How to play Table Tennis with low friction long pimples

Basic technique, tactics, and psychology for the Table Tennis advanced material player

Introduction

Having a low friction long pimples rubber sheet on one side of the racket (paddle, bat) might be a good strategic choice. This is when you want to build your style of play by combining the two extremes — the maximum spin capacity of the inverted (backside) rubber and the minimal spin sensitivity of the low friction long pimples rubber.

Needless to say, you should have a rubber generating a lot of spin on one side of your bat. Without any inverted “spinny” rubber, it might be hard to beat opponents playing tactically with no spin and varied speed.

We start with some basic principles and then move on to how to play with low friction long pimples.

Spin sensitivity

We have a declining sliding scale in spin sensitivity (and spin capacity) from the inverted rubber (backside) through the short pips (soft) to the long pips rubbers. Apart from some Anti-spin rubbers, long pimpled rubbers with low friction have the lowest spin sensitivity. But, contrary to the Anti-spin, the pimples of the pips-out rubbers give interesting and useful effects when they are bent.

This difference in spin sensitivity also means that the racket angle needs to be different. This is the biggest single difference between the rubber types — can you only remember one single thing from this text, then you should remember that you need to open up your bat when you play with pips-out rubbers.

In principle, you can use the same strokes with pips-out rubbers as with inverted (pips-in) rubbers, but the initial racket angle must be different (the angle when you start the stroke). See the picture below for a topspin stroke.

Image1. Fundamental racket angle at the start of the topspin stroke, for various kinds of rubber sheets

The same applies to the backspin strokes, as you can see below.

Image2. Fundamental racket angle at the start of the backspin stroke, for various rubbers

As you can see, there is, in principle, no significant difference for the low friction long pimples between backspin and topspin. But, to play with this kind of rubber, the preferred stroke technique is a bit different.

Stroke technique of low friction long pimples

First, a few more basic principles for low friction long pimples especially. After that we go on describing how you make the strokes for different incoming spins, using low friction long pimples.

Basic principles

  1. You need to make strokes that bend the pimples, otherwise, you’ll get no control. The direction in which you bend the pimples is not always important, what is important is that you bend them. This is the second most important thing to remember from this text.
  2. You use a loose grip of the racket handle. As loose as possible with good control and of course without the risk of dropping your racket.
  3. Take it easy, don’t be aggressive with the low friction long pimples rubbers.
  4. End your stroke in the horizontal direction where you want to place the ball.
  5. As described above, you need an open bat angle, almost vertical.
  6. You can use the long pips to reinforce and reverse spin, but not to entirely kill spin. You can also not override spin, because you cannot generate much spin. Spin is your best friend in the winning game. But, with the low friction long pimples rubber you manipulate the incoming spin rather than generate any.
  7. When chopping you either make a normal chop stroke or do a short and light chop stroke. Both works. Make consistent strokes bh or fh, from starting position, around, and back to the starting position.
  8. You should never make any power hits. These rubbers are not meant for this, they are no good at it, and the pips might break easily. So, do all fast hits (like a smash) with the inverted rubber, and not with the long pips. Doing flips or flicks at the net, that are not too hard, are okay, though.
  9. At slow balls over the table, you need to push/swish/flick the ball a little light at ball contact, so that the pimples can work properly. This to make sure to control the speed and placement. This is much more important for long-pips than for a normal inverted rubber.

How to handle no-spin

Image3. Long Pimples with low friction, to counter no spin balls

You have at least three options to handle no spin balls.

  1. Push forward and down. Keep the open, neutral, almost vertical racket angle. This stroke is effective and you’ll get good control. However, if you are used to an inverted rubber, this can be a bit awkward in the beginning, as the normal push has a more horizontal movement and a sharper bat angle, like in the picture below (inverted; backside).
  2. Try sweeping aside instead, or upwards, if the ball has momentum (speed).
  3. You may also try a looping motion and give quite some momentum. It won’t be as fast as with an inverted rubber. This can work well as a surprise, but with ox (no sponge), this is a risky shot.
Image4.

