Tactics for Using Long Pimples

Photo of Chen Weixing

Good shot! Chen Weixing giving himself the thumbs up over his choice of tactics in the 2003 World Championships.

Photo by: Mariann Domonkos, courtesy www.ittf.com

To start with, I'll mention some general tips for using long pimples that will apply to almost any style to some degree. After that, specific tips that apply to each of the 4 basic long pimpled styles will be given. Try them out and see which works better for you and which don't - part of the art of playing with long pimples is knowing what is the best way of using them for your own individual style.

Tip 1 - Know Yourself

Use your practice sessions to find out just what you are capable of doing with your long pimples. Although you will improve over time, it is important to know what you can do at present, and not to try to exceed your limitations when you are playing matches.

Tip 2 - Know Your Opponent

Every player handles long pimples differently. Against players you play frequently, take note of which strokes give them trouble, and which they can handle easily. Against new players, test them out with the full range of shots early in the match, so that when the pressure is on you have some point-winning strokes to use.

Tip 3 - Know Your Rubber

You need to know exactly what your rubber can do, and what it can't. Don't try to push it further than it can go. A very long pimpled rubber like Feint II is never going to be as easy to counter-attack with as a medium pips like Curl P-2, and the Curl is never going to give as heavy a backspin from a loop as the Feint. A glassy type long pimpled rubber will do spin reversal easily, but will always be harder to hit with than a grippy long pimples.

Tip 4 - Know Your Level

The way in which long pimples is effective at winning points changes tremendously as you progress in level from beginner to intermediate to advanced. At beginner level, the long pimples will win many points outright due to the inability of your opponent to cope with the way it behaves. At intermediate level, your opponent will still make a few mistakes in judging the behavior of the long pimples, but smart twiddling of the bat can give you the edge.

In advanced play and beyond, only the occasional point will be won through your opponent's mistakes against the long pimples or twiddling. Instead, spin deception becomes the name of the game, with the long pimples used with deceptive contact to force mistakes and weak returns from the opponent.

Tip 5 - Don't Overdo it

Up to the advanced level, twiddle often enough to keep on top in the game against your opponent. Don't give him any more opportunity then necessary to get used to your twiddling.

Tip 6 - Copy the Best

Watch live matches and videos of the top players who play closest to your style, and analyze the strategies they are using. Most of these strategies will work for you as well.

Tip 7 - Backhand Makes it Better

Although most people can hit harder with the forehand, the backhand can be a more effective weapon for the intermediate player. This is because the bat can be twiddled and the backhand loop or hit completed with very little time for the opponent to react, whereas the length of the forehand attack gives the opponent more time to prepare. At the advanced level, the forehand is used more often due to the extra power that can be generated. Also, the professionals' reactions are so fast that the extra speed gained in generating the backhand attack is often nullified.

Tip 8 - Pop Up and Shut Them Up

When you want to generate an attack from an easy topspin ball, or have your opponent hit his attack off the end of the table, take advantage of his heavy backspin ball and use a near vertical push stroke with the long pimples. The ball will have topspin rather than chop, and your opponent will often either push it up high for your attack, or topspin it off the end of the table.

Tip 9 - C'mon, Hear the Noise

If possible, play your matches when the surrounds are noisy - it makes it harder for your opponent to hear the different sound that the pimples make.

Tip 10 - Keep it Clean

Don't play on a dirty table - the dust and grease lessen the effect of your spin variation. Make sure both sides of the table are dust and grease free to make sure you get the maximum effect from your changes in spin.

Tip 11 - New Balls Please!

Playing with brand new balls can be a plus - as the newer balls tend to bite on the table, making your spin variation more effective. However, dirty balls can be good too, since the trademark on the ball is harder for the opponent to see, so he will find it harder to tell if the ball is spinning or floating. Don't use old clean balls if you can help it!

Tip 12 - Hit from Short Range

Don't hit more than the very occasional ball with the long pimples from more than 6-8 feet (2-3 meters) from the table. At that range the opponent has too much time to react and adjust to the ball, and will have much less trouble with it. Keep the hitting with long pimples for when you are closer to the table.

Tip 13 - Twice is Nice

Up to the advanced level, the use of the occasional 'double twiddle' can be a point winner. Often your opponent will notice that you are twiddling, then concentrate on playing the ball. A second twiddle to bring the bat back to its original position can catch the unwary opponent off guard.

Tip 14 - Stick with what Works

Every so often, an attacker who cannot handle the long pimpled return of his attacks will try to out-push you instead. When this happens, resist the temptation to go mad with your offense. Keep to the strategy that got you on top - and look for the easy balls to put away. Don't let your opponent claw his way back into the match from your mistakes.

Tip 15 - Fight Fire with Fire

When you play an opponent who also uses long pimples, you need to find out fast whether you can adjust more quickly to the changes in spin from twiddling. If you can, make sure that you twiddle often and force the mistakes from your opponent. If your opponent is better at twiddling, minimize the amount of twiddling that you do, and stick to your best point-winning patterns only. Concentrate on reading the spin instead, and look for the easy balls to attack.

Tip 16 - Whatever Floats Your Boat

Opponents will often start to try to float the ball to your long pimples, knowing that you will not be able to generate much spin. If you can hit with the long pimples, hit a couple just to let him know that he had better be careful with his placement and height. Remember to adjust the angle of your bat so that you don't pop the ball up in the air. And finally, don't forget to twiddle often so that you can hit the ball with the normal side - whether to push it or attack it. Keep the spin variation up with the normal side.

Tip 17 - Check the Net

Not the Internet, unless you are re-reading these articles! Check that the height and tension of the net is correct - don't let the attacker get the advantage of having a net lower or looser than normal.

Tip 18 - Serve it Up

Don't be afraid to throw in the odd serve with the long pimples. The best types of serves to use here are imitation sidespin serves, since the ball won't go in the same direction as it would if hit with the normal side. For example, the typical forehand pendulum serve to the opponent's mid-forehand with smooth rubber, will go next to the net on his backhand side if done with the same bat angle but with the long pimples. Don't believe me? Try it and see!

Tip 19 - Variety Is the Spice of Life

Feel free to keep changing aspects of your strokes all the time. A good long pimples player will change the length of his stroke, the speed of the stroke, the type of contact made, and the amount of wrist used as well as the side of his bat. One or more can be changed at any time. You will need to practice a lot to be able to change these factors and still have a consistent result, but it can be done and is very effective in causing the opponent to make a mistake.

Tip 20 - Deceive the Opponent, Not Yourself

Be aware of what the capabilities of your long pimples are. If you are using grippy long pimples, you should be using them to vary the spin by floating or brushing the ball by varying amounts at contact. If you are using the smooth, glassy type of long pimples, you will not be able to vary the spin as much, but you can still fool your opponent by changing your strokes to make him think you have varied the spin, when in fact you haven't.

Tip 21 - Safe Service Returns

When you are in doubt about the type of serve made by an opponent, you can use the long pimples to increase your chances of making a good return. Take advantage of the fact that long pimples are less affected by spin to return the serve to the middle of the table with them, and take note of the effect of the serve - did it kick up or go down, or go to the right or left? Remember this information and put it to good use when your opponent uses that serve again.

Next: Modern Defender Tactics for Playing With Long Pimples

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