The typical push/blocker who uses long pimples is characterized by the ability to stand close to the table and face the hardest thunderbolts an opponent can hurl at him without flinching. Some push/blockers are more aggressive and like to look for attacks of their own, while others are content with frustrating their opponents attacks with deft placement, but both are worthy of respect.
Tip 1 – Stand Your Ground
As a push/blocker, you will need to stay close to the table as much as possible. More than a yard (1 meter) or so back from the table is dangerous territory to be in, unless you have an very good attack at that range.
Tip 2 – Keep it Tight
Being that close to the table, the push/blocker needs to make it as difficult as possible for his opponent to attack him. Serves should be appropriate for your own style, with attacking push/blockers looking to set up attacks of their own, while defensive push/blockers should concentrate on either preventing their opponent’s attack, or forcing the opponent to attack where they are waiting.
Tip 3 – Use the Angles
By staying close to the table, the typical push/blocker can often make life difficult for his opponent by maximizing the angles available to him. Going wide on the forehand and backhand can force the typical looping opponent to cover a lot of ground if he wants to keep attacking. Only the best opponents will have the footwork to keep up the pace.
Tip 4 – Use the Attack Push
Your long pimples can be used to quickly transition from pushing rallies to your own attack. When your opponent pushes the ball at you, hit the ball with a slightly forward and down motion, with the bat face nearly vertical. This action, which looks a lot like the normal push, will result in a fast ball with light to heavy topspin (the heavier the backspin of the opponent, the more topspin you will get), and can be placed wide or into the crossover point of the opponent.
Tip 5 – Tie Them Up
Good placement of the ball can prevent all but the best players from getting their powerful attacks in. Your bread and butter placement should be aimed at the crossover point of the opponent, where the shakehander has to choose between forehand and backhand and the penholder has to decide to whether to attack or block. Mixing in wide placements outside the easy reach of your opponent will make your opponent hesitant and force him to constantly be on the move to make his attacks.
Tip 6 – Get Rhythm
Try to get into a rhythm of your own – and prevent your opponent from developing any. The long pimples gives you excellent variation in speed and spin – make the most of it. Every deceptive change of pace, spin, length and placement forces your opponent to think and adjust his game and strokes – and because you are so close to the table he won’t have much time to do it in either. For the typical attacker who likes to speed glue and loop everything, playing this sort of tactical, thinking game can be a huge headache – literally!
Tip 7 – Pack a Punch
In the 1980’s and 1990’s, Carl Prean used a backhand punch with the long pimples to good effect. It’s a highly unusual stroke, and you can be sure your opponent won’t have played against it too often. Although you may not want to speed glue your long pimples like Carl apparently did, having this change up stroke in your arsenal will give your opponent one more thing to worry about, even if you don’t hit it as hard as Preano!
Tip 8 – Roll with it
If you are using one of the medium type pimples such as the TSP P2-Curl, you can use the attacking topspin stroke with long pimples to good effect. The stroke is actually played fairly similarly to a typical loop stroke, which makes it easier as well. The relatively slow pace and low spin of the ball compared to the speed of your swing can wreak havoc on an opponent’s timing of the ball, with many opponents actually finishing their stroke before the ball has reached them. Deng Yaping was a master of this in the women’s ranks in the 1990’s.
Tip 9 – Pick and Hit
Resist the temptation to overdo the twiddling. Playing so close to the table means that you will have little time to twiddle if the opponent catches you out, so make sure that you can block with the long pimples on both sides of the bat, as well as with your normal rubber. Choose the balls you want to twiddle for, and have a plan in advance about when you will twiddle back – you won’t have enough time to make it up as you go. Developing a handful of standard attack patterns can be very helpful, provided you don’t overdo them and let your opponent start to anticipate your strategy.