Playing with Long Pimples (Part 2)
Which long pimples should you use?
Saturday, October 29, 2005
by Greg Letts - an Australian state coach, an International Umpire and one of the top ranked players in his country.
Continued from Playing with Long Pimples (Part 1)
Which Long Pimples Should You Use?
We have talked so far about whether you should be using long pimples, and which style of play would best suit you. Now it's time to discuss which long pimples would be the best choice for the way you play.
Once again, I'll break the styles of play into the 4 categories of classic defender, modern defender, push/blocker, and hitter. If you have chosen a style that is a mix of one or more of these styles, then you may wish to either choose a long pimpled rubber that best suits your dominant style, or pick a long pimples that provides the ability to do everything that you want. Keep in mind that depending on what style or styles you choose, you may not find a perfect long pimples for the way you play. You may be forced to compromise and use a long pimples that does all the things you want adequately, rather than perfectly.
For the modern defender, I would suggest using a long pimples with excellent spin variation to help set up attacks (not spin reversal), and with good to medium control. The speed of the long pimples is not such an important factor, although I would not recommend using long pimples with no sponge, as the modern defender generally needs some sponge to help give his chop returns and attacks a reasonable amount of pace - a return that is too slow is not good.
In order to meet this criteria, look for a long pimpled rubber with most of the following characteristics:
- a rough pimple top and grippy pimple sides, to allow more spin variation via technique;
- flexible pimples rather than stiff, again to allow more spin variation;
- thin to medium sponge (around 0.5mm to 1.5mm) to provide an adequate amount of pace without sacrificing too much control;
- the length of the pimples can vary depending on personal taste. The great Chinese chopper of the 90's, Ding Song, used a relatively short pimpled rubber, while the current defensive players Joo Sye Hyuk and Chen Weixing are using long pimples. I personally prefer a medium type pimples which can both attack and defend, but I can't claim to be in the same class as those players mentioned above!
- The overall control of the long pimples should still be relatively good to help cope with the speed glued loop, whilst allowing the user to vary the spin as desired. The emphasis is on using the long pimples as a weapon to set up the counterattack, rather than hoping the opponent will make the first mistake in a loop to chop rally.
The classic defender needs more control than the modern defender, and the ability to vary the spin is probably not quite as important, although still very useful. There is no need for too much speed from the long pimples, so choosing to not use sponge can be a valid option.
The classic defender should be looking for a long pimpled rubber with the the following properties:
- the pimple tops and sides can be chosen according to personal taste. A rougher top and grippier sides will allow more spin variation but have slightly less control, while the 'glassy' smooth type long pimples will have better control and spin reversal, but less ability to vary the spin;
- again, the flexibility of the pimples can vary depending on the desired result. A flexible pimples will allow better variation, while stiffer pimples should give more spin reversal.
- The sponge should be thin or not used, to provide maximum control.
- The length of the pimples should be medium to long, to get the best effects from the rubber. The less they will be used to attack with, the longer they can probably be.
- The overall control of the long pimples should be excellent, as the user will need to be able to consistently return the ball against the most powerful of loop drives, in order to have the opponent make the first mistake.
The push/blocker's choice of long pimpled rubber will depend on whether the user wishes to be aggressive or defensive with it. The aggressive push/blocker will be looking for a long pimpled rubber that is a bit easier to hit with, while the defensive push/blocker will be looking for that extra control of the ball to help handle the powerful attacks of their opponent while staying close to the table.
The aggressive push/blocker should find the following long pimple characteristics useful:
- rough pimple tops and grippy sides will help provide more grip and better ability to hit the ball for attacks;
- flexible pimples will also allow more spin variation when attacking;
- a thicker sponge of 1.0mm to 2.00mm can help with attacking. However, don't simply write off using long pimples with no sponge. Since you will be close to the table, you can often get away with using no sponge since you don't need the extra pace. I would recommend trying a few different thicknesses to find the one that you like best.
- The length of the pimples should be long enough to produce some of the traditional 'wobble' from long pimples, whilst still being short enough to attack with;
- Speed glue could also be used to provide that bit of extra venom.
- The level of control should increase as the user hits less with the long pimples.
The defensive push/blocker will generally want a long pimpled rubber with properties fairly similar to the classic defender. In both cases, maximum control is generally wanted, with the push/blocker wanting to use the varied speed and spin of the long pimples to allow him to stay close to the table and disrupt the rhythm and timing of his opponent, whilst being able to attack with his normal rubber himself.
The hitter is more of an extreme case of the aggressive push/blocker, and as such will generally be looking for a long pimpled rubber with similar characteristics to that which the aggressive push/blocker would use.
