Coaching tip of the week: Positioning After Serve
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Coaching tip of the week: Positioning After Serve

(By Larry Hodges)

One of the interesting things is to watch a player’s ready position after the serve. Most do not position themselves well. Most go to the same position no matter their serve.

Suppose you serve short to the middle of the table and then position yourself perfectly. If you have a strong forehand, for example, and want to follow as many serves with that shot as possible, you should (for a righty) stand as far to the left as you can while still being able to handle a shot to your forehand that’s not super-aggressive. (If it’s a super-aggressive return, then either your serve was poor or the receiver made a great and perhaps low-percentage return.)

Now suppose you serve short to the backhand. Most players position themselves the same way. But now the receiver has no angle into your forehand, and so you should stand more to your left.

Now suppose you serve short to the forehand. Now the receiver has an extreme angle into your forehand, and so you have to position yourself more to the right to cover it.

If you are more of a two-winged player, or even favor the backhand, then you should do a similar analysis in developing your positioning after each serve.

Now suppose you serve long. The same positioning logic applies here. However, now the opponent is likely to attack your serve. If you are expecting to block, then your positioning needs to be relatively close to the table. But if you are looking to counterloop, then perhaps you would want to position yourself half a step back, to give yourself time.

Think these things over, and then, guess what? Go practice them! Go practice your serves, and then, at the end, practice your serve and positioning. Imagine different opponents as you do different serves, and go into the appropriate position. If the opponent flips very aggressively, then you have to cover the corners more. If the opponent mostly pushes, then you have more time, and so don’t have to cover those corners as much. And so on. Then try out this positioning in real games, and see how much it helps!

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