Forcing your opponent to change direction puts pressure on his footwork skills.
Recall the previous scenario, where you forced your opponent to move along a long diagonal, from back to front. This was effective because you forced him to cover the greatest possible distance, but it also allowed him to take a direct path with no changes of direction.
What if you chose the other front corner instead? For example:
- You play a clear to your opponent’s forehand.
- He plays a clear.
- You play a drop shot to his forehand.
How far does he travel?
At first glance, this may seem inferior to placing your drop shot in his backhand corner. This time, the distance from corner to corner is only 6.70 m, not 8.47 m. But that’s assuming he travels in a straight line!
In reality, he must travel through a central base position first, because he must cover his backhand corners too; otherwise you win the rally immediately, by hitting to either backhand corner.
So really, the difference in distance is not that great. The cross-court movement is still longer, but not much.
Another kind of movement pressure
By choosing not to move your opponent along the diagonal, you impose another kind of movement pressure: the pressure to change direction.
Because your opponent must first recover towards a central base, there are three corners that force him to change directions afterwards. He can only maintain the same direction of movement if you choose to play him along the diagonal.
Direction changes demand more skilful movement than simply charging along a straight line. It’s also harder to maintain your speed when you are forced to change direction.
Which is better?
Both choices are good options.
Moving your opponent along the diagonal is good because he must cover a slightly longer distance. Moving him to a different corner is also good, however, because you force him to change direction.
Experiment with both options to discover which causes your opponent the most difficulty; this will vary depending on your opponent:
- If your opponent is agile but lacks raw speed, then use the long diagonal more.
- If your opponent is fast but lacks agility, then use a different corner more.
Using long diagonals for winning shots
When your opponent is under pressure in a corner and unable to make a proper recovery, it’s often best to play him along the diagonal.
Because he has not yet reached a good base position, he will have great difficulty covering the longest distance. This is an excellent way to convert a small advantage (your opponent’s late recovery) into a winning advantage.
Creating an advantage by pressuring his agility
Continuously playing along a diagonal is a valid tactic, but it’s usually better to apply some agility pressure first. By forcing your opponent to change direction, you are more likely to expose a weakness in his movement skills.
Once you gain an advantage, you should consider switching to diagonal play: playing him along the diagonal will become deadlier after you have compromised his recovery.