Misconceptions about Long Pimples

Rowden Fullen (2006)

Wobbling/Disturbing Effect

Occurs when a ball is played with more than one spin, for example topspin and sidespin. When this type of ball contacts a hard, long pimple (such as without sponge, plastic pimples and on a fast blade), it then springs off the surface very quickly and the spin already on the ball, remains on it. You therefore get back the same as you applied, (but reversed of course, your topspin comes back unchanged, as backspin), backspin, with a sidespin kick. The ‘wobbling’ effect occurs because you have two differing axes on the ball at the same time and both are trying to assert themselves.

Spin Reversal

Most spin reversal is where you have a red, long pimpled rubber, with thin, hard, widely spaced, plastic type pimples and on a fast blade. The ball kicks off very quickly and there is no time for it to be affected by the rubber. The plastic type pimples have absolutely no grip and when thinner and widely spaced have minimum contact with the ball. Because they are hard they don’t bend so much and therefore the ball is not held on the surface.

Herbert Neubauer has done his own exhaustive testing on long pimpled rubbers and the effect of rubber colour and blade weight and speed on return spin. As a result his long pimpled rubbers were originally only manufactured in red because the same rubber in black produces considerably less effect. He has also proved that pimples have most effect when used on a fast and even heavier blade. Of course it is now possible to have double-sided blades, fast on one side and slower on the other to suit the style of the individual player, so having just one fast side is no longer a problem.

Speed Reduction

There can be some speed reduction with thinner and softer pimples which have a cushioning effect during the contact phase. However you must always bear in mind that if the pimple surface is softer and the ball is held longer, then there will be less spin reversal. Most players who are able to play short returns on service receive or in a rally have good feeling in the wrist.

Control

When we consider control we must look at how the player is using the rubber. Long pimple without sponge may have good control when you go back and play defensively, but the same rubber can have control problems when you try and block close to the table. Against a fast loop the ball just springs off the racket too quickly. A layer of sponge will help with blocking control as the ball is held longer on the bat, but you will of course lose effect. Even with a normal, reverse rubber most players will have discovered at some time in their playing career that it’s much easier blocking with 2.0mm sponge than it is with 1.0mm.

Effect versus control is always a major point for discussion with long pimple users. In most cases it is a question of whether to try sponge or not and if so how thick. In the final analysis it is often a matter of feeling and ‘what works for me’.

Long pimple players all play differently even with the same rubbers and selection of the best playing materials is a highly individual matter and usually one for some experimentation.

Catapult Effect

Catapult effect or speed just doesn’t exist. If you throw a table tennis ball against a stone wall as hard as you can, it will bounce back fairly sharply – if you do the same against a pair of thick curtains, the ball will drop almost directly to the floor. There is just no way a ball will rebound faster off a soft surface than off a hard one. While elasticity levels of both sponge and rubbers will continue to increase we must bear in mind that the resilience of the surface cannot create energy, but only minimize energy losses.

The big difference between the hard rackets of the ‘50’s and the modern sandwich rackets is that the surface is much softer and more ‘tacky’ allowing the ball to sink in and be gripped. As a result the contact angle used to strike the ball has altered dramatically. Players are able to strike the ball with a much more closed racket angle, which results in very much increased topspin. Using a more closed racket angle not only can players achieve much more spin, but also they have the capability of hitting the ball much harder and still getting it on the table! Striking the ball with a closed racket angle with power means SPIN and the harder the player can hit the ball the more spin will be generated.

What we are able to say is that players nowadays, because of the way in which they contact the ball can feed in much more power, hit the ball much harder, but still get it on the table.

Speed

We must really consider speed over three areas, speed off the racket, speed through the air, and speed after the bounce on the opponent’s side of the table.

  • Off the racket – For the same incoming speed the ball will always kick off the harder surface more quickly.
  • Through the air – For the same power input the ball hit flatter with a ‘hard’ bat will always reach the opponent’s half of the table more quickly than the spin ball which is looped with a pronounced arc and must travel further.
  • After the bounce – The flatter ball without so much topspin (a short pimple counter-hit for example) tends to have a similar angle in and out, (physics, angle of incidence = angle of reflection.) The ball may acquire a little topspin after bouncing because the bottom of the ball is held momentarily by the table surface and the top moves forward. However this will not be a significant amount. On the other hand the topspin ball will shoot forward after the bounce and the outgoing angle will be much smaller than the incoming.

In the case of the topspin ball struck with a much more closed racket, the ball will of course have a much more pronounced arc and much more spin through the air. During the last stage of its flight the ball will dip down sharply on to the table. A particularly important aspect is what happens after the ball hits the table. Spin is converted into forward or backward momentum. Topspin will add to the speed of the shot after the ball has bounced — the bottom of the ball stops but the top shoots forward increasing the topspin. We have a much smaller angle after the bounce and the ball shoots forward low and fast, much faster than the flatter ball with less spin.

What has tended to happen over the years is that we are so accustomed to this accelerating effect of topspin after the bounce that we play automatically without thinking about what we are doing. It is when we play against pimpled attackers for example and the ball comes through more slowly after the bounce that we often have problems.