Welcome to PIPS!Written by Web Master Saturday, 12 June 2004
Everything you always wanted to know - or didn't want to know - about pimple table tennis rubbers... Pips is a table tennis equipment site set up by a group of like-minded table tennis players that are keen to educate the table tennis community about long pimpled and other pimpled rubbers. We feel these rubbers add great diversity to our game, and it's something that should be embraced, and not frowned upon or dimissed as a 'cheater's rubber'. The purpose of this website is two fold:
By providing comprensive information and guides on pimpled rubber we hope to bring more players to try these types of rubbers By educating all other players and teaching them how these rubbers work, players will learn how to player against these type of rubbers, and will see them as just another aspect of the game to learn and overcome.
We hope to also cover medium pimple and short pimple rubbers, as we see these merely as another variation in the rubber type, with properties somewhere in between long pimples and inverted style rubbers. If you know a little about pimpled rubbers and are willing to help us in our cause, please contact us! We need all the help we can get!
IntroductionWritten by Alex Sunday, 20 May 2007
How many of you thought you were playing pretty well, got the basics principles of spin under your belt, but then came face to face with a long pimple players and got made to look like a fool? Me, me. and MEEE, I hearwell despair no moreIn this article well attempt to unveil the dark secrets of long pimples rubbers. These secrets have been kept hidden for centuries among the elite players, so put on your horns and walk away from the light towards the Dark Side and prepare to be changed forever
Basic PropertiesWritten by Alex Sunday, 20 May 2007
Ok, lets get back on a more serious note. Although there is a huge range of different long pimpled rubbers, they all share some common characteristics, and all to different degrees. These characteristics are commonly referred to as long pimple effects, and are summarised below: 1. The small surface area of the tips of long pimples results in minimum contact between the ball and the rubber. This reduces the friction between the ball and rubber significantly, resulting in 1
the rubber being very insensitive to incoming spin, and allowing a lot of the incoming spin to be returned back to the opponent. This is commonly referred to as 'Spin Reversal'. The pimples bend under impact with the ball, the higher the impact the more they bend. Now as the pimples bend, more of the rubber (sides of the pimples) is exposed, resulting in a greater contact surface area between the ball and the rubber, which changes the characteristics discussed in 1. In addition to this, the texture of the tip of the pimples may be different to that of the sides of the pimples, which changes the effect it has on the spin on the ball. The pimples bend back after releasing the ball. This results in some of the pimples giving the ball a bit of a flick, which can add some random spin to the ball. Although this effect is far more pronounced in soft, long and skippy long pimples, the effect is present for most long pimples rubbers. The long pimple rubbers are generally significantly slower than most other types of rubbers, often taking the pace off the ball. This generally improves control but diminishes attacking ability. The effects described in the 4 points above, can be significantly changed by the three main factors: Choice in sponge thickness. This usually ranges from no sponge (commonly referred to as OX) to thicker sponges usually up to 1.5mm. Most long pimple effects are greatest for OX, and decrease with the thicker sponges. As discussed later though, there may be good reasons to choose a thicker sponge. The hardness of the sponges also has an effect. Most long pimple effects are greatest for harder sponges, but again there can be good reasons for choosing softer sponges. The choice of blade can make quite a difference in how the pimples perform. Since the choice is often a compromise between the different rubbers on either side of the bat, the choice of suitable blades for the required style is often much harder than for inverted players. Most long pimple effects are greatest for harder blades.
Over the next few articles I will attempt to explain these 5 points in details, and explain what advantages and disadvantages these characteristics offer. Examples of rubbers where these effects are most obvious will be included.
Spin ReversalWritten by Alex Tuesday, 16 October 2007
1. Spin reversal: The key and most important feature of long pimpled rubbers is it so-called spin reversal. Although some of the other properties of these rubbers are important too, without spin reversal they simply would not be effective. So whats this spin reversal, and how can this magical rubber reverse the spin I hear you ask? Well the reality is, its not magical at all and its actually simpler to explain than the effect of the smooth and spinney inverted rubbers. All that the long pimple rubbers do, is allow the spinning ball from your opponent, to continue spinning in the same direction when you return it. Its as simple as that! So technically it should really be called spin continuation, but theres a good reason why its more commonly referred to as spin reversal, as illustrated in this example:2
1. Your opponent feeds you a ball with topspin:
2. You hit the ball with your long pimpled rubber and the ball rebounds off:
3. The ball rebounds off your bat, with reduced speed and spin, but notice that the ball is still spinning in the same direction, but because its traveling in the opposite direction, its now backspin:
Now the tricky and deceptive part of this is (put over-simplistically for illustration purposes), that it does not matter what type of stroke you play, the ball WILL return with backspin. So even if you play a stroke where you appear to impart topspin, the ball will still return with backspin. Just make sure you get it on the table. Similarly if your opponent feeds you backspin, or any other spin for that matter, you will return the opposite spin when you hit it with your long pimpled rubber. The fact that the spin is opposite, is where the term spin reversal comes from. In other words the key difference between spin coming from an inverted or long pimple rubbers from your opponent is: - The spin coming from an inverted rubbers basically depends on what type of stroke your opponent plays - The spin coming from a long pimple rubber depends on the type of spin that you send to your opponent, with the type of stroke that your opponent makes having much less impact (the extent of this depends on the type of long pimple rubber used). At the lower levels of table tennis, this property alone can win you points and often whole games. If your opponent imparts a lot of spin on the ball, and does not understand that this comes back in reverse, it will draw many errors or easy balls to put away. At the higher levels, the principle of the spin-reversal is often well understood, and can actually be taken advantage off. The main advantage that this property offers at this level is its relatively insensitivity to incoming spin, and the ability to return heavy spin when you receive heavy spin. For example your opponent feeds you a loops with heavy topspin, you return it with the long pimples, and heavy backspin comes back, which may make it hard for your opponent to attack again, or he may even hit it into the net! The spin reversal in association with some of the other properties of the long pimple rubber is what makes the rubbers powerful. The spin reversal just by itself has limited potential. The amount of spin reversal that your rubber produces, actually depends on many factors. The type of long pimple used is one factor. However how you play the stroke has an impact too, and varying the spin reversal is actually one form of deception, but this will be discussed in a later section.
Bending the pipsWritten by Alex Tuesday, 16 October 2007
2. Compressing and bending the pips: As mentioned before, spin reversal is one of the key properties of long pimple rubbers. However once you climb the grades ladder and get to play to more experienced players, this property alone may not be enough. If these players know that whatever spin they feed to your long pimple rubber, will come back with almost the exact reverse, they can control the spin completely, and can feed you spin, so that just the right spin comes back to suit their own game Of course you still have control over the speed and placement of the ball, but this may not be enough. Other options are still available for the more advanced players, such as twiddling to use the other side of the bat, or running around to play the ball with the rubber on the other side, but this will be discussed in the strategy section. OK so what options are available to combat your opponents from dominating play by exploiting the spin reversal property? Well the concept of the spin-reversal was described with an ideal long pimple rubber, where spin reversal is maximized. Some rubbers have hard pimples and very glassy and slippery tips come close to this ideal long pimple rubber, and are suited for a style where maximum spin reversal is required. Examples of these are Dr Neubauer Super Block and Hallmark Super Special. These rubbers are commonly referred to as Frictionless long pimple rubbers, and are a very important class of rubbers. However there is another main class of rubbers, commonly referred to Grippy or Friction long pimple rubbers, and these have some other interesting properties which will be discussed here. The reality is that ALL long pimple rubbers DO have some grip and therefore the type of stroke played WILL have some effect on the spin that is returned. Many long pimple rubbers also have softer pimples, which means theyll bend under impact, the harder the impact, the more they bend. By bending the pimples, more of the rubber surface is exposed to the ball, so the contact area between the rubber and ball is increased. This has the effect of reducing the spin reversal, but increasing the amount of spin you can impart. Some of these Grippy long pimple rubbers are designed to have significant grip on their tips and sides, and are often made softer so that the pimples can bend more easily. So what use is this property if it reduces the key spin-reversal property of long pimple rubbers? Well it offers another key feature of grippy long pimple rubbers, which is the ability to manipulate and control the spin, which can be used as a form of deception. This will be described below. Just as in section 1 we used an ideal frictionless rubber to illustrate the principle of spin reversal, here well use an ideal grippy long pimple rubber for illustration purposes. This rubber will have grippy tips, will bend under impact, and will have grippy sides. Consider the following5
1. Your opponent feeds you a ball with topspin:
2. The ball strikes your bat. But because the pimples are soft, they compress and push in as shown, resulting in many more pimples contacting the ball surface. The pimples are grippy, so they grab the ball and try to stop it from spinning.
