Rowden Fullen (2005)
Obviously there are times when most players have to use a cross-step to reach extreme balls, for example when they have played a forehand from the backhand corner and the opponent angles them out to their forehand side.
There are however a number of different approaches and possibilities which players can adopt. A number of top women players (Ni Xialan for example) feel that they never need to use the cross-step, as they stand close to the table at all times and have good enough tactical play that opponents have difficulty in catching them out with extreme angles. Most women do in fact stand closer to the table and prefer to face the play at all times — many even continue to play square when they back away from the table.
Other players use the older two step crossing movement as in diagram A, where they bring the left foot across the right then extend the right to ensure a stable position with good balance to both play the wide ball and recover well for the next shot. The only problem with this is that our sport is so fast in these modern times that many players will just not have the time to do this.
Is there another alternative? There is and it’s one used by many Asian and especially pen-hold players as in diagram B. Cross over with the left foot in a one-step movement and then use the left foot as a pivot, striking the ball as you rotate the upper torso and bringing the right leg round at the same time.
This may lead to a slightly worse recovery position on the next shot, but it’s relatively easy to play one backhand if the opponent plays back into the body and this in fact is what many top players do. This whole action is in line with modern table tennis strategy, where the thinking is to economize on movement and strike the ball first, rather than paying too much attention to getting the feet in the right position.