Mattias Falck made it to the finals in the World Table Tennis Championships. Falck uses short pips on his forehand. His unusual style doesn’t seem to be a disadvantage. Could there be a growing trend towards short pips forehand hitters among professional players? The pips that Falck is using are nothing like your father’s old short pips. If you listen to his forehand hits, you can hear his shots pop, almost like speed glued rubbers of the past. These short pips have some grip, some power, some spin, and still maintain some characteristics of short pips.
It doesn’t surprise me that there might be a place for pips forehands in the professional ranks. There have been professional women surviving with this style for years. I’ve played with all manner of pips on my forehand. It’s never felt like a disadvantage against amateur players. If you are playing with a shake-hand grip, and can create quality topspin shots with your backhand, opportunities to attack with a flat forehand come very naturally. Pips can come in handy for serve returns, and can create some discomfort for opponents who rarely play against them.
Players who should not use pips on their forehands are players who like to play back from the table, and players whose natural stroke is more up than forward. It’s also important to remember that all pips are not created equal. I’ve always felt like the most important characteristic of any pips rubber is it’s ability to grip the ball. There are times when you need to roll the ball up, and you don’t want to feel like your forehand is performing like anti-spin. The ability of pips to grip depends on the combination of the blade, sponge, and top-sheet. A slow blade might allow you to control the ball more, although this might defeat the purpose, if you are looking to make strong attacks with your pips. Pairing some soft sponge with a relatively fast blade, could give you the grip and power you need. Many short pips attackers prefer thinner sponge for better feel and control. 1.5 or 1.7 sponge might be the best choice, unless you are training frequently, and at a very high level. The best top-sheets for grip seem to have rougher feeling tops. A grippy top-sheet makes playing this style far more doable, and will make you feel more confident in your forehand.
It’s possible to use long or medium pips on your forehand, but I would read up on which long pips allow for attacking, if you decide to go that direction. Medium pips can work for attacking, and should be used like short pips. They typically aren’t as fast, but do create a shot with less spin. It’s not surprising that Sweden is leading the way in innovative ways to play table tennis. The same country that produced the creativity of Waldner, and the unique style of Fabian Akerstrom, almost made it to the top again. Pips on the forehand in 2019? Maybe they’re on to something.