3. The ball rebounds off with reduced speed and with virtually no spin.
The extent of how much of the spin is taken off the ball depends on quite a few other factors. The grippier the pimples, the better they can grip the ball and take off the spin. Also the longer the ball is in contact with the rubber (i.e. dwell time), the better the pimples can take off the spin. So a soft blade and/or a sponge will also increase the ability of taking off the spin. Finally the speed of the ball has an effect, the slower the ball, the slower the rebound, so the pimples have more time to take off the spin. An actual picture of the ball compressing the pimples is shown here:
This property by itself can already be very useful. A spinney loop that is returned short with no spin can be hard to attack again. However the player can actually control how much spin is taken off the ball as well, by the movement of the bat upon contact. By brushing the ball in the same direction as the ball is spinning, you can control whether you take off all the spin, return all the spin back to your opponent, or even add a little spin if you brush the ball faster than its spinning: 1. Your opponent feeds you a ball with topspin:
2. You strike the ball with a brushing action in the same direction as the ball is spinning. Note the squashing of the pimples while youre brushing exposes even7
more contact area for the ball to grip the rubber, allowing more manipulation of the spin. Because the bat travels in the same direction as the surface of the ball, some of the spin is continued on:
3. A reduced amount of spin is returned to the opponent, you control the amount:
The amount of spin returned is obviously also dependent on other factors. There will often still be a moderate amount of spin reversal, depending on factors explained earlier. By disguising how fast youre brushing the ball at the point of contact offers a form of deception, drawing errors from opponent who misjudge this. A picture of a ball making contact with a brushing action of a bat is shown here:
Note that if you brush the ball fast enough, you can actually add some spin to the ball as well. Against fast loops this may be very hard to do, and this is not really unique to long pimple rubbers. There are a variety of different strokes that can offer further manipulation of the spin, but this will be discussed in the Long Pimple Strokes section.
Modern Defense - techniques and tacticsWritten by Kees Friday, 29 February 2008 CLASSIC & MODERN DEFENCE BASIC TECHNIQUES AND TACTICS.
1. Introduction. Defending away from the table, made famous by masters of the art such as Ding Song, feared for his supreme staying-power and his ferocious attacks, or willow-waisted Tong Ling, who seemed to win her matches lightly dancing an intricate ballet, is the most spectacular as well as the most demanding style in table tennis. The classic defender mainly chops from about two paces or more behind the table, coming in fast regularly to push short returns or attack weak ones; the modern defender alternates even more between defending and attacking. A defender has, therefore, to be able to move very quickly from side to side, covering a considerable distance since six feet behind the table balls tend to travel fast out of reach, and at that he has to be able to move quickly in and out. Moreover, at the end of every rush he has to be able to poise himself perfectly and then flawlessly chop, push, block, loop or smash. Not only fleet feet and a great sense of balance are absolutely necessary assets in this style, but the defender must be able to execute each and every attacking stroke as well as all defensive techniques. After three years of ardent practice an attacker will be more or less completely skilled, but at that point the defenders education will have just begun. Defence, be it classic or modern, is the high-school of table tennis and if you wish to attend its classes you should be aware that you will have to do so for a considerable time and spend a lot of effort.9
You might well ask if all this labour is worth it. As a defender will you eventually be more than a match for attackers? Theoretically, yes. Backspin as a means to defeat your opponent is superior to topspin. Firstly, because topspin is produced by swinging upward, against gravity, using groups of muscles which are normally less strong than the groups of muscles used to hack downward, assisted by gravity, in order to produce backspin (try to fell a tree hacking head-high; then try felling it knee-high; and see what you like best). Secondly, because topspin can be used against the player producing it, for it can be actively blocked and redirected; but against backspin, using inverted rubber, one can either push or try to counter by producing at least as much topspin, so your opponent will have to give up the initiative or spend more energy than you did to try and gain it. Thirdly, your opponent cannot really afford to return heavy backspin balls when they are dropping; this severely limits his reaction-time and therefore cramps his style, whereas the defender prefers to take the ball when it is dropping and therefore has all the time in the world to play his game. In practice, however, the advantage of the defender over the attacker is not as clear-cut. The defender will chop mostly well away from the table and as a result the ball will travel farther than a ball hit by an attacker who is typically standing close to the table. The defenders ball will, therefore, in general lose speed and spin more than the ball hit by the attacker. The loss of speed is not much of a problem; the loss of spin is. Moreover, the introduction of the 40 mm ball, which loses spin and speed faster than the 38 mm ball, has been to the advantage of the attacker in this respect. It is still possible to deliver more chop than an attacker can handle, though, if the defender stays somewhat closer to the table than Ding Song used to do in his glorious days. Modern defensive styles as adopted by e.g. South-Korean female player Park Mi Young or Svetlana Ganina from Russia display this change in basic position. Seemingly a disadvantage, it has been turned into a gain, because attacking from this shorter distance is easier. As a result, the modern defender now may be more dangerous than ever before. How is it then, you might ask again, that there are so few defenders among the worlds top-players? There are two answers to this question. The first answer is that the number of defenders amongst top-players actually is disproportional high: 3 in the top 15 of men, 7 in the top 40 of women, if I counted right. That is 1 in 3 and 1 in 6 respectively, whereas I would estimate the rate of defenders to attackers in the total population of table tennis players to be more like 1 in 20 or 30. The second answer is that one probably would find even more defenders at the top, if more young players would choose to adopt this style. However, defensive styles are unpopular because it takes quite a long time to master them much longer than attacking styles. Ours is an era of impatience; success has to come quickly or people will turn away to find other opportunities. Typically, it will take more than a year to make an accomplished defender out of an accomplished attacker. Most players who set out at this course quit after about three months; this is known as the defenders dip and is caused by the grim fact that stepping up from attack to defence will initially mean you lose most matches you would have won before. You will start to win some after half a year of10
backbreaking training and again half a year further on you may be almost back on the level of competition you were used to. After that, however, you will start to shine. And defenders generally outlast attackers, so you may shine for a long, long time. Becoming a defender, then, will be far from easy and the choice should not be made light-heartedly. But if you are willing to dedicate yourself completely to the sheer beauty of this style, you will reach the apex of table tennis.
