April 9, 2012 - 3-2-1 Placement Rule

Where do most players block best? On the backhand. Where do most players attack the most? To the opponent's backhand. This never made sense to me.

When attacking there are three places you should normally go for: the wide forehand, the middle (the opponent’s crossover point between forehand and backhand, usually around the elbow), and the wide backhand. Most beginning and intermediate players probably attack to the backhand twice as often as to the forehand, and almost never to the middle. We’ll call it the 0-1-2 rule, i.e. they proportionately go zero times to the middle, once to the forehand, and twice to the backhand. 

Instead, try the 3-2-1 rule, where you proportionately go three times to the middle, twice to the forehand, and once to the backhand.  (This assumes your opponent isn't able to counter-attack with his forehand consistently, as they often do at the higher levels. If they do, change your attack placement accordingly, though it also might mean your opening attack is too soft, too short, or predictable.) Few players block on the forehand as well as on the backhand, and everyone's vulnerable at the middle. So why not go where the opponent is vulnerable? 

There are exceptions to this rule. If you are going for a particularly difficult attacking shot from a wide corner, go crosscourt, where you have more table. (The table is 9 feet long, but about 10.3 feet crosscourt, about 15.5 inches longer, almost seven more inches on the far side.) Also, you have to take into consideration your own positioning. For example, if you are attacking with your forehand from the wide backhand corner, if you attack down the line you are vulnerable to a crosscourt block to your forehand (unless you are fast on your feet), so you might go to the middle or backhand. And, of course, if the opponent is able to consistently counter-attack with his forehand you might want to attack there less often. 


I don't like your rule numbering scheme.  The meaning of the digits keep changing.  Sometimes the first digit references the forehand, sometimes the middle, and sometimes the backhand.  I think you should revised to have the position help players remember. 

First digit should be forehand, second middle, third backhand.  This directly corresponds to what we see across the table when facing the typical right hander.

So we end up with 1-0-2 - the backhand dominate beginner/advanced mode. 2-2-1 stays the same and high level is now 2-3-1.



I find that I attack much more to the Bh rather than the Fh full well knowing the Bh blocks better than the Fh.  The reason I do this is because when I attack the Bh they block back and when I attack the Fh they counter-attack and kill the ball past me.   Does this mean that my attack is just too weak?  I am sure that I am guilty of not attacking enough to the middle just as you indicate. 

How does facing a counter-attack rather than a block from one side vs the other affect your location ratio?


In reply to by mjamja

Hi Mark, at the higher levels this would be a concern, but below that if they are able to consistently counter-attack your attacks, then your attack probably needs work. It could be too soft, not spinny enough (if looping), it could be landing too short, or you might be telegraphing the shot. Surprisingly, below the higher levels players often counter-attack better on the backhand by punch-blocking. 

If a player is able to counter-attack on one side considently, but not on the other, that would change things, of course. General tactical advice (such as the 2-2-1 rule) are flexible guidelines, not rules.