Joining the dark side – when is the right time to switch to pimples?

We have a player in our league called Dan Fielding. He’s a strong attacking player, who I have never managed to beat. I have taken the odd game from him, but the result over the years is usually a 3-0 defeat. 

Last week I lost again, but I lost in a new way! To my surprise, he turned up with a bat which had long pimples on one side. What the heck was going on? Dan beats me, and most players in our league, with his strong forehand and backhand topspins, so why the switch? 

Before we started the match, Dan told me he was getting bored with attacking and wanted to try a different style. That was it. No hidden agendas. No trying to cover up a weak backhand. Just a change. Something different. Fair enough. 

In the first game, I was a little hesitant, trying to work out his new playing style. When you are so used to someone attacking you, it’s a little disconcerting when they start pushing and chopping! I lost the first game 11-6. In the next two games, I played better, but still lost 11-9 and 12-10. But it was a fun match and Dan seemed to be enjoying the challenge of trying to win matches in a different way.

Experimenting with short pimples

There is another player I coach, who recently experimented with using short pimples on her forehand. She has a strong forehand attack, but usually hits the ball flat rather than using topspin. The result is that her attacks will go off the end of the table using her usual inverted rubber.

The idea of using short pimples was that it would suit her flat hitting technique. At first she was uncertain, but after a couple of weeks she started to play really well and her forehand attacks were landing on the table more often and were hard to return. Her game had improved.

But using short pimples wasn’t making her happy. Even though she was playing better, she wasn’t getting satisfaction from using the short pimples. Despite her flat hitting style, she really wants to develop her topspin game and she saw the short pimples as a barrier to this. So she went back to using inverted rubbers.

When should you switch to pimples?

What can we learn from these two short anecdotes? I think experimenting with a different type of rubber, whether long pimples, short pimples or anti-spin, is a really good thing to do. It may not be something you stick with, but you never know whether a change of equipment will suit you unless you give it a try. 

There is a feeling among some in the table tennis community that switching to a pimples rubber is somehow cheating. I don’t believe this is the case at all. Playing effectively with a pimples rubber takes a lot of skill, adds variety to the sport and gives opponents a different type of challenge to overcome. 

For some players, using a short or long pimples rubber may be a better match for their playing style. For example, if you predominately push and chop the ball with your backhand, it makes a lot of sense to use long pimples. You’ll find it easier to return more balls.

Or if you like to attack using flat hits, rather than topspin, then using short pimples could make your game more consistent and effective.

Some players switch to pimples when they get older, to try and keep them competitive with younger players. This certainly is something to consider if you are an older player and you think you are declining in performance. But there is no guarantee it will transform your game. You still have to work hard at mastering the use of short or long pimples. But it’s worth experimenting with. 

Ultimately it comes down to your own personal satisfaction. If using pimples makes you enjoy playing table tennis more and gives you a new hunger to improve, then this is a great thing. You should ignore any grumbles from other players who find it hard to play you. It is their challenge to work this out. Using long pimples and short pimples is entirely legitimate and requires great skill to use them well. 

What about me? I sometimes use short pimples and long pimples in my coaching sessions, if a player wants to practise against these types of rubbers. And I find it very enjoyable to use something different. Would I ever commit to using pimples all the time? Maybe. I haven’t ruled it out. For the moment, I am getting a lot of satisfaction from developing my topspin strokes. But if I get to the stage where I want a new challenge or if I feel a switch in equipment may give my game a boost, then I would happily switch to pimples.

How about you? Have you switched to using pimples? Why did you do it? Has it helped you improve? Or if you use inverted rubbers, is there anything which would tempt you to switch to pimples? Let me know in the comments section below…

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