2. The essence of defence. Outline of the style. If you want to defend, you must be attacked. Think of yourself as a city; having an impregnable wall is not enough to defeat your enemy your opponent must be provoked to try and breach it or his weaknesses will not be exposed and you will not be able to exploit them and bring him on his knees. The idea of classic defence is to be besieged in such a way that the enemy attacks in vain and in the end is worn out, either to die in the field or to receive your coup de grce. The idea of modern defence, however, is to be besieged in such a way that the enemy attacks in vain and while doing so rapidly becomes vulnerable for quickly mounted counter-attacks. Modern defence is generally faster, more deceptive and less safe than classic defence, because it is more provocative it needs to be, because modern enemies are often so heavily armed (fast frames with fast rubbers generating massive spin) that they will breach your wall if you let them go on blasting at it. Whether you are a classic or a modern defender, your wall of defence should be equally perfect. No cracks, no fissures, no flaws. In table tennis this means you have to be able to bring back every ball. Furthermore, as any wall may be broken in time if the enemy is allowed a concentrated attack on it, you have to scatter his force and disrupt his assault time and again. This means you must deny your opponent the opportunity to fully deploy his topspin and, if he succeeds in deploying it nonetheless, counter it in such a way that he will not have another opportunity to fully deploy it. Impregnability and disruption are the keys to a successful defence. An unsuccessful enemy will weaken and get exhausted; yet you may have to finish him off and this is the only instance in which a classic defender should actually attack. Behind the table this means you will wait for your opponent to miss and use his mistakes to win the point yourself. The more modern you are as a defender, the more you will try to force errors and use them. From all this it can be seen why your main tool is backspin. Firstly, because against nospin and topspin the full force of topspin can be used for the attack; since there is no need to lift the ball, all energy of the stroke can be used for spin and forward speed. But against backspin part of the energy must be used to lift the ball; the result is less forward speed, so the attack is half-smothered. Using backspin means draining the opponents energy. Secondly, lifting a backspin ball is even harder (more likely: unsuccessful) when it is dropping after the bounce. This limits the possibilities the attacker has; he will have to hit the ball on the rise. Therefore using backspin cramps his style. Thirdly, using backspin against a topspin ball means (if it is done correctly) you are continuing the spin, instead of11
trying to stop it and replace it with spin of your own. So, all in all, using backspin means you are not only redirecting and draining your opponents energy, you are actually tapping it, turning the force of his attack against him. Nevertheless, a classic defender may still use topspin, but will do so merely for the coup de grce. A modern defender will use topspin attacks far more frequently, to disrupt his opponents play and force him to make errors. Now, for a rough outline of the defensive styles it is useful to discern between three zones of defence: you have to return balls from between the net and the middle of the table (first zone of defence), or between the middle of the table and its end or close behind it (second zone of defence), or from (much) further behind the table (third zone of defence). In the first zone you will kill the occasional high ball, but almost always balls in this area will be low and you will push them aggressively, placing them deep to provoke the half-smothered topspin attack (mentioned above) in the second or, preferably, the third zone. At that, a modern defender may decide to go for a flip every once in a while. The third zone is where your strength really lies if you are a classic defender, since away from the table you are able to chop with full force. Here you will almost always chop, because chopping means making full use of your opponents attack, continuing his topspin as backspin and if possible adding to it. A ball too high to chop, here, will be a ball to kill. But the modern defender may also decide to loop aggressively in this zone. In the second zone you will again kill a high ball and for the rest either chop-block or chop-push (I will explain this term later on), placing the ball deep in order to provoke a topspin ball in the third zone. For the modern defender, looping is an option. From this it will be clear that not only you will have to move to the left and to the right in order to get to the ball, but that you will also move to the table (in) and away from it (out) a lot; in fact, as a classic defender you will move in to move out and as a modern defender you will be all over the place. This determines your basic position behind the table: you should stand at a point from which you can comfortably reach balls in all three zones. Too close to the table means you will have problems going away from it in order to chop; too far away and you will not reach the balls in the first zone. Your basic position as a classic defender is, therefore, about a yard from the table, with your right hip behind the middle line (if you are right-handed; because your reach at the backhand side is somewhat less than at the forehand side). During play you must always be able to reach any ball, so you have to come back to this position after every move you make. It is useful to imagine a rectangle, occupying the court from one small step to your right to one small step to your left and a good step backward; your basic position is in the middle of the front line of this rectangle and, moving around the court, you should try and keep at least one leg inside it at all times. If your defensive style is more modern, your basic position is (for right-handed players) more to the left and closer to the table; this will give you more room to use your forehand attack strokes. 3. Moving around the court. As a defender you have to move in the right way or you will be caught in a position from which you cannot confidently return the ball.12
Stand in the basic position, feet somewhat apart (about is wide as your hips or even a bit less), your weight equally divided over them, knees slightly bend to make you stand springy, crouching a bit, holding out both your arms crooked (about 90 degrees) in front of you, your bat pointed half upward, half to your opponent. Stand balanced, relaxed, very lightly, ready and eager to move in any direction. Going in for the fast push or occasional flip, you step forward, always with your right leg (if you are right-handed) bringing your right foot just under the table. At the same time you move your weight forward; you catch it on your right leg, bending it. Instantly find your balance. While you were moving forward you stretched your arm; now you reach out even further and perform the stroke aggressively. Then, withdrawing your arm, you straighten your leg pushing back your weight, and you bring your leg back to the original position. Again, instantly find your balance and be ready for the next move. Note that going to the right, the middle or the left, you step out with your right leg! Always keep the other leg where it is! Think of moving in and back as one single flowing motion. Going out for the chop to the right you step out to the right and backwards, one not too big step, with your right leg. At the same time you move your weight in the same direction; you catch it on your right leg, bending it, and instantly find your balance. Moving this way you have turned your body half away from the table and you have raised your hand, bending your arm sharply upward (your bat should be more or less in your neck). The moment you have found your balance, you begin chopping down, bending your leg even more; have your upper body follow the stroke downward (so you are leaning over, but retain your balance) and forward, so that you will end up face forward. The stroke itself resembles a deep scoop, going at first (still high up) a bit backwards, then mostly down, then down and sharply forwards; your bat should come in one flowing motion under the ball. You hit the ball, relax, and follow through downward and forward a short way, then upward, in one single flowing motion, pushing your weight upward straightening your leg and return to your original position. It is important that you push up your weight energetically, offsetting the upwards motion against the vigorous downwards motion of the stroke; if you do this your right leg may lose contact with the floor for a moment and the result is a floating sensation, a kind of hop. This hop facilitates bringing your right leg back forward. Do not exaggerate it, though! It is far better to keep ever so lightly in touch with the floor, because that way you will be able to move suddenly if you have to you cannot move when you are in mid-air. If you have to go further out to get to the ball, step out to the right and backwards, bring in your left foot until you are standing with your feet as much apart as before, step out to the right and backwards again. If necessary, repeat this gliding step. Do not lose contact with the floor with your left foot! Return to your basic position the same way, in reverse. Now do not lose contact with the floor with your right foot! Going out for the chop to the left you do the same, but have the left leg do what the right leg did going out to the right, and have the right leg do what the left leg did. Also turn your upper body more; because your arm has to move across your body now, you may actually have to turn your back to the table! Still, you should keep your balance, which means that, if necessary, you should bring your right foot in front of your left foot so that for a very brief moment the line of your hips is at rectangles with the back of the table doing this, just13
touch the floor with your right foot, nothing more, while you are quickly and energetically performing the stroke, then bring the right foot back. Again, the vigorousness of the motion downward and upward as one whole should result in the little hop which facilitates returning to your original position. You will have noted that moving this way you will mainly, if not exclusively, move diagonally across the court both towards the table and away from it. This is necessary, because it will put you in the correct position for the main strokes, viz. the push and the chop. It will, by the way, also put you into the right position for a fast loop or smash. Furthermore, the hop is an intrinsic part of the motion, again connecting the way you move and the way you strike the ball. Therefore, moving around the court and performing your strokes should form a single lively flowing harmonious whole! Of course, it will not always be possible to move diagonally in and out, returning always to your basic position. Sometimes you will have to stay back; in this case it is important to try and have at least one foot still in the rectangle described above. If you go or stay too far back, chances are that you will have to come in for a short ball so quickly that you can only run to get it, and you will lose the chance to get into the correct position for hitting the ball. The modern defender may, as has been noted, choose a different basic position, standing more to his backhand corner of the table. Some modern defenders stand as far to the left as do attackers. This, however, is only their basic position for serve and return of serve, or for attack. As soon as the rally is underway and they are going to defend, their basic position will be the central one of the classic defender. This means that for the modern defender the basic position is continuously shifting. Yet the pattern of movement remains the same; the modern defender will still move diagonally in and out. As the centre of motion shifts from left to right and back again, this diagonal motion becomes a criss-cross. It may seem, therefore, that the movement of e.g. Joo Se Hyuk, who at times attacks more often than he defends, is erratic; but actually he is moving systematically around this changing basic position. For the beginning defender following this extreme example would be unwise; it is best to start in the classic style moving around one centre, the basic position in the middle, and only after having mastered this completely, to step up to the next stage, viz. that of the modern defender. Exercise 1. You can practice moving around the court very well at home; actually, it is advisable to do this every day until it has become a complete habit. Take 4 dishes and 10 table tennis balls; put 2 dishes 1 good step in front of you and about 1.5 metres apart on a table or on 2 separate chairs, put the other 2 on the floor 1 step behind you and also about 1.5 metres apart. Put 10 balls in the dish to your left on the table or the chair. Your basic position is in the centre. You get the idea: youre mimicking an actual rally this way. Move in to your left as described above, pick up a ball, move back to the basic position, move out to your right, put the ball in the dish there, return to the basic position; repeat this 4 times; then put the other 5 balls in the dish on the floor to your left; take a short break; now in the same manner bring all the balls to the dish on the table or the chair to your right. Dont forget the hop coming up from reaching down to the dishes on the floor! You can vary, bringing balls to different dishes. Start out simple, though, and in a moderate tempo; speed up and move in more intricate patterns as you get better at this. Try to float...14
