One of the trickiest opponents you will face when learning to play table tennis is the player who uses long pimples.
I clearly 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 the backhand and an inverted (normal) rubber on the forehand. He is mainly a defensive player, but will attack high balls which land on his 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 his 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 hit a winner or your opponent makes an error.
Play with light topspin – A long pimples player loves playing against heavy spin attacks. His long pimples make it easy to control the spin, plus he 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 his 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 he doesn’t have much spin to work with. He may start forcing his 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 he chops 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 – A long pimples player loves heavy spin serves. Why? I’m sure you know the answer by now – because he can use his long pimples to return all that heavy spin to you. So serve with less spin. If you serve no spin, his 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 him guessing.
Target the non-pimples side – If you really struggle against long pimples and keep making mistakes, try targeting the non-pimples side. If you force him to play with his inverted rubber, the spin is going to be more conventional. If he pushes, it will be backspin. If he blocks, it will be topspin. If he topspins, it will be topspin etc, etc.
You may find the long pimples player tries to cover his inverted side with his pimples, e.g. if he uses long pimples on his backhand, he may play backhand strokes from the forehand side. If he does this, he will leave himself 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.
He may also ‘twiddle’ his bat. This means he switches which side he uses for long pimples. So keep an eye on which rubber colour is long pimples. And if he twiddles, you need to target the other side.
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.