moving in and taking the ball more quickly, you rush the opponent, or at least don't give him time to wind up for his next shot. When moving in like this, most players block or drive the ball. At the advanced levels players can move in and backhand loop the ball, often on the rise. The downside of moving in, of course, is that you have little time, and so either simply don't have time to do so, or are rushed and so make mistakes. You don't want to rush your shots, so only move in if you have time, or if you are doing a relatively simple block.
  2. Diagonally Sideways. This is the most common way, and what I'd recommend for most players. This gives you time to do your best backhand shot, whether driving or looping, without backing up so much that your opponent has too much time. If you want to improve, you should endlessly practice moving side-to-side where you move mostly sideways. Many players may have a small diagonally in movement when covering the backhand because most players tend to take the ball quicker on the backhand side than the forehand, but if it's only a little, then it's essentially sideways.
  3. Diagonally Back. This is a defensive method, and should normally be done only when absolutely forced to. Players who strongly favor the forehand often find themselves rushing about playing the forehand, and when moved to the wide forehand, often have to back up to cover the wide backhand. If you are forced back in this way, you will most likely be spinning soft with the backhand or fishing, or (if really in trouble) chopping or lobbing. (If your style of play is chopping, then there's nothing wrong with this. But if you are an attacker who is forced to chop because of this, then you are probably at a disadvantage if forced to chop.) If you find yourself forced back in this way on the wide backhand, there are two things to consider. First, try and make your shot as effective as possible, given the circumstances - and that mostly means keeping your ball deep, ideally with good topspin. Second, consider what got you into this situation in the first place, and find ways to avoid this situation.