Tactics for beating a long pimples player

One of the trickiest opponents you will face when learning to play table tennis is the player who uses long pimples.

I vividly remember my first match against a long pimples player many years ago. I simply didn’t have a clue what was going on. My pushes were popping up really high. My blocks were hitting the bottom of the net. My attacks were going long or into the net – anywhere other than my opponent’s half of the table. It was like I’d forgotten how to play table tennis.

After this miserable experience, I did some research and began to understand the effect long pimples have on the ball.

In short, everything is different! If an opponent pushes my push, the ball doesn’t come back with backspin, it comes back with no spin or light topspin. If an opponent blocks my topspin, the ball doesn’t come back with topspin, it comes back with no spin or light backspin. If my opponent topspins my push, the ball doesn’t come back with topspin, it comes back with no spin or even light backspin.

Confused? I certainly was. It felt like I had to unlearn everything I knew about spin, when facing this type of player. (If you want more information about how long pimples work, take a look at this basic guide or this in-depth explanation).

Over the years, I have played loads of matches against long pimples players and feel much more comfortable. It still requires lots of concentration and makes my brain hurt, but I win many more than I lose.

Below are a few tactics I have used successfully and which can help you win more points against long pimples players. There are a few different long pimples playing styles, but for the purpose of this blog post, I’ll focus on the most common. This is a player who uses long pimples on their backhand and an inverted (normal) rubber on their forehand. They are predominantly a defensive player, but will attack high balls which land on their forehand side.

Tactics to use against long pimples players

Topspin, push, topspin, push – If you play a topspin attack and your opponent chops the ball back with their long pimples, the ball comes back with very heavy backspin. It’s physically very demanding to keep playing consecutive topspin attacks, as each time the ball is returned with ever more backspin. More often than not, you’ll run out of steam and topspin the ball into the net.

One tactic to overcome this is to alternate topspin and push shots. You attack with topspin, your opponent chops with long pimples. Instead of topspinning the heavy backspin ball, just push the ball back. Your opponent will most likely push your push and the ball will come back to you with no spin or light topspin. This is much easier to attack than heavy backspin.

You may need to play this combination a few times until there is an easy ball to attack or your opponent makes an error.

Play with light topspin – Long pimples players love playing against heavy spin attacks. Their long pimples make it easy to control the spin, plus they can give all the spin back to you as heavy backspin. One tactic to overcome this is to play with light topspin attacks aimed towards their long pimples. By using light topspin, you won’t get heavy backspin returns. So it’s much easier to keep the rally going for longer.

This style of play does require a lot of patience. The rallies can be quite long, as you wait for a loose ball to attack with speed. But I’ve often found that a long pimples player will get frustrated against this style of play, as they don’t have much spin to work with. They start forcing their strokes a bit too much and make unforced errors. What a refreshing change!

Attack with flatter hits – It’s more difficult for a long pimples player to return a drive attack than a purely spin attack. Spin attacks are usually slower, giving a long pimples player more time to get into position to chop or block. And of course, if they chop your spin attack, all that spin comes back to you as backspin. So if you flatten your attacks a bit more, your shots will be quicker making it harder for the long pimples player to get into position to chop or block effectively. And since there is less spin on the attack, if the ball is returned, it won’t be loaded with heavy spin.

Use no spin or light backspin serves – Long pimples players love heavy spin serves. Why? I’m sure you know the answer by now – because they can use their long pimples to return all that heavy spin to you. So serve with less spin. If you serve no spin, their return won’t have much spin, making it easier to play the third ball. If you serve light backspin, the ball will be returned with no spin or light topspin, giving you an opportunity for a flat hitting third ball attack. Make sure you vary the length and position of your serves to keep them guessing.

Target their non-pimples side – If you really struggle against long pimples and keep making mistakes, try targeting their non-pimples side. If you force them to play with their inverted rubber, the spin is going to be more conventional. If they push it will be backspin. If they block it will be topspin. If they topspin, it will be topspin etc, etc.

You may find that they try to cover their inverted side with their pimples, e.g. if they use long pimples on their backhand, they may play backhand strokes from the forehand side. If they do this they will be leaving themselves very exposed on the backhand side, so you can win many points by playing to the wide forehand and then switching to the wide backhand.

They also may ‘twiddle’ their bat. This means they switch which side they use for long pimples. So keep an eye on which rubber colour is long pimples. And if they twiddle, you need to target the other side.

Summary

Some players complain that long pimples are unfair and should be banned. I think this is often because they do not understand what effect the long pimples have on the ball. When you begin to understand how the spin changes, you will find that long pimples are entirely predictable and not so difficult to play against.

You do need a lot of concentration when playing against long pimples. To begin with you may find you really have to focus on your opponent’s stroke action, the flight of the ball and the ball rotation to work out what the spin is and then play the appropriate shot. But the more you practice against this style, the easier it will become.

What tactics do you use when playing a long pimples player? Let me know in the comments box below.

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About Tom Lodziak

I’m a table tennis coach, player and blogger based in Cambridge in the UK. Sign up to my popular FREE monthly newsletter and I'll send you tips, blogs, articles and videos to help you improve and win more points. You can also follow me on Twitter and subscribe to my Youtube channel.

5 thoughts on “Tactics for beating a long pimples player

  1. Good article Tom. I had the same experience as you when I first played people with these rubbers. I had no idea what was going on ! I have spent most of the summer practicing against players that use anti loop or long pimples, and am not quite so `scared of them now` . Having said that, I lost to a player the other week who `twiddled` his bat while playing. I found that having to look to see which side/ colour of the bat he was using, very confusing. He beat me quite easily, (or did I beat myself ?)

  2. Once upon a time my favorite player was joo se hyuk. Loved his athleticism and varied game. He could attack as well as defend endlessly. I decided to give his style a try and bought a sheet of Paulo long pips for my backhand. I did well with this style almost immediately as I have always liked coming off the table to defend or lob or to send high ARC loops onto the table. The pips players I encounter however are not at all like moo we hyuk or even myself for that matter. They have not chosen pips for the potential athleticism involved but rather as a crutch to hide their non existent backhands . I can think of no other sport with as narrow a margin for error as table tennis which then introduces such alien technology.

    • Ha! I totally agree. At an amateur level, most players choose long pimples to cover up a backhand weakness. It has the extra bonus of confusing players who are not used to playing against long pimples. So by using long pimples, they instantly turn a weakness into a strength. Incidentally, Joo Sae-Hyuk turned up at our table tennis club in Cambridge in January. He is a good friend of one of our players and was visiting for a couple of weeks. He had a knock-up with some of our club players and gave some coaching tips. Awesome to see the great defender in action!

  3. I found myself nodding in agreement with all of your advice.

    An important remark: you need to train this type of play against a pips player, or use your matches as training material (which the ego has a hard time doing) because it’s one thing to know what to do, another to overrule the muscle memory. Void of pips partners, it took me quite a while to confidently convert the above theory into practice.

    Nowadays, alternating looping and pushing has become natural for me to do, so I can bombard their weak (pips) side. My default tactic is long backspin serve into the pips, then loop kill into the pips. When this becomes too predictable, I add variations, like short no spin serves.

    Pips players like to serve flat with the pips side, especially after having served a number of times with the normal side. I find many players (including me) tend to overestimate the forward spin on even a flat serve with pips and block/loop the serve into the net. A soft push or lifted ball will give them an easy ball to attack with the strong side. I’ve resolved to well executed loops, adding enough spin and power, aiming for a controlled spinny return, preferably into the pips. I get backspin back, push once and next attack.

    Thanks for the great article!

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