Comparison short pimples versus long pimples

Having seen and analysed hundreds of videos of numerous defenders I thought it might be an idea to compare short pimples to long pimples (pips). Since there are no high level defenders left who play with both sides pimples in or antispin I will ignore those rubbers. I played myself both long and short pips for a while so I could add to the analysis also my own experience.

Advantages of short pips (Player videos to consult especially: Hou Yingchao and Yuto Muramatsu)

  • When using on the backhand in principal you can defend, block or smash the ball
  • You can put heavy backspin on the ball in defence and also in pushing the ball
  • you can push the ball with a lot of backspin or nearly no backspin with almost the same gesture. So it can be very deceptive for the opponent to read the spin
  • It’s the only rubber you can use in defending to produce heavy side spin defence balls à la Hou Yingchao offen putting the attacker into trouble since it is hard to guess whether there is more back or side spin on the ball

Disadvantages of short pips:

  • With short pips you have to take the ball lower and further off the table than with long pips. Otherwise the ball goes too long missing the table. This means you have to be very fast on you legs when confronted with fast topspins down the backhand. When too slow or too close to the table the ball will go up too high or will be far too long.
  • Blocking is generally possible but you have to use the right angle: When you close the bat too much, the ball will simply “slip” over the rubber and not bounce off again. When you open it too much a loaded topsin will “float” too long and miss the table.
  • Normally you cannot use short pips as a weapon on the forehand f.e. in order to “neutralise” a heavily loaded slow topspin down your forhand. Thus you are bound to take every ball onto your forehand with pimples in which makes you more predictable for your opponent and also more vulnerable to slow and spinny topspins.


Advantages of long pips (Player videos to consult especially: Masato Shiono, Wang Xi, Chen Weixing)

  • normally the most consistent rubber for defending on the backhand when confronted with serious topspins
  • if you use the right rubber you get more backspin back than you got topspin in.  I don’t want to get into rubber brand discussions as there are too many and making judgements will always be too subjective. But players like Shiono, Weixing, Wang Xi get certainly more backspin on the ball when defending in comparison to Joo Se Hyuk
  • with long pips you can heavily invert the spin when pushing producing unexpected bounced and also forcing the opponent to occasional errors if he doesn’t pay attention to which side of the rubber you are using. This applies of course only to players twiddling the bat.
  • You can use the long pips on the forehand to chop back a slow and loaded topspin down your forehand. This is one of the most dangerous shots you can play as a defender. It’s only rarely used at the top level, f.e by Shiono
  • You can use the long pimples to return tricky serves down your forehand. Returns will often invert side and backspin in an awkward way so the first topspin is not easy to play by the attacker
  • You can also “press push” short pushes into your forhand back with a lot of pace in all directions. This stroke is a phantastic weapon not widely used by top players. Occasionally Chen Weixing makes use of it.
  • You can “chop lift” or “slow spin” the ball with your backhand when confronted with frequent pushes down your backhand. This may be an option against weaker players since the ball bounces back in an awkward way and many players block the ball back into the net.

Disadvantages of long pips:

  • Smashing and blocking with long pimples is possible but not very easy and you have to practice a lot to be able to do it. Also I worked out as a rule of thumb: Long pips that can create loads of backspin in defending are more difficult to attack with. The better attacking qualities long pips have the weaker the defence qualities!
  • If the attacker plays “unspinny” topspins down your backhand you won’t be able to produce enough back spin yourself. Generally you are quite vulnerable to all sort of unspinny and “empty” balls with long pips.
  • When forced to push back a push ball by the attacker you won’t be able to produce heavy backspin. On the contrary most long pips invert the spin, so that the attacker get a slow light “topspin” at best “empty” ball. Material and defender experienced players will “hammer” these long pips pushes all over the place. This being the most common reason why nearly no defenders makes it to the top 10 in the world ranking. As mentioned before this might not apply to female defenders. They have more potential.