But, do not just push back straight with a flat hit, or a smash, because with no spin you have no control and the ball will go long, straight. Not bending the pips means high-risk shots.

How to handle backspin

Image5. Long Pimples with low friction, to counter backspin balls

You have a number of options to handle backspin balls.

  1. Push forward and up. Keep the open, neutral racket angle.
  2. Do a looping stroke and give some momentum, making sure to bend the pimples, at least a bit. It can work well sometimes, as a surprise effect. Your opponent reacts instinctively on your stroke movements, and return as if there was topspin, and the ball goes into the net.
  3. If you use the long pips on your backhand, try a wrist movement. Contrary to short pips, the wrist should be avoided with long pips but could work.
  4. Close to the net, push upwards, that is, with a digging motion.
  5. Should you attack with the pips, it is on the backspin balls you should attack. To attack, go hard upward and forward! Especially if you use ox or a thin sponge, which means your rubber dampens, you need to start the stroke upwards, otherwise, the ball will go into the net.
  6. On a high-enough ball, just push it flat so it goes just over the net and drops on the other side due to the backspin.

If you get a lot of backspin towards you, that is, if your opponent makes a chop or a dig (a sharp, long push), then remember to do as described in this section, properly. But, do not attempt to do a chop!

How to handle topspin

Image6. Long Pimples with low friction, to counter various topspin balls
Image7. Trajectory, ball contact points

You actually have a lot of different options to handle topspin, but you’ll have to practice them.

  1. Pull down (see Image6 above). The stronger the incoming loop, the more down and less forward (3–4 on the trajectory, Image7).
  2. Pull up and a bit forward, for looser middle-high topspin lobs or balls low over the table (2–3). You need to close the racket a bit for this stroke (like for medium pips-out, in Image1).
  3. Block fast loops by swishing downwards. You swish or flick a bit hastily downwards at the ball impact, resulting in a straight fastball with slight backspin. Over the table or behind the table (2–3). Actually, an upward movement also works.
  4. Chop to reinforce or amplify the incoming topspin so that the opponent gets a strong backspin back. Behind the table, at hip height (6).
  5. Block over the table, right after bounce (0–1) with your racket a few centimeters (max an inch) from the table surface. The ball is suddenly stopped, just going over the net, like a drop shot. This kind of dead-ball-block is better with ox. It can be very effective.
  6. Block gently (with a loose grip and good ball sense and feeling) on a not too hard ball (1–3). Difficult.

To think about

When you use the above options in a varied manner you not only change the spin but also the rhythm as you hit the ball at different ball contact points on the trajectory.

Take the balls low. If the incoming ball is high, take the ball either at 1 or 6. Balls you take high tend to be returned high.

Don ‘t try to kill the spin. Instead, use the spin to get control and to create difficulties for your opponent.

Also, don’t block too hard, it then goes long, straight.

And don’t attempt a looping stroke against topspin. It might work well, but is a high-risk shot, especially with the ox rubber.

Create spin with your inverted side. Then you get spin back to work with, with your pimples. Don’t play a rally with no-spin! Alternate the sides.

Problem-solving: Long fast service to your pimples side

To get a fast long serve, usually with no spin, to your backhand (pips-out side) is a weak spot. There is no standard solution, you need to work out the solution that works best for you. Here are five proposed solutions:

  1. Swipe sideways, bending the pimples.
  2. Swipe upwards, bending the pimples.
  3. Block dead ball (as topspin №5 above).
  4. Move back and chop it.
  5. Position yourself ready with the backside (the inverted rubber). Then you won’t get the long fast serve (!), and you avoid the problem.

Problem-solving: Fast/hard no-spin shot to your pimples side

This is very similar to the above long fast serve problem. This can be really difficult to manage when you can’t use your inverted rubber.

