Table Tennis Tip - Devastate the Long Pips Blocker

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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.

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. 

#3 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.

#5 Repeat

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.

#7 Practice

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

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Table Tennis Rally Statistics

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Statistics were taken for the length of the rallies at a professional table tennis tournament.  These statistics are fairly common across the board for all levels but differ based on game-style.

On average:

12% of serves are not returned

18% of points are won on the 2nd ball

26% of points are won on the 3rd ball

13% of points are won on the 4th ball

11% of points are won on the 5th ball

6% of points are won on the 6th ball

4% of points are won on the 7th ball

10% of points are won after the 7th ball

So as you can see, the serve, serve return, and 3rd ball attack are critically important during a table tennis match.  56% of the points do not last more than the 3rd hit.  For this reason, I would recommend practicing at least 56% of the time on the serve, serve return, and 3rd hit. 

Serve

One of the best ways to improve your serve is to do it during a drill.  Instead of starting the drill with a warm-up serve, start each drill with a tournament serve such short backspin.  Ask your table tennis training partner to push long, next you loop the push, then you begin the footwork drill. 

Serve Return

You probably have some serves that give you problems.  Ask your training partner to serve those problem serves again and again while thinking of new ways to return them.  Experiment by attacking slightly stronger or slightly slower, by pushing instead of looping, by adding to or stopping the sidespin, or countless types of returns.  In order to properly read the spin on a serve, you should watch the racket motion, listen to the contact, watch the bounce, and look for the logo on the ping-pong ball.

The 3rd Ball

Even if your opponent doesn’t miss your serve, he might give you an easy return in which you can attack.  If your 3rd ball attack is strong, it will put more pressure on your opponent to return more precisely.  When he tries to return shorter or lower or faster, he will begin making more mistakes.  Remember, it isn’t just about your serve in a table tennis rally. It’s also about what comes after your serve. 

Samson Dubina

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Looping Serves in Table Tennis

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Looping serves in table tennis is a bit more challenging than many players imagine.  However, if you follow the right thought process and use the right technique, then you will be on your way to major improvement.

Ways to improve your looping serve in table tennis:

  1. Watch your opponent’s positioning at the table and body language to possibly see if they will serve short or long.
  2. Next, watch their backswing, contact point, and where the ball contacts their side of the table.  At this point, you need to start adjusting your feet while keeping your hand in front.
  3. Next, watch as the ball contacts your side of the table.  If it hits in the first half (near the net), then it will likely be short and you need to adjust in with your legs, upper body, and racket.  If it hits in the back half of the table, then it will likely be long enough to loop.  These balls will vary based on spin as well.
  4. Next, if the serve is half-long, then prepare to loop by keeping your knees bent, adjusting near the table with your body, and shortening your backswing while starting at the appropriate height and angle.  If it is heavy backspin, then start lower and open your angle.  If it is no-spin, then start higher and close your angle slightly.  If the serve is fast and long, then give yourself plenty of space from the table, start at the appropriate height, let the ball come back, then spin the ball.
  5. Next, focus on spinning the ball with good placement.  The more spin that you are able to create when looping this serve, the easier it will be to control the ball.  Without applying enough spin, your opponent’s spin with bite into your rubber and cause more errors.  Generally, you should loop the half-long balls with about 30-60% power and you should loop the deep serves with about 50-80% power.

Avoid the following mistakes with your looping serve in table tennis:

  1. Neglecting to watch your opponent’s racket
  2. Neglecting to move your feet based on the opponent’s racket angle and incoming ball
  3. Neglecting to adjust your racket starting position based on the opponent’s spin
  4. Neglecting to make a secondary adjustment with your feet
  5. Neglecting to apply enough spin to the ball

Samson Dubina

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Changing Your Mindset in Table Tennis

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A topic seldom addressed in table tennis, but very important, is about changing your mindset in regards to your opponent’s strengths. 

Many table tennis players fear their opponent’s strengths so much that it messes up all aspects of their game.  Instead of fearing the strength, try to use the strength against them. 

Here are some examples:

  1. Your opponent’s serve is very short and very low.  Generally, you are able to loop the serve and start the point out with attacking.  However, this opponent’s serve cannot be looped.  Instead of getting frustrated, you should be able to push his short serve short and wait to loop the following ball.
  1. Your opponent’s push is extremely heavy and you can’t power-loop the first ball.  Instead of getting frustrated, you should use your legs, open your angle, and brush the ball for a slightly slower and spinnier loop.  After he blocks your opening loop, you can follow-up with a stronger loop.
  1. Your opponent’s flip is very fast.  Instead of getting frustrated with the speed, you should shorten your swing, make contact with the ball, and return it quickly to a good location.  He probably won’t be ready for you to return it and the quick return will probably force him to block.  After he blocks, then you can take over with a speed shot.
  1. Your opponent’s loop is extremely powerful.  Instead of getting frustrated with his “weapon”, you should focus on returning only one loop.  By getting low, keeping your table tennis racket high and in front of you, and controlling the block, you should be able to manage to return one loop.  Once your opponent realizes that you can return it, he might slow it down and go for better placement or he might attempt to speed it up and become more inconsistent.

Try your best to play your strengths against your opponent’s weaknesses in table tennis.  However, when they do use their strengths, don’t fear them – just return them with control!

Samson Dubina

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