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Pips Out, Enemies Rout: Guide to Short Pips Supremacy

By Ying Wang | Feb. 27, 2017, 1:01 p.m. (ET)

Ying Wang NCTTA Table Tennis

Pips Out, Enemies Rout: Guide to Short Pips Supremacy


The best defense is a good offense. In today’s fast paced game, more often than not a point is ended by a decisive third or fifth ball attack. In recognition of the overwhelming advantage of a strong offense, ITTF attempted to slow the game down by first introducing the 40mm ball, followed by the 40+ plastic ball. This resulted in a 1-2% reduction in velocity, and a much more devastating reduction of spin by up to 20%.

Charles Darwin once said “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” 40+ is here to stay, and those that don’t adapt to the new style risk going the way of the dodo. How does one adapt to a reduction in the primary strength (spin) of inverted rubbers? Capitalize with a speed based offense with short pips and sting like a bee.

The primary advantage of short pips over inverted is in speed and trajectory. While inverted looping style grants consistency through spin and a high arc, such a trajectory also gives the defender ample time to react. On the contrary, a hit based offense with short pips combines sudden acceleration and a flat trajectory that applies immense positional and reactionary pressure to your opponent.

Due to its explosive power, short pip strategies are typically high risk high reward third / fifth ball attack based. A short pip player tends to play close to the table to maximize its speed advantage, the combination of a shorter flight path and explosive power disrupts your opponent’s rhythm as the ball comes back much quicker than an inverted player’s. Secondly, it is also critical to end the point early and not go into extended mid-table loop rallies against inverted players, as the longer distance nullifies our speed advantage and their higher trajectory allows for better consistency far away from the table.

A second weapon in a pips player’s arsenal is in spin variation, by having short pips on one side and inverted on the other, a short pips player can greatly vary spin and rhythm with largely similar looking strokes. An advanced technique known as twiddling (flipping the blade around so your forehand rubber is now your backhand rubber) during service or in the match further increases this variation. This will force your opponent into making weak returns which you can then capitalize with a strong pips attack. Lastly, an attack with short pips feels a lot “heavier” than a similar stroke with inverted. This results in a ball that drops earlier and requires much more effort to loop. The first step to this wonderful journey is a fundamental paradigm shift, hitting is now your primary form of attack.

In order to hit a ball with quality, you will need to make adjustments to your positioning, timing, contact point, paddle angle, forearm movement and waist rotation. Fear not, the shock on your opponent’s face one day will make it all worthwhile. Timing is critical in a good hit, the optimal timing to hit the ball is just before the highest point of the ball’s bounce. Having strong footwork to get into position will be the keystone to your success. Once there, the contact point should be just above the center of the ball, with your racket at about 80 degrees relative to the ground.

The hitting motion should be focused on hitting through the ball with a relatively small stroke augmented by a quick snap of your forearm. The biggest difference between hitting and looping is your forearm should never drop below the ball throughout the entire stroke, even during the backswing. As your hitting motion is accelerated, be sure to ensure your waist turn and weight shift is sped up as well to match the chain of motion; starting with a shift in your body weight, followed by the turn of your waist and lastly the snap of your forearm. Remember, you’re not hitting with just your arm, but the force of your entire body.

Congratulations on embarking on your journey to offense nirvana, it has been a great honor to be your short pips sherpa. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step: step 1, bust out that glue.