While many things happen on an subconscious level during a table tennis rally, the habit of hitting right back to where your opponent played the ball is a dangerous one to develop, for several reasons:
- You will be hitting the ball straight back into your opponent's power zones - the areas where he does not have to move in order to comfortably reach the ball. This makes attacking your return much easier for your opponent.
- You are failing to develop your ability to read your opponent's body positioning and place the ball in the location that is most difficult for him to play well.
- Many opponents make the mistake of prematurely getting ready to hit the same shot that they last played, instead of returning to a neutral position. You are actually turning your opponent's mistake into an advantage, since he will now be better prepared for your unthinking return.
Next time you are at your club having a practice match, try playing a game in which you attempt to never return the ball back to where it came from. You must always hit the ball to a different part of the table.
If you find this quite easy to do, without any real hesitations or mistakes, then you can be pretty sure that you are doing a good job of moving the ball around during your matches.
But if you find yourself making a lot of mistakes, or concentrating so hard on placing the ball that it affects the rest of your game, you know that you have allowed the habit of returning back to the same location creep into your unconscious mind.
If you discover that you do have this problem, I'd recommend performing more drills that involve placing your shots to different locations, in order to brush up on your decision making skills, and to groove the process of reading your opponent and placing the ball in awkward locations into your subconscious. You can also use the technique of consciously returning the ball to different locations in practice games to speed the process up.