Using the pips, you need to make some kind of swish movement at ball contact (in any direction) so to get some control. Try upwards. The other possibilities are to use a super-loose racket grip and muffle-block the ball or to dead-block the ball immediately after table bounce.

Problem-solving: You get a high no-spin ball to your pimples side

It is difficult to smash with low friction long pimples. So don’t.

  1. If you take the ball low, swipe upwards
  2. If you take the ball high, swipe sideways

Problem-solving: Your opponent plays a low speed, no spin game

This is especially tricky if you have ox. If you don’t get time to go around and use your inverted rubber, try to swipe sideways or upwards. Do not flick any hard with the pips — it is likely to go straight out, because of no spin, no control.

Problem-solving: You are forced to give away a slower, relatively high, no-spin ball to your opponent

Good players can easily identify a no spin ball and smash it. 
You need to practice. You should always make sure that your high or raising balls have lots of backspin, or complex spin so that the opponent doesn’t dare to smash.

Control — Deception — Sponge

One question is if you should use a sponge or not with your low friction long pimples rubber. I have tried to make some diagrams below, to illustrate the effects with a sponge of various thickness — but I here wish to put in a disclaimer that I might be wrong at some point — I haven’t tested all combinations. Also, different products have different properties.

My conclusion is that if you’re after a maximized disturbance and deception effect, and rarely use the long pips for an attack, then you should have no sponge (ox). Then you can both chop and block with the spin reversal.

If you want to attack backspin balls with less risk, then add a 0.5–1.0 sponge. But you’ll lose quite some disturbance and deception effect.

You can think of it like this: ox is like a go-kart (no suspension and direct steering), while with the sponge it is more like a Citroën. Which one do you prefer to drive?

I should also mention that with ox (no sponge) on your pips-out rubber, your inverted rubber gets slower. So, you might want to compensate by having a thicker backside sponge.

Image8. Long Pimples with low friction, perceived control for various sponge thickness
Image9. Long Pimples, perceived disturbance and deception effect, for various sponge thickness (schematic)

Strategy and Tactics

Some words about strategic choices and tactics.

Playing styles

Using the low friction long pimples, you win with spin and not with speed. You win by varying the spin and the placement, changing the pace and breaking the rhythm. Your great asset is the combination possibilities of generating spin with the inverted rubber, and the spin reinforcement/reversal and the lower spin sensitivity of the pimples.

With low friction long pimples, there are two typical defensive playing styles, either chopping a little further from the table or a disrupting block and attack play near or over the table.

It might be a good idea to try to master both these styles and tactically choose the best one for the game.

Chopping

The defensive style of play with chop is to patiently defend yourself and wait until the opponent misses his or her loops — you have in the chop great opportunities to both create strong backspin (by amplifying the rotation) and also vary the trajectory, length, etc. in a relatively safe way.

You have two options, either 1. a short, varied game, or 2. a longer, samey game.

  1. Get the chop balls low over the net, and vary the length — either do them very short or very long. Your opponent probably makes a dig back (a long deep push), a stroke with some risk of failure. Attack the dig by going up-forward.
  2. If you are sure that you get strong backspin on your balls, you can add height on your chop balls. Then you reduce the risk of missing the table. The chops become longer and higher (even still rising after passing the net) which might create difficulties for the opponent in looping back. Your opponent won’t smash a winner. He or she will either smash in the net or choose not to smash. Continue high-chopping the loops.

Deception

The deceptive game requires a greater tactical ability.

With long pimples, you have a great opportunity to, with the various strokes as described above, change the incoming spin and create uncertainty and indecision of the opponent. But, as already mentioned, you cannot generate much spin and thus you should only have long pips on one side and alternatively play with the backhand and forehand, in an active and balanced manner.

Twiddling

Twiddling (to sometimes turn your racket and play with both the red and the black side on the forehand and/or the backhand) is very effective, but in my opinion also very difficult to master, as the racket angle is different, and also the strokes.