4. Basic strokes. I will try and describe the basic defensive strokes here. There is a catch, though; as a defender, you are likely to use some sort of pips on one side of your bat. Some strokes need to be performed a little differently when using pips; some strokes may be ineffective with pips; I will indicate this with every stroke. Still, in my view, it is best that you learn this style of play using two inverted rubbers, not too thin, not too slow, on a defensive frame, since most likely you will not be able to execute a stroke with pips if you are unable to perform it with inverted and you will have to use inverted anyhow. To describe the point of contact with the ball I will use the terms 12 oclock for the top of the ball, 3 oclock for its back, 6 oclock for the bottom, and so on. With the strokes that are part of the attackers stock, I will not go into much detail; this means that the main topic below will be the chop. 4.1 First zone strokes. The three main defensive strokes to perform over the table are the push against backspin, and both the chop block and the backspin block against topspin. All of these are used to get the ball deep on the other side of the table, in order to provoke an attack, but carrying enough backspin to half-smother that attack. You want your opponents return to go into the third zone, where you can fully exploit the potential of your chopping game; therefore, it is important to return to your basic position immediately after performing these strokes, so that you are ready to move out and chop. For a good push you open your bat almost completely, catch the ball very shortly after the bounce, making contact at about 5 oclock, and bring your underarm forward shortly and vigorously. Relax and withdraw immediately. For a forehand push, bring your right shoulder (if you are right-handed) down and forward, so that you can get your bat as comfortably under the ball as with the backhand push; leaning a bit to the right helps. Pushing with short pips is easier, because they are less sensitive to the incoming spin; you should keep your bat a bit less open. Pushing with long pips is a problem; if they are without much grip you may reverse backspin into topspin and give your opponent an easy ball to attack; if they have more grip you may produce some backspin or a lot of it, have trouble keeping the ball low or have no trouble at all; this depends on the kind of long pips you use. If you use long pips that reverse spin when pushing, you should probably not push at all, but chop-block against backspin be warned, you may produce a fairly dead ball this way which for an experienced opponent is easy to kill. With long pips, the best solution is to twiddle when necessary and receive backspin always with the inverted rubber. Using the chop block is generally a safe way to deal with topspin over the table. Keep your bat somewhat closed, catch the ball on the top of the bounce, making contact at about 3 oclock, and chop downward fast. Aim deep. You can add speed by going forward while chopping down or kill part of the speed by going backward (you should relax your wrist when doing this). Blocking with short pips is easier; you can keep your bat almost vertical.15
Some short pips may reverse the incoming topspin into backspin, so you can produce heavy chop this way. The outcome of chop blocking with long pips again depends on the kind of pips used, but in most cases you will be able to produce heavy chop. The backspin block against topspin is executed like a normal passive block with a closed bat, but you close it a little bit less and just before making contact with the ball (shortly before the top of the bounce) you press lightly down; on making contact you retract your bat, all in all moving it down and to your body; this motion must be minimal, but very quick. The ball will go up because of the topspin it is carrying in, but it will get backspin because of the quick downward/inward pressing gesture. This block is hard to do, but effective; it is also deceptive, since your opponent might miss that little gesture you make if he does, his return will go into the net. You can perform a backspin block very well with short pips, but not with long pips. With long pips that reverse topspin well, however, you can push against topspin, producing a backspin ball. Attacking over the table will consist in performing a flip or, if the ball is especially high, a smash. Keep in mind that when attacking over the table you must be sure to win the point or you will be in difficulty attacking will mean feeding a topspin ball to your opponent, which is the kind he likes best! Keep also in mind that a high ball coming from a push will carry backspin, probably even a lot; with your flip or smash you have to compensate for this. The motion of the bat should be firmly upward! Theoretically it is also possible to perform a backspin smash over the table, but you need an exceptionally high ball for this. As backspin smashes tend to drift over the table, you will probably be better off performing a normal smash. 4.2 Second zone strokes. Balls bouncing off the table nearer to its end should be treated differently. You can chopblock against topspin more aggressively because you now have more room to chop down. Pushing against backspin can also be done more aggressively; I like to call this stroke a chop-push. For this, you cock your wrist, come in under the ball from the side, catch it when it is near the top of the bounce, make contact at about 5 oclock and snap out uncocking your wrist and underarm. For a backhand push bring your right shoulder downward and forward and lean to the right; it should feel as if you are getting your whole body under the ball. The stroke resembles an almost horizontal chop. It is very important to get under the ball lightly, that is without forward motion, or else it will bounce up off your bat. The stroke effectively begins when the bat is under the ball. With short pips these strokes are more or less performed in the same way. With long pips they can be executed successfully too, but in chop-pushing you will get the maximum result only with grippy long pips. The second zone is ideal for your counter-attacks: loops or smashes. Smashing or looping with long pips is in most cases dubious; you are probably better of using your inverted rubber for this. But short pips will do just fine. 4.3 Third zone strokes.16
Looping or even smashing in the third zone, that is, well away from the table, is only possible with fast short pips or fast inverted rubbers and/or a fast frame; adding sidespin to your loops will make them more dangerous. Blocking here is risky, since the ball will probably be too slow and therefore too easy to attack. Lobbing is generally ineffective with the 40 mm ball. All in all, the main stroke here is the chop. Chopping, you need to know how backspin is produced against topspin. Imagine a bike standing upside down, one wheel still spinning. If you want to increase the spin you have to grip the wheel and move it into the same direction it is rotating, without obstructing its rotation. This means your hand must move at least as fast as (better still, faster than) the wheel already is moving. This is the very picture for chopping with inverted rubber against topspin; the rubber grips the ball and has to yank it on, moving as fast as or faster than the ball is spinning. If the rubber moves slower, the balls topspin will make it bounce up off the bat; you will lose control. To ensure this doesnt happen, the speed of your arm, wrist and hand chopping down must at least equal the speed of your opponents. Chopping with pimpled rubbers means having less grip on the ball; obstruction of the balls rotation will be equally less. Chopping will, therefore, be easier and safer with pips. With a smooth rubber this would mean that adding to the balls rotation would be more difficult, but this is not necessarily the case with pips. Short pips do not grip the ball, but sort of stab it with the pips edges, going in the direction of the rotation; the rotation will not be obstructed and the pressure of the pips edges will add to it. Long pips, on the other hand, bend in the direction of the rotation of the ball and then flip back, thus obstructing it (if they are grippy). Therefore, if you have a ball bounce off a grippy long pimpled rubber, the result will be a fairly dead ball. This will still be the case if the rubber is grazing the ball, equalling in speed its rotation. But if it grazes the ball moving faster than the ball rotates, the pimples will bend to the other side, and then flip back in the direction of the rotation, thus adding to it. In short, with inverted rubbers and grippy long pips you have to chop faster than your opponent spins. With short pips you do not have to do this; but if you do it anyway, you will produce heavy backspin. In order to perform a forehand chop you move out to the right and turn your body as indicated in paragraph 3. Remember to raise your arm, bending it more than 90 degrees, and cock your wrist. Wait for the ball to drop until it is about knee-high or at least well below the table-level; it should be beside you when it does that. Chop down, confidently and energetically, fast while turning your upper body back to face the table. Make contact with the ball as near to 6 oclock as you possibly can and snap out your underarm and wrist. Follow through downward and forward before coming back up. Hop! In order to perform a backhand chop you do the same, to the left. This time turn your body even more and, if necessary, put your right foot before the left when chopping down. Follow through downward and forward before coming back up. Hop! Different things can go wrong with this. The ball may sail over the table. In this case your chop has been going too much forward, because you have made contact too early and too high. This is actually a mistake frequently made by beginners; they tend to feel a little awkward when going down and17
hopping, and as a result their chops are too shallow. Try and go really down after hitting the ball, before you are coming up. The ball may sail high (and be killed). Again, your chop is probably too shallow; go deep. Or you may have chopped with not enough venom, in which case the incoming topspin makes the ball bounce off your bat; chop energetically and with confidence. There is not enough backspin in the ball. Same story: your chop needs more vigour and depth. Go for it! The hop really helps here... A cause of these three defects may also be the wrong use of long pips. Only the grippiest of pips will produce significant backspin of its own, which means that you should not use your long pips if you are not quite certain that on the incoming ball there is a lot of topspin which can be reversed into a lot of backspin. If the ball lands on your side of the table, you will probably have made contact too much on its backside, or you have made contact with its bottom but you did not chop with enough energy. If your backhand chop isnt going well (not enough backspin, landing short, or bouncing high) you may not be really putting your weight on your left leg and as a result chop too shallow. You may also run into another problem: the incoming ball may be so fast that it doesnt drop in time and you have to deal with a high ball. This is awkward if you cannot smash, drive or loop it; attack is the best option here, but if you must defend you should perform a chop block. Chop right down with much force and try to graze the backside of the ball (at about 4 oclock). Follow through as well as you can. Long pips offer another option in this case: block hitting simply straight forward; with grippy pips you will produce a fairly dead ball, with less grippy pips maybe some backspin; in any case be prepared for the next incoming fast topspin ball and chop this one! Finally you may have to deal with a ball aimed at your body. Step aside left or right, depending on whether you prefer to chop with your forehand or backhand (it is useful making this choice a permanent one, so you will not hesitate) and chop it. If there is no time for this, perform a backhand chop-block in front of you; make the downward motion very fast. 5. Equipment. A beginning defender is best off (in my opinion) using slow, very spinny inverted rubbers on both sides of a defensive frame. In time you may come to prefer faster rubbers on the same frame, because they will upgrade your attacks. Using a medium fast short (or medium long) pimpled rubber (e.g. Friendship 799 or 802, 1.0 or 1.5 mm) on one side is a good choice too; contrary to popular belief chopping with short pips is easy and generates loads of backspin if done sufficiently fast. Long pimpled rubbers are (again, in my opinion) an option for the advanced player. They are a mixed blessing. More or less insensitive to incoming spin, they may minimize the risk of balls bouncing off your bat upwards, making it easier to keep your returns low, but with less grippy long pips you need to know when to make use of the side of the bat with long pips or you will be in trouble; and with grippy pips (most effectively on relatively thick18
sponge) the difference with short pips is small to non-existent. Their most useful quality is the relative ease with which they can vary your outgoing backspin, that is, their deceptiveness. If you want to use long pips, you should also learn how to twiddle (turning the bat in your hand, so you can use either side at will). If you want to use short pips, this is not necessary, as short pips can generate spin of their own.
