Some players have a very strong side (i.e. forehand) and a relatively weak side (i.e. backhand). They are often called ‘one-wing attackers’, as they will only attack with their strong side. Most commonly, the strong side is the forehand.
These sort of players should be easy to beat. In theory you just need to avoid their strong side and they won’t be able to attack you.
But in reality, these players can be very difficult to beat. Why? Because they use positioning, footwork and service tactics to set up their strong side as much as possible. It’s not always easy to avoid their strong side.
We’ve all faced this type of opponent. No matter where you put the ball, they seem to be able to attack with their strong side. Play the ball to their weaker backhand, they step around and whizz a forehand past you. Try to catch them out with a ball to their wide forehand and they quickly step across and whizz another ball past you.
What should you do against this type of player? I have very good knowledge of one-wing attackers, because this is how I play. Strong forehand, rubbish backhand. I have always been the same. So I know which tactics cause me problems and will cause other one-wing attackers problems too.
Here’s what you should do (and how to beat me!).
Target their weaker side relentlessly
Let’s assume the one-wing attacker has a strong forehand and weaker backhand. If this is the case, you should target their weaker backhand again and again and again. Serve to their backhand. Return serves to their backhand. Keep rallying to their backhand. Give them as few chances as possible to play with their stronger forehand.
A good one-wing forehand attacker will be able to cover most of the table with their forehand. So you should try and play very wide to their backhand. This will make it harder for them to step around. This wide placement is very important.
Thinking about my own game, if someone plays to the middle of the backhand side, I don’t have too much trouble stepping around and using my forehand. But if someone keeps playing very wide to my backhand, then I struggle. It’s physically much harder to get into a position to play a forehand, when the ball is very wide on the backhand side. The result? I won’t use my forehand. I have to use my weaker backhand.
Don’t feel apologetic about targeting the backhand. It may be you best chance of winning. If it works, just keep doing it. The one-wing attacker leaves you very little choice. If you play to their forehand you will likely get beat. So you have to try to exploit their weaker backhand over and over again.
Quick blocks / counter attacks to the open table
When you keep playing to their backhand, a one-wing attacker may start to get a bit frustrated (I know I do). They may start to take a few more risks to get their forehand into play, like stepping around very wide balls to their backhand to play forehand attacks.
If they start doing this, they will leave themselves very exposed to blocks or counter attacks to the opposite corner. You should try and target this open space.
There is nothing more demoralising for a one-wing forehand attacker if they make all the effort to step around a wide ball to their backhand, play a forehand attack and then their opponent blocks the ball back in the opposite corner for a clean winner.
What happens next? The one-wing attacker becomes more reluctant to step around wide balls to their backhand. You have caused doubt in their mind. Next time, they may not step around enough as they are worried about being caught out with a block to the opposite corner. If they don’t step around enough, their attack will be much weaker or they’ll mess it up. Or they may decide not to step around at all and they will have to use their weaker backhand.
Occasional switches to the forehand
Now that you have got the one-wing attacker using their weaker backhand most of the time, their stronger forehand may also start to become less reliable.
This definitely happens to me. I get tied up on my backhand and when I get the occasional opportunity to attack with my forehand, I tense up, I rush it, I try too hard, I mess it up. It’s like I have to make this shot, as I haven’t had many opportunities to attack with my forehand. And the extra pressure often results in an error. Now I’m beat! I’m using my weaker backhand too much and my forehand is now just as rubbish!
So that’s three very simple, but effective, tactics to use against a one-wing forehand attacker. Keep playing to their weaker backhand again and again and again. Exploit the open table if they step around wide balls to their backhand. And when they begin to look a bit demoralised, occasionally play to their forehand, and you may find it’s not so strong after all.
I’ll finish with a warning…
If you play me and use these these tactics, you’ll do well. AT THIS MOMENT IN TIME. But I’m on a mission to improve my backhand. At some point it’s going to be great (I can’t tell you exactly how long this will be). So you’d better watch out!