Service

  1. Normally, use your inverted (backside) rubber for service, for instance alternating the short serves along the line to your opponent's forehand, with occasional fast, long serves diagonally. Always vary the spin according to your tactics. Put a great spin on the ball to get a ball with spin back, that you can reverse with your pimples.
  2. Sometimes, serve short with your long-pimples instead. Either push or swipe the bat, as you would do with the inverted rubber. To control the speed and placement, remember to swish the ball a little extra at ball contact. Then, if you are lucky, your opponent lifts the ball too high (because backspin was expected), and you can attack and score a winner easily.

Service return

You’ll soon notice that your service return errors will be fewer than with the inverted rubber, as the low friction long pimples rubber is much less sensitive to incoming spin than the inverted rubber.

  1. Learn to use both rubbers almost over the full table. Alternate your service reception, sometimes using the inverted rubber, sometimes using the long pips. Your opponent never knows what to expect.
  2. Return with the inverted rubber, as usual, opening/looping/flicking on long or high serves, and pushing gently on low and short serves.
  3. Return with long pips with a small swish-down if topspin, with a push upward and forward if backspin, a push down and forward if no-spin, or make a swipe either left or right. Any spin is easy to return.
  4. For low speed serves, regardless of the incoming spin, you may sometimes return these serves with a flat, straight push. This can be very effective, as your opponent might become unsure of the spin.
  5. For long serves difficult for you to attack, back out from the table and chop instead. Alternatively, twiddle or go round (pivot).

Spin reversal

You can reverse any complex service spin with the low friction long pimples.

  • Topspin becomes backspin and vice verse (horizontal axis).
  • Lateral spin left becomes lateral spin right and vice verse (vertical axis). This is the normal side spin.
  • More interesting are the effects with the lateral deviation — the right or left side deviation at the bounce (longitudinal axis).

Spin reversal at service return

When your opponent gets her own, reversed spin back, but the ball is as well jumping sideways unexpectedly, your opponent risks missing her third ball attack.

Psychology

When you

  • alternate the strokes
  • with good placement
  • vary and reverse the spin
  • change the pace and break the rhythm
  • do your very best to create difficulties with spin
  • deceive and disturb,

then you might make the opponent

  • frustrated
  • gutless, and later during the match even
  • apathetic.

Table Tennis is not a beauty contest. It is psychological warfare.

As long as you manage to be in control of the game, you’ll slowly break down your opponent.

You move the success factor from reaction time to the mind.

You know that you will win, or at least that your tactics work well when your opponent shouts out loud:

  • “There is no play”
  • “I hate this game”
  • “Bloody pimples, they should be forbidden”

Then, the only thing you need to do is to continue patiently with full concentration on the next point and the next ball and remain calm and self-controlled. And control the smile on your face.

Summary

When you play with pips-out rubbers you need to open up your bat. With long pimples, you need to make strokes that bend the pimples. Otherwise, you’ll get no control.

A long pimples rubber with low friction and without sponge (ox) has the most deceptive or disturbing effect for play near the table and is good for traditional chopping as well. Preferably combined with an inverted rubber on the other side of the racket, to make attack play with heavy spin possible.

It can be rewarding to play with low friction long pimples, but it is also a bit of a challenge to learn and master. To get the most out of the long pimples, you’ll need to practice new strokes and be tactical.

Pimpled facts

Technical

Image10. Facts box — Table of pimpled rubbers

Pips-out is not only for elderly exercisers

Image11. Top 50 women
Image12. Top 50 men
  • 2/3 of the players with pips-out play defensive, 1/3 play offensive
  • Almost all with long pimples play defensive
  • These distributions have been stable over the years and decades
  • Low friction long pimples are mainly used below Top 200 WR
  • ~60 % of all finalists in veteran classes 50+ play with pips-out rubbers

Credit statistics data Lars Borg 2017–02

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