11 thoughts on “Comparison short pimples versus long pimples”

  1. Very good comparison! What you wrote is totally true,… I agree in almost every point, but what I can not understand is why you found out that Joo Sea Hyuk produce less backspin than the other defenders…!?!? Concerning the female defenders you said they have more potential, what do you mean with that? What is the reason for this? Keep on, best regards, mosh

    1. Hi Mosh, how much backspin a player/ a rubber produces probably can only be found out by verifying in a scientific test case. My view is of course subjective but comes from looking very detailed at the videos and I have also seen Joo playing “live” and I am still convinced that he is not using the optimal rubber. I don’t know what exactly he plays and forums are full of asumptions I don’t trust. But I make a bet he is not playing TSP Curl R1, Milkyway neptune or the same rubber as Wang Xi, Chen Weixing or Masato Shiono. The slope angle or trajectory is different: The ball comes back rather fast, slow and with some amount of backspin. Whereas the defenders mentioned before defend with more spin, a slower flight path. Since the top Chinese players are so fast as you can probably get as a human being, the advantage of returning pushes and chops fast is not really important any more. The currently nearly unbeatable Fan Zendong could in my view easier been beaten by a defender with heavy chop than by an attacker. We’ll see …

      Why female defenders have more potential: First of all I think for female attackers it is not possible to simply “wack off” the defender by shere physical speed and power due to biological reasons. Also in Best-of-four-games in tournaments physical exhaustion against a consistent female defender may also be an aspect. The potential also comes from little improvements that are easily possible which have nothing to do with physical aspects. Female defenders rarely use countertopspinning on forehand yet (only a few, but slow and not with a lot of spin). Twiddling the bat is not widely used, using the wrist to produce heavy backspin when pushing is not frequent enough yet. Backhand attacking is widely underdeveloped. A lot of these things that you find with male defenders are just a case of training in my view. A lack of habit, practice and trainers (hence this Blog 🙂

      1. Now I can understand better what you mean….
        What do you think, will a defender with short pimples or with long pimples in future will have more chance to beat Fan Zendong?

        By the way at German Open 2003 (I know long time ago…) Yoo played the TSP Curl P1, there Yoo personally let me watch his racket directly after his match against Chen Qi. What pimples he played afterwards in his career I can not say, never had chance to see him live playing again…

        But not only the pimples have influence of the backspin, also the blade/wood,… but this is also a topic for itself….

        Concerning the female defenders:
        indeed the counter-topspins are not such much often used,… and I often miss the will to attack, if there is opportunity to do,… most of the female top-defenders stay passive, or in other words, there are not playing the so called “modern defensive”-syle…, isn’t it?

      2. Hi Mosh, I think you are right with most what you said. Who as a defender with which material will be the first one to defeat Fan Zendong is hard to say. I think the short-pip-guys have bad chances, since it will be hard to get the first topspin back. The most likely guys in my view will be: Yang Wang, short pips, since he produces the most unpredictable spin or float with both pips out and pips in. Look at the first video that I just added where he nearly beat Boll. The second one maybe Masato Shiono on a good day. There also might be a chance for Hou Yingchao, but since he plays just Russian League he may never hit on Zendong.

  2. What do you think, the “plastic” ball what impact do you expect for defenders? Aloso for material like “long” or “short” pimples?
    What do you expect, will defenders get stronger with “plastic” ball? (same for Pro-level and amateur-level?)

    1. Hi Markus,
      very good question! I haven’t come around to practise with the new balls. I just learned that in Germany as a TT-club you can decide whether your home matches are played with new or old balls. We will continue with old balls for next season but for away matches we need to practise also with new balls. So once I have experience with them I will give some feedback here. Some mates brought some versions of the new type to the Gym but said they were prototypes. So I am still hoping that the real ones will have more in common with the old one than these. More later on.

  3. im a long pimple defender, and i will change short pimple because the new plastic ball is very bad for the long pimple…
    plastic=no spin
    and just like you said:
    Disadvantages of long pips:
    If the attacker plays “unspinny” topspins down your backhand you won’t be able to produce enough back spin yourself. Generally you are quite vulnerable to all sort of unspinny and “empty” balls with long pips.

    3 years for now just noobs will play long pimple, good job ITTF…

  4. Thanks for very informative article. As an advanced level defensive player, I would like to add to this. A serious defender who effectively twiddles, obviously plays with pips one side and an allround reverse rubber on the other. When using long pips (which incidentally I find great for long distance backhand chopping), the sponge thickness should not be more than say 0.5mm, whereas the forehand sponge thickness will usually be 1.5mm. This makes it difficult for twiddling and smashing on the backhand side with reverse pips due to the difference in downward weight on that side; the only player I’ve seen that could be really effective was Koji Matsushita. I found using short pips ok for blocking at the table, by a short movement forward with the face vertical. Chopping close-up is good too, if your name happens to be Ding Song!! Happy chopping all.

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