6. Basic tactics & exercises. To outline the basic tactics for the classic defender: the objective is to wear down the attacker and expose his weaknesses, using them to win the point. You have to provoke attacks for this, but in such a way that you are able to defend yourself against them using your strongest stroke, the chop. This means that you must force your opponent to produce long, arched topspin balls; they must be long in order to get them in the third zone, where you can chop at your hearts desire; they must be arched in order to get them to drop quickly enough, or else you will be forced too far back and your returns will be less effective, having lost part of the backspin. In order to achieve this, you must place your returns deep on the table, close to the baseline, and keep them low; this way your opponent is forced to play heavy topspin strokes which have to lift the ball, arch its trajectory considerably and make it drop fast. Furthermore you will want to limit the amount of footwork you have to do in retrieving the ball; to keep it within reach, you must deny your opponent sharp angles and this means placing not only deep, but somewhere in the middle. If your returns go to the corners, for variation, you will have to anticipate a more angled attack. In practice you have to return a backspin serve deep with sufficient backspin; you push it into the body, because this will provoke a cramped forehand stroke, or to the forehand, to provoke a long topspin ball. You do not push it to the backhand, for chances are it will be pushed back to you and short play is not what you want. If the serve is no-spin, you attack it, of course. If it is long with topspin, you can start chopping. Your own serve should be a forehand or (generally easier) backhand backspin serve from your basic position, placed deep to the forehand or body. Another, more risky possibility is a topspin serve to the forehand, provoking immediate attack. Try and mix in some covert no-spin balls to the backhand which will result in returns that pop up and can be killed. If you have secured your chopping rally, try and draw errors. Place a number of balls deep in the middle, then one into the body, forcing your opponent to his backhand corner, then the next one to his forehand corner; he will have to move to get that last ball, so he may be to late to lift it properly, or hit less precise. You can also vary the depth, placing a ball less deep to the forehand (not to the backhand; it will be pushed), but take good care in keeping such a ball very low; the closer to the net, the lower your balls should be. Another way to draw errors is to start out chopping as hard as you can, then after two balls chop a little less hard, keeping the ball low nonetheless (for instance by taking it later, lower), then harder again.19
If you spot a weak return (less spin, too high), attack. For a modern style, you attack more often, not always waiting for the ball to drop, but looping it instead. Exercises should consist of parts of your game. Below are given some suggestions about how to become more comfortable with the style. It may be difficult for you to find a willing training partner, but if you cannot find a defender to practice with, you can promise an attacker his skills will be very much improved when training with you; and this is perfectly true. Being able to play against defenders is a necessary skill. While I am writing this down, the World Team Champions in Guangzhou (China) are being played. Yesterday Li Jia Wei of Singapore, a first rate attacker, was to play a match against Li Jie, a Dutch defender; sadly Li Jie had to give up after the first game because of a sprained ankle. Afterwards Li Jia Wei told reporters not only that she was truly sorry for her opponents misfortune, but also that she had prepared herself meticulously for the match, practicing play against backspin. Even the worlds top players have to practice like this. In my view, any attacker refusing the chance to spar with a defender is, to put it mildly, not exactly furthering his interests... Exercise 2. Push aggressively for at least 5 minutes every training session, placing the ball anywhere on the table. Come in to the table and step back to your basic position time and again. You should do this in order to keep up your skill in short play; no one should be able to out-push you! Exercise 3. Against a backspin serve to your backhand, move in from your basic position, push deep to the forehand, move back to your basic position, then out to the right to chop the topspin return to the backhand corner, from where it should be pushed to your backhand; and so on; repeat this cycle a number of times. Then vary the cycle. For instance, against a serve to your forehand, push back to the forehand, and so on. Or against a serve to your forehand push back to the body, chop left to the backhand, and so on. Exercise 4. Serve no spin and have it attacked; see how fast and how close to the table you can perform an effective chop-block which enables you to chop the return. Have the attack aimed at your forehand; then at your backhand; then at your body. Exercise 5. Do exercise 3, but now attack after 2 chops, coming in to loop aggressively; loop no more than twice; if you did not win the point, move out and chop. Repeat this cycle. Vary the line of attack (diagonal, parallel, into the body). Exercise 6. Serve backspin, attack the pushed return. Find out how good you are at attacking backspin and gain a realistic idea of what kind of push you are able to attack. After that, return a backspin serve to the forehand, chop to the backhand, and attack the pushed return; now you have to move more before you can attack. Make sure you move in the right way.20
Exercise 7. Multiple ball training is very useful. Ask your partner to hit fast topspin balls to your forehand; they should be so fast that you have difficulty in reaching them; return the first one with a quick loop or topspin block (if you have to reach out really far), chop teh second one, loop the third, and so on. Then do the same with your backhand. Ask your partner to hit his next ball when your return lands on his side of the table, so you will have to react faster than normal; this will increase your reflexes. Exercise 8. Do exercise 7, but now instead of alternately looping and chopping you chop the first ball at hip height, than move out to chop the next at knee height, move in again to chop fairly high, and so on
Frictionless StrokesWritten by Mathias Tuesday, 16 October 2007
Frictionless rubber and reverse spin Classical frictionless rubber such as Neubauer Super Block or Hallmark Super Special has two unusual properties, the pip rubber is hard and extremely smooth, or 'frictionless'. The hard pip rubber prevents the ball generating any friction by bending the pips and their 'frictionless' smoothness prevents the ball from gripping. The hardness of the frictionless pips is not often appreciated but it minimizes the amount of rubber in contact with the ball because if the ball can bend the pips there is an increase in the surface area of rubber in contact with the ball and hence more 'friction'. The overall effect is the incoming spin from an opponents stroke does not 'stick' against the rubber as it would normally, but 'skids' across the surface of the rubber, having the effect of mirroring the spin back to the opponent. 'Mirroring' spin is technically known as reverse spin, although the mechanism of reverse spin in soft pips can be different to frictionless rubber. Thus if the opponent topspins the ball, the return spin is also topspin using regular inverted rubber, however using reverse rubber the return spin is backspin. Likewise, if the opponent chops the ball, the return spin is also backspin using regular 'inverted' rubber, whilst using reverse rubber the return spin is topspin. [Technically a mirror doesn't truely mirror an object but laterally inverts it but you get the gist of the metaphor]
Summary of stroke definitions Punch block - this uses an open faced blade to drive into the incoming ball resulting in a fast return. It is particularly effective against backspin and creates a faster sink ball against topspin. The ball is placed with the last 6'' of the table.
'Drop shot' - this uses an open faced blade and cushions the incoming (usually topspin) ball to return the ball just over the net. The closer and lower to the net the return ball placement the better the stroke. Sideways swipe - this can use an open faced blade or blade angled slightly upwards and slashes against the incoming ball either left to right or right to left. It is a very effective stroke for both soft and frictionless pip players. The ball is placed within the last 6'' of the table. Attack - really a vertical block, with little forward movement using an open faced blade and is unique to frictionless. Chop block - a classic table tennis stroke for pip and inverted players, an open faced blade is used and brought down sharply over a short distance immediately before contact. Block - simple just hold the bat still! Lift - this is a loop based stroke against backspin but the spin from the resulting stroke does not contain topspin - it is either backspin or else no spin. The term originates from its ability to 'lift the backspin back to the opponent'.
