Women Close-to-Table; Square or Not?

Rowden Fullen (2009)

Even in this day and age many coaches still insist on the right-handed player having the right foot back when playing forehands close to the table.

So just what is the reasoning behind this – do we think that we somehow create power by pushing off with the right foot from a position this close to the end of the table? And do we actually have time to do this? And does power come from the legs anyway when we are this close? Power comes primarily from the racket arm in the close-to-table exchanges – there is rotation but this is crucial not to the power input but to the recovery so that the player ends up facing the opponent and is ready for the next stroke.

Coaches then compound the misinformation by telling the player that the right foot which starts from a deeper position, should be brought forward during the stroke so that the player finishes square! Why not just play square in the first place and rotate from the waist into the shot? Another aspect which seems to escape the attention of many is that the ease of rotation becomes more and more difficult as you move round from square to off-square. The hips which are in the area of the centre of gravity rotate much more readily and efficiently from a square position.

There can be other problems too in adopting a side-to-square ready position in that as players move quickly wide to the FH they then tend to drift away from the table at the same time and end up taking the ball later. Technically there are few if any problems in playing the FH strokes square or even over-square, provided only that the player takes the ball early and in front of the body and that there is good recovery-rotation. A number of the top cadets and juniors are now playing like this in Europe, even in countries like Romania, which has a strong tradition in girls’/women’s table tennis – it would appear therefore that these square or over-square techniques cannot be too incorrect.

If one examines the world’s top women in action (at the last World Championships 2009 for example) we see that they stay very wide and square and move in to take the FH early. This is invariably a one-step movement with the right foot (for a right hander) or a jump-step as the top players fully appreciate that there is just no time for anything else. Too often in the West we are still talking about two-step systems (left then right) and a narrower stance – not only does the wider stance provide rather better stability but makes it easier to use the one-step or jump-step movements, which allow the player to come more quickly to the wider ball and give more efficient shot production.

The retained square-ness and width of the world’s top women within the rallies also mean that they not only economise on movement but also rotational requirements. As they move across to the FH they play the shot with limited rotation and a fast arm, so that they recover rapidly for the next ball. Whatever happens in the rally they are aware that the priority is to finish the present stroke in such a way that they are prepared to play the next.