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The long pips blocker is often described as the most frustrating opponent in table tennis, unless you use the proper tactics. Before I jump into the tactics, I want to first give you an explanation on spin. When both you and your table tennis opponent are using normal, grippy inverted rubber on your table tennis paddles and rallying topspin to topspin, the rubber grabs the ball and changes the rotation forward in order to maintain topspin. The grippiness of the rubber is what allows the spin to maintain topspin back and forth. When playing against long-pips, the ball usually doesn’t grab when it hits the pips causing your own spin to come back at you. For example, when you serve heavy backspin to the long pips table tennis player, regardless if he hits or blocks or pushes, the ball will come back with some topspin. If you loop the ball with extreme topspin, regardless if he hits or blocks or pushes, the ball will come back with backspin. It isn’t so much a matter of what stroke HE did, it is a matter of what spin YOU did.
Now here is one pitfall. When beginner table tennis players play against long pip opponents, they often give a weak loop then try to push the next ball, the balls goes flying 8 feet high. What happened? The loop was so weak with practically no topspin; when the long pips player blocked, it actually came back as “no-spin”. You must understand that the amount of spin coming back to you is proportional to the amount of spin you impart. If you loop with 80 rotations per second topspin, the long pips ball will likely come back to you with about 60 rotations per second backspin. If you loop with 16 rotations per second topspin, the long pips ball will likely come back to you with about 12 rotations per second backspin.
Now here is where it gets very complicated. When you are playing against a long pips table tennis player that has some friction to his pips, the ball will be different from an opponent that has much less friction on his pips. Unlike inverted, the pips with some friction will give less spin. Less spin? Samson, are you sure about that? Absolutely! When the pips with some friction slightly grab the ball, they deaden the spin a bit. The statistics that I quoted in the above paragraph will actually be different based on the type of long pips used. If you loop with 80 rotations per second, the grippy long pips ball will likely come back to you with 40 rotations per second whereas the less grippy long pips ball will likely come back to you with 75 rotations per second.
There are many myths floating around table tennis clubs worldwide as to how tricky long pips players can be. For the long pips player without much friction, the only thing that they can be tricky about is depth and placement. Regardless of the stroke he used, the spin will be very predictable. The trickier version in the long-pips table tennis player is the one who has some friction. If the rubber has some friction, then the player can give some slight variations. If you push to the long pips with friction and he pushes very aggressively, then it is possible for him to deaden the ball more. If you push to the long pips with friction and he does a slight loop swing, then he can add more topspin to the ball. If these concepts are too difficult to grasp, then I recommend returning to the first paragraph again. Once you have mastered the basic concept then continue reading the tactics.
#1 Basic Spins
The basic table tennis tactic against long pips is to know the spin and get in the groove. If you try too many spin variations, the spin will confuse you more than it will confuse your opponent. Try to avoid varying the spin and definitely avoid putting sidespin on the ball.
#2 Your Serve
Start with a deep backspin serve. Deep is critically important because your table tennis opponent will be forced to likely return deeper, which gives you an easier first attack.
Next, loop forward with good speed and spin. After you serve the deep backspin serve, you will be getting a topspin ball that is likely to be an easy attack. Drive forward on this shot. In order to maintain your consistency, make sure that you add spin which makes it more controlled.
#4 The Next Ball
This is the tough one! When your table tennis opponent blocks back your powerful loop, it will be a fast, line-drive chop coming at you like a bullet. You need to push it early or late and push with spin. If you contact the ball high, your push will go flying long. Push it as soon as it bounces or when it is dropping to keep it low. This is the most critical ball in the tactics against long-pips. If you can push well on this ball, then you can again begin the cycle of loop then push.
Repeat the pattern of loop one then push one. If you stay with the pattern, then you will be always be looping topspin and always pushing backspin. If you “double-up” on your push or your loop, then you will likely get confused by the spin. If you constantly have to change from various amounts of pushes and loops and dealing with different spins, the joke is on you. Of course you will be confused. Keep it simple.
#6 Plan B
Ok so you are using the Samson Dubina long pips table tennis tactics and it isn’t working!!?!!?!! What next? Is there an alternative? Good news! Yes! You must remember the various ways to win points ¾ with speed, spin, placement, consistency, and change-ups. If it isn’t working, maybe you haven’t worked the point long enough. Instead of five ball table tennis rallies, maybe you need to be mentally and physically prepared for 15 ball rallies. Maybe you are looping all the balls to the middle, why not try to serve backspin deep to the sharp angles and loop wider and push wider? Maybe you are looping at 50% speed and you need to ramp it up to 80% speed. You see, even within the framework of the basic table tennis tactics, there are always adjustments within the tactics that can make you more dangerous. I have used these tactics for years and haven’t lost to a long-pips blocker table tennis player for at least 15 years.
Before your upcoming table tennis match against that long-pips legend, try your best to find a long-pips practice partner and warm-up for 20-30 minutes against him. Chances are that the long-pips opponent is used to playing against your style. If you can have a 20 minute adjustment period prior to the match, then the adjustment will be much easier when you actually begin the real battle!
By Samson Dubina, Professional Table Tennis Athlete and Coach