Summary of return ball spin definitions Reverse spin - already described the spin is mirrored back to the opponent using pip rubber. Hardbat players call this spin continuance, a more transparent term, however nonhardbat players would not understand what this meant. Inverted spin - the spin is inverted back to the opponent (opposite direction) using inverted (smooth and sticky) rubber. Sink ball - this is a confusing term but results from reverse spinning a topspun ball. It is in any other language the same backspin as a chop but without executing a chopping stroke and can result from a drop shot, punch block, sideways swipe etc... basically any stroke that doesn't require a chopping motion. Cutter (informally called Speedplay turn) - this is a term that we agreed upon because there is no equivalent in table tennis. It is reverse spun topspin, i.e. produced using frictionless rubber against incoming backspin and the resulting topspin return will often sharply deviate ('cut') on bouncing to the left or right depending on the angle or return against the incoming stroke (described below). In this sense it has a similar effect to 'corkscrew'. Corkscrew - this is a spin purely for inverted rubber, the stroke is played as a topspin stroke but the blade angled to angled left or right producing a ball that on bouncing will22
sharply deviate left or right depending on which side the ball was hit. It is different from a sidespin loop (not described). Wobble - a ball carrying no spin which can exhibit a strange flight path trajectory. 'Deviating effects' This is an informal non-technical term sometimes used to describe the strange flight path trajectories that pip rubber can produce. The term should be avoided because different flight paths can have very different underlying causes.
StrategyFrictionless pip play involves large variations in stroke execution to achieve reverse spin variation. In other words the pip player can change the spin on the ball but only by using clear differences in the strokes. In sharp contrast soft pip players can achieve large differences in spin using the same stroke. The advantage of frictionless pips is the large amount of reverse spin produced so almost every ball is carrying some spin. Soft pips in contrast particularly with sponge will often return a 'no spin' ball which if identified is vulnerable to attack by the opponent. Key strokes The two 'bread and butter' frictionless pip strokes are the 'drop shot' for defensive players and the 'punch block' for attacking players. A frictionless pip player will not rigidly stick to a single stroke, all 'drop shot' based pip players will use a punch block and likewise all 'punch block' based player will use 'drop shots'. In fact some players will not have a preference to either stroke and play an all-round game.
Drop shot' and frictionless rubber The 'drop shot' is one of the most powerful strokes in defensive table tennis. The 'drop shot' cannot deceive an opponent simply but when executed precisely it forces the offensive opponent into a defensive stroke, or else they seriously risk losing the point. Secondly this defensive return by the opponent will carry backspin that the frictionless pip player can readily attack. The mechanics of the 'drop shot' are as follows: 1. An offensive player will loop the ball, resulting in the ball carrying heavy topspin. 2. The frictionless pip player will return the ball very short and just over the net, resulting in a ball carrying heavy backspin, which low, and close to the net. 3. The ball is now too low to attack, will double bounce on the table and more importantly carries heavy backspin. The opponent must overcome the backspin on the ball otherwise it will hit the net and they will lose the point. However, they can not 'flick' the ball (use wrist movement to attack a ball that will double bounce) because it is too low, nor can they wait till the ball drops off the edge of the table where they could generate sufficient top spin to over the backspin because it will double bounce. At this point the only realistic option for23
the opponent is to halt the attack and by pushing the ball using inverted rubber returning an attackable back spun ball. A second application of the 'drop shot' is against backspin. Again the return is again low and close to the net, the ball is now however carrying topspin. An unsuspecting opponent will try and push under the ball, which would be a standard response if their initial stroke by the inverted player carried topspin. Now however the ball will kindly 'pop-up' for the frictionless pip player, who can smash it. However, a more experienced opponent using inverted rubber can aggressively push the 'drop shot' against backspin stroke with their blade angled downwards and use the topspin the frictionless player produced and add their own to land the ball at reasonable speed (for a push). A classical defender on the other hand could reverse spin the topspin 'drop shot'. Generally speaking frictionless 'drop shots' carrying topspin allow the opponent more options and will not stay as close to the net, but are very useful stroke nevertheless, which can be readily used for example as a return of serve. The 'drop shot' and soft pips The question is why can't soft pips perform the same stroke? Well off course they can but it is no where near as effective because in summary there are two components to the stroke 1) exact placement and 2) strong back spin and without either the stroke doesn't work well. Firstly soft pips are generally faster so it harder to place the ball just over the net which will then double bounce and secondly soft pip rubber can not generate as much reverse spin, so the back spin is not sufficient to cause real problems. A skilled chopper using soft pips could reproduce the overall effect of the 'drop shot' using a chopping stroke, but it is a difficult stroke, whilst the 'drop shot' is comparatively straightforward. Punch block and frictionless rubber Against topspin The punch block is a common stroke for all frictionless pip players and is very effective against medium to slow topspin, such as a serve, resulting in a medium to fast 'long' return which carries backspin. This is the choice return of an attacking frictionless player. The power of the stroke is the unusual spin, because virtually all other medium to fast strokes carry either no spin or, in the majority of cases, topspin. An unsuspecting opponent will often hit a punch block into the net and the faster pace of the ball minimises their reaction time. Placement The stroke is mostly played backhand to backhand and varied with backhand to forehand aiming at the corners of the table or backhand to 'cross-over point' (right hand elbow for against a right-handed player). The ball should drop within the last 6' (ideally) of the table to encourage an opponent who is close to the table perform a return stroke straight off the24
Punch block and soft pips The stroke is by no means restricted to frictionless rubber but the key strength is the amount of backspin the ball will carry. The key weakness of the frictionless punch block is the difficulty in generating spin variation. Stylized punch blocks A 'slow' slightly flighted punch block against medium to slow topspin can result in very visible 'disturbing effects' resulting from a sink ball (or a cutter). This is more of a stylised stroke though which could be used to warn your opponent you are using frictionless rubber and depends on the amount of spin your opponent generates, the amount of reverse spin the frictionless rubber can generate and the thickness of sponge that is used. In summary mechanics of this stroke are simply: 1. A medium to slow topspin stroke by the opponent is driven at the pips. 2. The ball is hit firmly for example cross court and the ball lands within the last 6' of the opponents table. The ball is now carrying reasonable backspin. 3. The opponent must now deal with a medium fast, full length ball which is often targeted at their backhand. If the opponent has inverted rubber on their backhand they must be careful to topspin over the backspun ball.
Execution The major issue of a punch block against topspin is the timing of stroke and is split between two key variations either immediately after the bounce or when the ball reaches maximum height after bouncing. The angle of the bat must be slightly upwards when taking the ball immediately off the bounce and against topspin the timing of the stroke enables maximum reverse spin. The Punch Block against backspin The punch block is also a very effective attack against backspin and causes heavy 'deviating effects' namely a 'cutter' described above. The stroke works well and can be hit pretty hard because the reverse spin topspin (from your opponents chop) will bend the ball over the net in the same way that a looper uses topspin. Thus ball can be bit much harder without it flying off the edge of the table. Again we use the term cutter or 'cut' to describe the opposite spin to a sink ball. This however is not what confuses an opponent it is the bounce deviation they will get caught out by. Basically the bounce deviation of a cutter is nothing more than a 'corkscrew' (where a topspun ball deviates sharply in direction on bouncing) however there is no apparent25
indication of the direction of the 'corkscrew' from the angle of the blade for frictionless rubber. A loop based 'corkscrew' is easy to spot from an inverted rubber because of the extreme angle of the blade must be held. The 'cutter' against backspin simply alter the angle of the incoming stroke, for example if a backspin stroke is coming straight down the middle of the table and the frictionless pip player punch blocks to the right hand corner of the opponents table the ball now carries topspin and sidespin equal to the deviation from angle of the incoming stroke. Thus in this example the ball will 'corkscrew' (change direction of its path) to the left on bouncing. Alternatively if the ball had been punch blocked to the left hand corner it would 'corkscrew' to the right as the frictionless pip player is looking at it. Finally if the ball is back-spun cross-court, for example backhand to handhand for a right-handed players and the frictionless player punch blocks 'down the line' (to the opponents forehand) the ball will sharply 'cut' to the right, this being the maximum difference in angle that can be generated between the incoming ball and the return. The more backspin on the ball the bigger the sudden 'kick' on the return bounce. If this sounds confusing then try heavily backspinning against a frictionless pip player and find out just how much more confusing it can be to play against! The Weakness and the Golden Rule The key weakness of frictionless rubber is the inability to readily change the spin on the ball in sharp contrast to soft pip rubber. A consequence of this weakness of frictionless pip rubber is the need for the player to stay close to the table. The power the rubber confers is accurate ball placement and sudden changes in speed combined with large amounts of reverse spin. The strokes described here are played either very short and slow, or (relatively) fast and very close to the edge of the opponents table. Once a frictionless pip player is pushed away from the table they have greater difficulty in placing the ball accurately and varying the speed of the return. At this point the reverse spin becomes predictable and the frictionless pip player is readily out played if their opponent repeatedly loops. The only strategy the frictionless pip player has in this scenario is if their reverse spin overcomes their opponents topspin, which doesn't happen against more experienced opponents. Remaining strokes The general philosophy in frictionless pip play is to achieve spin variation using exaggerated variation in strokes played results in a the following strokes all having their part to play in any long pip game, viz. sidespin swipe, chop block, 'attack' and 'lift'. Again the ball is taken at the top of the bounce using an open-faced bat (Neubauer style). The 'drop shot' and 'punch block' can be played just off, or immediately after, the bounce with just enough angle in the bat to get the ball over the net, although the sidespin 'swipe' can be played like this the other strokes need to be played off the edge of the table. Sideways swipe26
The sideways swipe is in effect a punch block played by swiping across the face of the ball using a left to right motion for a right-handed player on the backhand. The ball in this case will arc from right to left, however on the bounce instead of continuing along this path it will cut (against backspin) in the opposite direction to what is expected. It is a little like the drift and turn that a slow bowler gets in finger spin deliveries. In essence although the ball is arcing in the direction of the 'swipe' it retains and reverses the original incoming spin. The 'arc' is really a feint to make the return look like a sidespin loop style return. The stroke is usually played against backspin but will also work against topspin and can be played both on the forehand and the backhand. It is a very versatile stroke and is easy to perform and place within the last 6'' of the opponents table.
