(By Larry Hodges)
Now that Sweden’s Mattias Falck made it to the final of Men’s Singles at the Worlds using short pips on the forehand, there’s going to be a sudden increase in players playing this way. I think that’s a very good thing – I miss the days where there were far more contrasts in style, compared to the more modern game where most play almost the same, with more subtle differences. So how do you play a player with short pips on the forehand, inverted on the backhand? Here are some tips.
1. Short, very low no-spin serves to the forehand. Pips-out players are notoriously good attacking short, spinny balls, but have trouble with no-spin that’s very low. It also draws them over the table, leaving them jammed and out of position on the backhand.
2. Long, low, heavy pushes, especially to the wide corners. A pips-out loop doesn’t create as much spin as an inverted surface. Counter-attack against these weaker opening loops. If they smash your push, then work on your push.
3. Deep backspin serves to the forehand. This is almost a forgotten tactic from the past, but just like a deep push to the corner, a pips-out player can’t attack a low, deep backspin ball as well as an inverted player. Counter-attack their opening shot, often to the wide backhand, since they’ve been drawn out of position to the wide forehand. Or, if they rush back to cover the wide backhand, go right back to the wide forehand.
4. Attack the middle. Pips-out players have to stay close to the table to be effective, so they are already rushed. They also have to stroke the ball more than an inverted player since short-pips isn’t as lively as inverted. If you attack their middle (the mid-point between their forehand and backhand, usually the elbow), they are rushed even more and have little time to stroke the ball effectively.
5. Aggressive loops deep to the forehand and middle. A pips-out forehand is great for smashing loops, but against an aggressive loop that goes deep, they have difficulty since they can’t smash that consistently. Move the ball around from wide forehand to the middle so they have to move as well.
6. In rallies, keep the ball deep. This both makes it harder for the pips-out player to smash, and gives you more time to react to their pips-out shots.
7. Before the match, practice against short pips.
8. Play with short pips. One of the best ways to understand the weaknesses and strengths of a style is to try it out yourself.