As a large proportion of the game is spent in the back corners of the court (even more when losing!), being able to move into that area and still have options is crucial so that you do not get stuck digging the ball out continuously.
Over the years I have practised a certain type of movement into the back corners but actually very rarely use it when I play. This is similar to my movement to the front as well.
However, what the movement practice has done for me is set me up to be in the best possible position so that I can choose to attack or defend the next shot.
Again, as with my previous movement article, it comes down to being in position rather than which leg you hit off of and making sure your hips (core of body) are where they need to be.
As a left-handed player, I have always been poorer working into the back backhand corner.
I’m not sure if this is because when playing right-handers, the majority of play is in the back left corner (and right-handed players are the large majority), or if there is something in the physical makeup of left-handers that means strength, movement and control is harder on the backhand.
We likely all know left-handers who have great and powerful forehands but yet are comparatively poor on the backhand side.
Moving back from the T:
There are two ways I really think about moving from the T position into the back corners.
- Falling back from my upper body – mostly when I have more time
- Really driving from my hips, staying low – mostly when I need to get back in a hurry!
Falling back – stand on the T and let your upper body ‘fall’ (let your weight go back towards the corner) backwards before your legs start moving. The momentum makes the actual movement very fluid and easy, therefore using little energy and saving for use in another area.
Driving Hips – stand on the T and as you drop to move, really feel your hips drive to the back with all your weight directly above your legs. This keeps you very compact and under control of your body (and therefore racket) when moving quickly to the ball.
Getting into Striking Position:
If you do manage to get back into position ready to step into the shot with time, your next choice is which foot to use when striking the ball. One aspect I always try to remember is giving myself the space to make adjustments at the last minute – it is nearly always needed!
Front foot – using the classic front foot to land and strike the ball can still limit your options from the back corner if the front hip is rotated too much towards the back corner and closed off to the front wall.
This can limit you to play only straight shots or a boast and rule out hitting a crosscourt. Keeping your front hip less closed to the front wall and landing on your front foot can be a very aggressive and positive movement, offering you the option of being able to hit all of your shots from that position.
Hitting off your front foot at ¾ court position does not make sense considering the amount of time needed to get the front leg and hip around to land before striking.
Back foot – using the back foot to land on the forehand side is common and a really effective movement pattern as it allows the hips to not be quite as far back in the court.
This saves time and allows you to strike the ball earlier. Using the back foot in the backhand corner is more difficult and I would recommend using only as a defensive movement. Hitting from ¾ court though, using the back foot makes a lot of sense and allows you to hit the ball earlier.
Two-footed – this seems to be the most common position for almost everyone once in a gameplay scenario with the weight transferring from back to front leg as you strike the ball. It allows you a level of stability and shot options that means you should be thinking about being in this position more often than not, especially when you have time.
Moving back to the T:
The recovery back to the T is another factor to consider when practising all the different patterns of movement into the back corners. I like using the transfer of weight forward as you strike the ball and allowing the racket head to take you back to the T with momentum rather than working physically hard.
This is all very well when you have time but as we all know, that is not always the case!
I have always enjoyed watching Amr Shabana get back into position from challenging situations in the back corners. He reminds me of a swan or duck, serene on the top half and paddling (or running) furiously underneath.
My favourite practices to get into the best possible position in the back corners were boast and drive in pairs and coach feed straight either long or short.
In boast and drive, the only difference to normal practice was the person at the back had to get at least one foot across the midcourt line around the T.
If they did not manage this, the person hitting drives would score a point. It is an incredibly tiring exercise for the boaster but really forces you to work harder to the ball and be better prepared so you can move forward after hitting the boast.
When Neil Harvey and I worked together, we spent a lot of time working up and down the channels and in particular my backhand side.
The simple coach feed is drop and full-length drive with me driving both shots. Neil adapted this to include a 3/4 court feed which meant that I had to hit a drive from the front and move incredibly quickly back and around Neil (who volleyed the drive early) to the be able to hit straight.
This exercise gave me so much confidence in gameplay that I would always be able to retrieve the ball AND be able to give the shot some purpose straight and deep.
This routine was perfect to combat the likes of Jansher Khan, who would hit great dying length and also stay on the shot. Any loose ball would be taken advantage of so my length needed to be tight and deep to nullify his game plan.
As with all these suggestions, try different movements out and see what works for you. Don’t be hampered by common beliefs and do what is correct for you and your abilities.
Need to improve your technique?
Check out this excellent series where Jesse Engelbrecht takes his student Emma through techniques to improve her game in the back corners, from intercepting the ball to digging the ball out the back corners.Learn more