Chop block The chop block is a vertical chop played close to the table against topspin. It is easy to perform once you get the hang of making contact with the ball using a vertical chop motion and is used to mix the backspin on the return stroke as part of the general frictionless philosophy. An attacking frictionless player will rarely use this stroke. 'Attack' 'Attack' this is a vertical 'chop block' played with an upwards moving stroke played against topspin close to the table. There is not much power in the return and should be used reasonably infrequenctly but is an easy stroke to perform and mixes the play well. Lift 'Lift' this is a 'loop style' stroke played against backspin. The 'lift' can be performed with inverted rubber and is meant to ressemble a topsin loop but in fact carries either no spin or backspin. The concept is that you are 'lifting the opponents backspin' back to them. It doesn't produce the same spin using frictionless rubber and is simply a case of getting the ball back to your opponent using a loop style stroke - which is difficult because the ball will tend to slip off the bottom of the bat. With inverted rubber, or soft pips, a lift is about altering the angle of the blade and hitting into the backspun ball rather than brush stoking it back. The upshot is a ball which would be hit into the net if the spin was misread. It is a very strong stroke using an attacking soft pip style, but it is a weak stroke for frictionless rubber particularly as the ball will be moving at medium pace despite being hit very hard and will bounce high (frictionless pip rubber is slow). This stroke may work with attacking frictionless rubber such as Neubauer Monster and more or less works using TSP Curl Combi. However even here it is a stroke that should be used sparingly and is weakened by the difficulties in shifting topspin on the return using frictionless rubber. Wobbles I have already described the 'cutter' or to a lesser extent a sink ball where the ball can have one return path but be spinning in a different direction and this produces a strange trajectory across the table, which inexperienced opponents find unsettling. The second27
area of 'deviating effects' is called 'wobble' but is really a stroke that soft pip players can produce, although the old TSP Curl Bamboo is one frictionless rubber that could do this. Soft pips are able to grip the incoming ball and remove all the spin from it, particular by just blocking the ball. The return ball can have difficulty retaining its flight path trajectory and can deviate to the left or right mid-flight at the last minute. If the opponent is not expecting this they will lose the point, however in my opinion it is unpredictable when it will happen. A frictionless player can produce a wobble ball by hitting in the opposite direction as the incoming spin, i.e. if the opponent chops you chop if the opponent topspins you try to loop. It is only a stunt though and should not be a main stroke. The term 'wobble' is often used very loosely to describe a sink ball or a cutter, for example the Neubauer training videos (below) describe 'cutters' as wobble balls and this is simply wrong. A wobble can only be produced from a return ball carrying no spin.
Playing against frictionless The classic attack on a frictionless pip player is to serve flat (no-spin) and hard into the long pips and thereon removing the spin in your strokes and playing hard at the pips is a recognized strategy. In fact this is a general approach against both soft and frictionless pip players. However, against a good pip player this doesn't work because, for example I would immediately twiddle (flip the bat around) and loop the return using inverted rubber. In my case I use very spinny inverted rubber (Geospin Tacky) which although it is sensative to incoming spin is ideal against no spin, so in effect I'm waiting for exactly this sort of serve or approach. A soft pip defensive player would probably try and chop a nospin ball. The other strategy a frctionless pip player has is to punch block for a no-spin wobble (described below) against a flat hit/ serve. If a frictionless pip player can not twiddle however no spin balls become a major source of difficulty. However, if you understand how frictionless pips work you can simply play your normal game and compensate for the less than orthdox spin returns you will receive. Personally I would be reluctant to heavily backspin the ball against an opponent playing with frictionless rubber because of the cutters that will be returned at which point you have to play off the table to account for 'unpredictable' cuts. I am quite happy to topspin against frictionless rubber because the backspin return is predictable, unless the opponent can perform a 'drop shot'. If the frictionless player moves too far from the table this shot becomes difficult and strategically the frictionless player is at a major weakness. To avoid a predictable spin return the classical frictionless player must keep varying the stroke to present a range of spin variations and thereby introducing uncertainty to the opposing player. In summary, against a frictionless pip player try no-spin flat hits into the pips and see how28
well they deal with this, or try pushing the pip player away from the table using loops. For a defender, avoid taking the ball off the bounce despite is slower speed return, wait for the 'cut' and chop return as you would against an attacking inverted player by chopping on soft pips or inverted. The defender will of course not be able to out-spin the frictionless pip player but can readily win by waiting and then attacking because of the moderate to slow speed of the reverse spun topspin returns. All-round players, those that both chop and loop, often have difficulty against frictionless rubber because it is harder for them to understand the predictability in the return due to the lack of consistency in their spin attacks. Sponge The more sponge used in any pip rubber game the less reverse spin is produced but the faster the return. Most frictionless pip players use either no sponge (OX) enabling maximum reverse spin, or else 0.5mm sponge. Sponge thicknesses of 1mm and above both reduce the amount of reverse spin and also the amount of 'control' in the return stroke. 'Control' in this context has a specific definition and you'll only understand it when you try different sponge thicknesses. Some of attacking frictionless pips players, viz. Monster (Neubauer) will use 2mm sponge to enhance the speed of return. This may work by beating the opponent on speed combined with a much reduced amount of reverse spin, but the strategy is very different from the approaches described here and would be seriously exposed once the opponent masters the amount of reverse spin the rubber is returning. The Long Pip Ban A ban on frictionless pips has been more or less announced by the ITTF, however some frictionless rubber such as Hallmark's 'Super Defence' has survived. In addition new frictionless rubber such as Hallmark's 'Super Nova' has been specifically developed to get around the ITTF ruling and it is likely that Neubauer will follow suit in due course. Thus the art of frictionless pip play will continue for some time. My primary concern about the 'long pip ban' is that it is motivated by ignorance about how the basic principles of reverse spin rubber work. As I described here there is nothing particularly mysterious, frightening or supernatural about the way frictionless rubber works, it has two simple tricks, one is large amounts of reverse spin which are common to all long pip rubbers to a lesser extent and the second is accurate ball placement, which when combined allow 'drop shot' and 'punch block' combinations. A formal letter of complaint was been submitted to the English Table Tennis association (ETTA) on this subject with numerous signatories and although the matter has been discussed they did not formally respond - which is disappointing. Exponents A training video showing the basic frictionless pimple strokes by Herbet Neubauer can be viewed here:29
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4NVmoJY2UMY Neubauer uses a defensive style of frictionless pip technique in matches, based around the 'drop shot' against attacking players. In this style slow strokes, such as backspin, are usually attacked and attacking strokes are 'drop shotted' ad nausea. Against an attacking player it is pretty boring to watch actually to the extent I don't think anyone has uploaded any of his matches onto YouTube etc.. An exponent of the offensive style of frictionless pip play is Amelie Solja. The following clip by AS demonstrates excellent frictionless technique by mixing strokes to shift the spin on the block using a 'punch block' (attacking) based style: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJ7K43l4284 In the first rally AS executes a punch block, then a 'lift' type stroke, or rather an frictionless 'loop style' attack and follows up with an excellent 'drop shot', which wins the point by the increase in 'sink' (backspin) the 'drop shot' achieves. In the second rally AS executes a cross court punch block, backhand to forehand punch block, floated chop on inverted and the opponent delivers a 'pop-up' thinking there's more backspin on the ball than there is where upon AS smashes to win the point. Some of the 'punch blocks' appear to have similarities to the Carl Prene stroke, but without seeing a slow motion replay its difficult to tell. I have not played with this particular rubber, Joola Razor, so cannot tell how readily topspin/ backspin manipulation can be performed using comparatively minor shifts in stroke technique. Personally I doubt it will be particularly pronouned as Razor is classed as frictionless.
