How To Get Along With Your Long Pips
Using long pimpled rubbers is an art in itself, but one that can be mastered with time and practice.
In the accompanying videos, I’m using Stiga Destroyer OX – a fairly standard long pimpled rubber with no sponge – which has fairly rough pimple tops with a bit of grip. So the techniques I’m demonstrating will work quite well with most non-frictionless long pips.
Long Pip Rubbers vs Float Balls
Beginner to intermediate players often try to contain you by continually floating the ball into your long pips, and not giving the long pips any spin to work with. They are looking for a slow, high, no spin return that they can put away. This strategy will often work against inexperienced long pips users, since the technique of playing float balls with long pips is very different to any smooth rubber technique. Let’s show you how to fix this problem.
If the opponent floats the ball to your long pips, keep your bat face almost vertical, and move the racket mostly down and slightly forward – this stroke will keep the ball from popping up off your paddle. This is the default return to use when an opponent is trying to beat you with dead balls. It will give a light topspin back. Used properly, you will be able to produce a wide range of pace from this stroke, and the ball will stay low and hard to attack strongly.
For an occasional variation, when your opponent gives you float balls, you can push with the long pips. This is a little more difficult than the vertical stroke, since you have to time it right and bend the pips by making brushing contact with the ball. If you don’t time it right and bend the pips, the ball will shoot up into the air and off the table. When you do get it right, it will stay low and have no spin or very light chop, although it looks like a heavy chop.
Long Pip Rubbers vs Backspin
If you are playing an experienced player, and he gives you a couple of float balls and sees that you can handle them without a problem, he is likely to go to his Plan B instead – heavy backspin. Better players can produce a lot of backspin on their pushes, and this backspin will turn into topspin when it contacts your long pips, so unless you are very careful, the ball will dive into the net. Here’s how to handle the heavy pusher with ease.
When your opponent pushes the ball with a medium to heavy amount of backspin, push the ball back using a chopping motion with the long pips – just as if you were going to spin the ball heavily back with normal rubbers. This will produce a low ball with a little topspin or float, although it looks like a medium to heavy backspin.
There are two important things to note about this technique.
- First, you must brush the ball, not hit the ball. If you don’t bend the pimples on contact, the ball will shoot straight up in the air from your open bat face, and fly off the end of the table.
- Second, you must keep the racket face open – if you make the racket face vertical, you won’t manage to bend the pips and the ball will dive into the net due to your opponent’s backspin being turned into topspin.
For an occasional variation, when your opponent gives you backspin, you can open the bat face a little and shove the bat forward and a little upward. The slight upward motion with a slightly open bat face will lift the ball up over the net, and the topspin produced from your opponent’s backspin will dip the ball on the other side of the table. The forward motion will give the ball a fair bit of speed. The more backspin your opponent has put on the ball, the more topspin you will get, and the harder you can hit and still bring the ball down on your opponent’s court.
When your opponent has given you a heavy backspin ball (such as in the videos, where I am playing against a robot), you can use the long pips to play a more aggressive counterhit, converting his backspin into topspin. Be warned though – harder is not always better. I find that I am most effective when I use my long pips to hit a softer stroke – the different speed and trajectory is what causes my opponents the most problems.
Long Pips vs Spin Variation
If your opponent finds that you can handle both float and heavy backspin balls, he is likely to try varying his spin between the two extremes, hoping to catch you out. For those in between pushes from the opponent, you can use a stroke that is in between the float and heavy backspin techniques listed above – the less spin on the ball from your opponent, the more your own stroke becomes vertical and a little forward. The more backspin, the more you can push it back like a conventional push, bending the pimples to keep the ball low. So rather than having two separate strokes, you end up with one stroke that is modified as necessary, varying between the float stroke and the heavy backspin stroke.
When your opponent topspins to you, the best and easiest answer for a close to the table player is simply to gently block it back. You’ll get better effect taking the pace off the ball and making your opponent step in to reach it, than if you try to punch block the ball, which allows your opponent to stay in position. It’s much easier to land the ball on the table using a soft block as well. Some players use a perfectly still bat, while others like to move the back slightly at contact to absorb even more of the opponent’s pace.
Trying to counterhit your opponent’s topspin with your long pips is possible (I do it myself occasionally), but it is a high risk stroke that should only be used now and then – and preferably against slower topspins. Used too often, you run the risk of your opponent adapting to your pace, and taking advantage of your slow return to muscle the ball for a winner.