Defenders with Long Pimples on Backhand

Rowden Fullen (2004)

One of the most important aspects of defensive play is that defenders have the capability to move in and out and take both the short drop shot and the hard hit. Many good attackers will NOT hit or loop 3 or 4 balls in a row, they know this is easy for the defender especially if they loop with speed. Instead they will hit hard and drop short or loop slow with a higher arc and much more spin, then smash the next ball. Sometimes they will even just roll a slow ball without pace or spin, which also presents problems for defenders.

Bear in mind that table tennis is all about adaptability and presenting opponents with new situations against which they don’t usually train. If you can do this then opponents do not have an automatically grooved response to cope with the new situation, they must THINK about what they are doing. Of course the considered, thinking response is much slower than the automatic reactions built up over countless hours of training and even good players immediately experience difficulty in a new, unusual situation.

In most cases defenders train much against pace and power and are particularly good at returning the fast, hard-looped ball. This ball comes on to their racket with speed and spin and they have a good measure of control with the return. The hard flat hit is much more difficult for defenders to deal with and they often play into the net because the ball has much less topspin and a flatter trajectory through the air. Also the ball behaves differently after the bounce and does not come on to their racket as quickly as the topspin ball. The slow high-arc loop also presents problems to defensive players as again it doesn’t come through on to the racket and often drops low very quickly. Slow roll balls are the same – there is no pace or spin for the defender to use in his or her return.

As we stated at the start good movement in and out is vital for defenders. It’s important that they are fast enough to recover well after coming in for the short ball. Many attackers will for example loop hard well out to the backhand wing, drop very short to the middle, then hit hard into the body while the defender is still struggling to recover. It is therefore important that defensive players have good length to their chopped returns, so that attackers have difficulty in dropping short. It is important too that when they have a little longer push return that they can attack themselves or push long and fast with the pimples and at an early timing point. (Many defenders play too late on push balls and lose the time advantage and the spin reversal effect). This will give a fast float or topspin ball and gives the opponent very little time to react. It can be equally effective to push early with the normal rubber and with much backspin. The opponent then has little time to get into a good position to topspin a heavily spun ball.

In the case of defenders who at times come in and block or who block with the pimples against the long fast serves, it is of vital importance that they can hold the ball short on the table on the opponent’s side. Many good attackers are only too much aware that they can hit the long blocked ball hard, provided they have not created too much topspin on the previous shot. Even against top-class loopers if long pimple block-players can hold the ball short they give the opponent a very difficult next ball.

Defenders who can chop with very much backspin and equally loop a little slower and with very much topspin are always difficult to cope with because of the extreme difference in the spin element. Most women for example experience more problems against the slower ball and the slower loop with a higher arc is used quite successfully by women defenders.

Placement and serve variation are important too against defensive players. Often players use the wrong serves and play too predictably in the rallies. There is little point in serving heavy spin to long pimples then not being able to cope with the next ball! Pimple players usually have rather more problems against flat no-spin serves. A short serve without spin to the pimples means a float return which you can confidently attack. Equally a long fast serve with a trace of backspin will often give a little high return with next to no spin, which again presents a hard-attack opportunity.

There is equally little point in playing diagonally all the time so that the defender doesn’t even need to move. A short ball to one wing then the next hard out to the other side will often create attacking opportunities, as will straight play and attacks to the body. Many defenders also like to use the B.H. from the middle and can be caught out if you hit the next ball wide to the F.H. angle.

Sidespin presents particular problems for even very good defensive players, especially in the case of a right-hander with long pimples on the B.H. who faces a left-handed loop player. Many topspin attackers have an element of sidespin in their loop and provided this is relatively small and topspin predominates, the defender faces a predictable ball, the type of ball he or she trains against thousands of times in training. It is when sidespin is the major element that the defender has problems. The automatic reaction is to allow for the topspin factor and as a result the defender plays into the net. Remember as we said earlier in the article table tennis is all about adaptability and presenting opponents with situations different from those against which they normally train. It is then that even the best players have problems.

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