ReviewsWritten by Alex Monday, 29 January 2007
In this section you'll find a large collection of reviews of pimpled rubbers. The reviews are from a variety of players of different levels and styles, so you may experience the rubber quite differently yourself. Reviews will continue to be added, and if you're willing to contribute, please contact us. Cheers!
ReviewsButterfly Feint Soft Dawei 388D Dawei Saviga V Dr Neubauer Scalpel OX Globe 979 0.6mm 30
Hallmark Friction Special Hallmark Friction Special Hallmark Frustration Joola Razor JUIC Leggy Defense JUIC Leggy OX Kokutaky 911 Meteor L 8512 Milkyway Neptune Tony Hold Virus II TSP Curl P-1 Bamboo TSP Curl P-2 TSP Curl P1-R 0.5mm TSP Curl P1-R 0.5mm TSP Curl soft P-1R Yasaka Phantom 009
Short pimples Should I use Short PipsWritten by Andrew Gooding Sunday, 20 May 2007
Should you play with short pips? - by Andrew Gooding A lot of people wonder if they should play with short pips. Before I discuss this question, let me give a little background on myself. I began playing as a shakehander, but soon switched to penhold style, initially as a single-sided Japanese/Korean-style player with inverted and more recently as a Chinese style penholder with short pips on the forehand and inverted on the backhand. Since I switched to short pips my consistency has gone up and the quicker style and shorter stroke feels more natural, but they arent for everyone. Keep in mind that I switched from inverted rubber and someone who is going from long/medium pips to short pips may need other adjustments. I see people who are considering switching to short pips as falling into one of two camps. The first camp are those who are trying to cover up a weakness in reading spin and think short pips is an easy way to return serve. For this first group I dont think short pips are a very good option as short pips still react to spin and misreading say topspin to underspin will still lead to a pop up and easy kill. Short pips take a good deal of concerted effort to play well and shouldnt be seen as an easy way out. They have strengths, but also some weaknesses. The second group of those thinking of switching to short pips are those who smash rather than loop to finish the point and base their game on quickness rather than on spin. They will generally block in defense rather than backing away from the table and topspinning the ball. They will look for opportunities to add to their opponents spin, rather than simply31
cancelling it. Hitters, quick close to the table players and hardbat players are good candidates for short pips. The number one thing short pips are good at is hitting through spin. Take advantage of this by setting up and preparing for high balls which you should hit straight through with only enough topspin to keep them on the table. Always be ready for the high ball and keep in mind that with good timing and footwork as the ball doesnt have to be that high for a winning shot. The second thing short pips are good at is blocking as they are less affected by incoming spin. If you block with short pips youll need to open your bat (compared with inverted) and push forward. The ball will come back very flat and you can vary spin as well, putting sidespin or underspin as well as topspin. The best two blockers in the U.S. both use short pips, David Zhuang many-time U.S. champion and Gao Jun #11 in the world. He Zhi Wen, a 43 year old short pips penhold blocker eliminated defending World Champion Werner Schlager in 2005. A third thing short pips are good at is serve return. However, if you try to use short pips like either long pips or inverted youll be disappointed. Short pips are affected by incoming spin, so you cant just stick your paddle out there (as with some long pips) to return the ball. Youll need to be more active. Conversely if you try to cancel the incoming spin (pushing a push as with inverted) that will give your opponent a relatively spinless ball that may be easy pickings. With this in mind, what short pips are good at is adding to spin, so you should use this ability in your service return. Instead of pushing underspin, try flipping it. If the serve is long enough you can loop the ball by combining your stroke with the incoming underspin resulting in a surprisingly spinny ball. With sidespin, instead of simply canceling the spin, try adding to it and send back the spin for your opponent to then try to deal with. So to sum up what short pips are good at: Hitting through spin, blocking and adding to spin. What short pips arent so good at are generating spin, so youll need to change your strokes and your position from the table to minimize this weakness. Strokes should use a more open racket face and be more forward. Instead of looping low balls youll need to roll them over the net with an open racket face, so its better to catch balls at the top of the bounce and smash them. So you cant be lazy with your feet at getting into the right position. Serves will take some time compared with inverted, but with practice you can generate lots of spin with short pips. Just watch the former World Champion Liu Guoliang who many have called the best server ever. Keep in mind though that variation will get you more points than heavy spin alone and your goal should be to force a weak ball to follow up on versus an error. Different types of short pips will be better and worse at generating spin. Very spinny pips, like Joola Tango Ultra, Friendship 802-40, Globe 889-2, Butterfly Raystorm, Stiga Clippa and Nittaku Hammond FA act almost like inverted, particularly when they are speedglued.32
A special category of these are what I call sticky pips which can provide a great deal of spin over the table, including Andro Revolution COR, Stiga Radical and Dawei 388. However these will also react more to spin. Other short pips like Friendship 799, Butterfly Speedy P.O. and TSP Spectol have smaller pips optimized for hitting through spin, blocking and adding to spin and will be less forgiving of inverted-type strokes. They do give a flatter ball and more spin variation than the first group. Some short pips are narrow, hard and stiff, and and act almost like medium pips, with some spin returning properties like Double Happiness 651, Spintech Stealth and Andro Logo. Whichever pips you choose, keep in mind Wang Taos suggestion to get the softest sponge possible. It will ease the transition from inverted rubber greatly. 1.5-1.8 are standard sponge thicknesses for short pips, anything more than 2.0 is overkill and will hinder your blocking more than help your spin and speed. Blade speed plays a bigger role than sponge thickness with short pips. Most players will use a harder and faster blades, either a 7 ply wood or a carbon blade. If you live to loop winners 10 feet behind the table and bend them around the net with vicious sidespin, dont even bother with short pips as youll never be able to do this effectively. Likewise if you want vicious spin on your serves and pushes, short pips arent the way to go. Of course if you play short pips on one side youll retain those options on the other one. If you like the speed, rather than the spin game short pips are worth a try. They will take some time and effort to play with effectively, so dont look at them as a quick fix but for me theyve made my game both more effective and more fun to play. And in the end, thats what counts, isnt it?
Single-sided Pips-out Penholder Play 1. IntroductionWritten by Kees Friday, 02 November 2007
Forum thread discussion: http://forum.oneofakindtrading.com.au/viewtopic.php?t=1616 1. Introduction. The single-sided style of penholder play is its oldest form; in the East (China, Korea, Japan) it is regarded as traditional. In Eastern cultures tradition is held in high esteem; tradition is looked upon as the well-ordered compilation of everything that has proven its practical worth. Single-sided penholder play most certainly proved itself; great Chinese champions played in this style: Chen Long-Can, Jiang Jia-Liang, Liu Guo-Liang. When Liu won his world title in 1999 (having already won the Olympic gold in 1996), the little taciturn33
genius, currently coach of the Chinese National Mens Team, gave a rare interview, in which he complained about the declining interest for single-sided pips-out play in his country. Young players and coaches alike were too impatient, they wanted fast results and were disinclined to invest the time needed to master the traditional style, he said. True enough, playing with inverted rubbers is more quickly acquired. Chinese top coaches reckon they can teach their pupils to play well with inverted rubbers in about five years; to play well with pips as a penholder, however, takes seven years, because a player has to master not only the attack but also the defence. But practicing hard for seven years does pay off. Gao Jun, a great example of traditional controlled counter-attack with single-sided pips-out, in her mid-thirties still can compete with the best. He Zhi-Wen, in his mid-forties recently proved he can still aggressively hold his own against Timo Boll. And of late young players have appeared who again have adopted this style with great success; Lee Eun Hee of South Korea, a nimble all-out female attacker, is one them. As for myself I simply am in love with this style to my mind it combines elegance and intelligence in a fast purposeful dance. Below I have tried to write down more or less comprehensively what I have come to know of its basics. I think that an understanding of the physics involved, the actual chain of cause and effect, really helps in learning the required techniques and tactics. It is of use to understand