About 99% of the time, players practice side-to-side footwork moving from forehand to backhand and backhand to forehand. I rarely see players practice in-and-out footwork, but in fact… these players are missing a key element of the game. In this article, I’m going to outline 10 situations where in-and-out footwork is absolutely necessary.
#1 You must learn to move in when your opponent chops the ball. For example, you are 8 feet away from the table in a counterlooping rally against Hesam Hamrahian and he surprises you with a chop. You must move in to properly loop the ball.
#2 You must learn to move in when your opponent mixes in an anti-block. For example, you are playing against Dan Seemiller and he is blocking fast to the corners. Suddenly, he flips his racket to anti and gives a dead block, you must move in to properly loop the ball.
#3 You must learn to move in when your opponent has a mis-hit. For example, you are in an intense rally away from the table and your opponent swings hard but the ball hit the edge of his racket. If the ball bounces short, you must move in to properly loop the ball.
#4 You must learn to move in when your opponent hits the net. For example, during the rally you are expecting a deep ball, but your opponent’s ball hits the net and barely drops over on your side. The ball is so short that it would be nearly impossible to reach it. You must move in to properly return the net ball.
#5 You must learn to move back slightly after your serve. For example, you serve short backspin and your opponent pushes deep to your backhand. It is very difficult to backhand loop against backspin when you are pinned against the table. You must move back in order to properly loop the ball.
#6 You must learn to move back after receiving a short serve. For example, your opponent serves very very short and you receive the serve with a short push. Next, you must prepare back for the flip or deep push.
#7 You must learn to move back after receiving a half-long serve. For example, your opponent serves a serve that just barely comes long enough to loop. You move forward and loop the ball with your forehand to your opponent’s forehand. You must move back slightly in order to properly prepare for the incoming block or counterloop.
#8 You must learn to move back slightly against a power-blocker. For example, you loop a backspin ball and your opponent jams a fast block. If you stay too close to the table, you will likely be forced to block his block, which is a weak shot. You must move back slightly in order to continue looping his fast blocks.
#9 You must learn to move back slightly when counterlooping. Sometimes you can counterloop from near the table. Other time, it is necessary to give yourself enough distance, lean forward, and counterloop with speed and spin from away from the table.
#10 You must learn to move back when a sudden lob surprises you. For example, you are in a topspin rally from near the table, your opponent surprises you with a deep, heavy topspin lob that hits near your endline. By backing up slightly, you can lean forward and contact the ball on the top of the bounce, giving excellent power.
I hope that these 10 points have been evidence enough that you need to practice in-and-out footwork. So how do you do it? There are several very advanced moves to learn. However, I would like to first demonstrate the basic move. In future articles, I’ll be talking in more detail about the advanced in-and-out.
International Table Tennis Skills DVD