Play the Middle

By Larry Hodges

There are only three directions you can hit the ball: to your opponent’s forehand, backhand or somewhere in between. But most players play shot after shot to the forehand or backhand, simulating exactly what your opponent has probably spent much of his practice time doing--hitting forehands or backhands. (When you do go to the forehand and backhand, you should go wide!)

Instead, try hitting at an opponent’s middle. Define that to be the opponent’s playing elbow, the midpoint between the forehand and backhand. If the opponent is close to the table, you should generally play the ball a little toward the forehand side of the elbow; if the opponent is a little off the table, generally play the ball a little toward the backhand side of the elbow.

As long as you hit the ball aggressively (that’s important), your opponent has very little time to decide whether to take a forehand or backhand, move into position using footwork not often practiced, and then make the shot. Contrast this with hitting into an opponent’s forehand or backhand, where all your opponent has to do is... make the shot. Try this out, and you’ll be amazed at the results.