So those are my recommendations for long pimples depending on the style you wish to play. If you are using a type of long pimples that is not suited to your style, you might want to give serious thought to changing to a rubber that could suit you better, or at least trying one out to see if there is a significant difference. As always, the recommendations above are just my opinion, and you may find that the 'wrong' rubber works for you - which is fine as long as you are happy.
The Ancient Art of Twiddling
We are going to discuss how to twiddle. Sounds a bit strange I know, but if you are going to be an effective player with the long pimples that you have chosen, then there are certain things about twiddling that you will need to know and do to reach your full potential. So sit down, grab a cup of coffee, and settle in to read all about it.
What is it?
Twiddling refers to the practice of turning your bat around in your hand whilst playing table tennis, in order to change which side of the bat hits the ball. It is usually done by players who have rackets with very different sides, in order to increase the variety of shots that can be made, and to increase the chances of an opponent making a mistake. It can also be done by players that have rackets with the same rubber on both sides, or with similar rubbers, but this does not happen often as it usually isn't worth the effort.
The usual twiddle is done by using the wrist and bottom three fingers of the bat hand to spin the bat around via the handle(generally clockwise for a right hander, and anti-clockwise for a left hander), while the thumb and index finger get out of the way and then come back into position for the next shot. The handle of the bat should not leave the hand at any time, although the grip will have to loosen if the bat is going to turn. Experienced players will sometimes twiddle more than once to make it harder for the opponent to keep track of which side is being used.
Why do you twiddle?
Twiddling is done for a number of reasons, the main ones being:
- To provide a wider variety of possible shots by being able to use different surfaces at different times on the player's forehand and backhand;
- To increase the chances of an opponent making a mistake, by:
- affecting the opponent's timing and rhythm because of the extra variation in spin and speed between the two different racket surfaces;
- using an racket surface (such as anti-spin or long pimples) that is less familiar or understood by the opponent, whilst also having a normal side that can be used for the player's own attacks;
- making the opponent guess incorrectly about which side of the bat has been used to hit the ball;
- frustrating the opponent and making him play more carelessly;
- To provide the person who twiddles with a 'safe' side that can be used to safely handle powerful attacks by his opponent, and a normal side that can be used to make attacks of his own when the chance arises. Sometimes the 'safe' side is also used to set up the players attacks with his normal rubber.
- To keep an opponent 'on his toes' and force him to be watching all the time for which rubber has been used, which can be mentally tiring and can distract an opponent from concentrating about other important aspects of the game.
General Tips for Twiddling
Tip 1 - Know which side is where (also known as 'Don't confuse yourself more than the opponent')
In order to twiddle successfully, you must always be keeping mental track of what side your long pimples is currently on, or else you will only have a 50% chance of playing the correct shot - not the odds you are looking for!. You should never have to look at your bat to confirm which side is where, as you should be able to tell by the feel of the rubber on your index finger. Good twiddlers don't even need this cue - they are always mentally keeping track of which side is on the forehand and backhand. Having been a twiddler myself for most of the last 10 years I can confirm this, although I do have the habit of feeling the rubber with my index finger just before serving or returning serve to avoid any embarrassing mistakes.
Tip 2 - Practice, practice, practice
While you are learning to twiddle, carry your bat around with you whenever you can, such as at home or where you play table tennis. Constantly twiddle the bat, while keeping part of your mind focused on which side is on the forehand and which side is on the backhand. Check every now and again to make sure you are correct. A few months of this type of practice will make keeping track of which side is where automatic during your matches - and trust me, you will want your mind to be free to think about other things.
Keep practicing the twiddle during your training and games as well. Don't offend your training partners when you are blocking for them etc, but make sure that you are including drills in your training where twiddling is required. Try playing the occasional game or drill where you must use the normal side of your bat all the time - it will improve your twiddling in a hurry!
Tip 3 - Be patient
Some people put a sheet of long pimples on their bat and expect to be an expert at twiddling right away. After all, how hard can it be? Rest assured that it will take more than a month or two to successfully use twiddling as part of your game. The actual skill of turning the bat should only take a month or so, but the skill of knowing when to turn the bat will take much longer. Expect to be caught out using the wrong side or playing the wrong shot with the right side frequently in the first three to six months. After that you will start to get the feel for the right time to twiddle for your own style.
Continued: Long Pimple Tactics
Image: Donic Twister
© 2005-2020 Greg Letts
You may also read Greg's blog and purchase Australian TT videos from Greg's own website
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Table Tennis: Getting a Grip
Building a Better Umpire
How to Scout your Opponent
Back to Base-ics
The Guide to Serving in Table Tennis
Wobbling the ball with Long Pimples
Playing with Long Pimples (Part 1)
Playing against Anti-Spin (Part 2)