There are differing stages in the quest to put the ball where you want it to go. Initially, players are happy if they can get it over the net and on the table. The next step is to put the ball in some strategic place in order to win a point. Some, especially former tennis players will strive to hit the ball away from their opponents. In table tennis, it actually makes more sense to attack directly at your opponent, at least some of the time.
A lot of developing players seem to forget about the importance of good placement, as they focus on spin and speed. There are a number of possible patterns for ball placement that can work well. The problem is that many players don’t practice them often, and end up resorting back to just getting the ball over the net and hopefully on the table. Players do need to be able to improvise during a rally, but far too often the entire point is improvised. The result is often a random mix of great shots, really bad shots, and some that didn’t quite work out so well.
A simple approach to start using more strategic placement is to make your opening shots (serve returns and third ball and fifth ball attacks) right at your opponents elbow. After a few quality direct shots, it might be a good time to go to an open corner. The idea is to get your opponent tied up and off balance before ending the point. This can be surprisingly effective and can add some structure to your initial shots.
“Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house.” Matthew 12:29 This is just one approach for strategic ball placement. You may find others that work better for your playing style, but it might make sense to get your opponent tied up, before they tie you up first.