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The Two Minute Warm Up and Combination Racket Table Tennis Players

The Pro-Choice Argument...

By

Photo of Stiga Destroyer Long Pips

The Right to Choose?

© 2007 Greg Letts, licensed to About.com, Inc.
Should combination bat users use their junk rubber (the antispin or pimpled rubber side) during the two minute warm up before a match? This is a question that gets debated fairly regularly on our table tennis forum. As someone who has used a combination bat for many years, I'm going to explain why I only use my normal rubber during the warm up. It might not be for the reasons you think!

Reasons For Not Using 'Junk' Rubber During the Two Minute Warm Up

I actually have a few reasons for not using my long pimples during the two minute warm up, but my main reason is that when warming up with my opponent I want to hit as many balls as possible during this period. This allows both of us to loosen up a bit and get a feel for the conditions, such as the bounce of the ball on the table. Hitting with my normal rubber instead of the pimples allows my opponent and I to counterhit quickly and easily, so we both get to hit more balls. Ever notice that professional combination bat players rarely use the funny side during their warm ups?

If I was to use my pimples during the warm up my opponent would find it more difficult to counterhit consistently, and the result would be a poorer quality warm up for both of us, and possibly a lot of frustration for my opponent, who may be expecting to have a decent hit during the warm up.

Using the normal rubber only does give me a small advantage in that my opponent doesn't get to practice against my long pimples, but this doesn't mean that I'm going to fanatically avoid using my long pimples during the warm up. I'm quite happy to keep the warm up rally going by hitting with my pimples if my opponent puts the ball on the other side of the table. It's not going to help him get used to them very much though - I mainly use the pimples to chop the ball, and when I do hit with them, it's more of a loop stroke than a counterhit or drive.

I'm also happy to hit a few with my long pimples if my opponent asks me to. Bear in mind that I'm not obligated to do so, but I'm pretty easygoing about spending 30 seconds or so hitting with the long pimples if my opponent asks. I wouldn't chop or push with the long pimples though, since that's not how I want to spend my warm up time. I want to counterhit and maybe loop a few strokes, not chop the ball - I will have already done that in my own private warm up before coming to the court for the match warm up.

Now some players may argue that I should chop the ball with my long pimples so that I don't have an unfair advantage over my opponent, since he won't get to practice against my long pimpled chop until the match starts. To these players, I have a few questions of my own, these being:

  • Seeing as I mainly chop with my smooth rubber, am I obligated to go back and chop a few with it during the warm up, so my opponent can see how my chop with normal rubber works? If so, why? And also, as a defender, am I allowed to demand that my opponent loop a few to me so I can try out my chops against his loops?

  • Exactly how much control are you allowed to have over what your opponent does in the warm up? If my opponent is allowed to request that I use my pimples, what else can he request? Can I be forced to hit the balls where my opponent would like them? Can he dictate how hard I hit them, or with how much spin? Can I order that he show me his best serves which he is going to use to try to set up his third ball attacks?

  • What if I decide to skip the warm up altogether? Can I be forced to hit some balls with my opponent? The only relevant rule that I can see is Law 3.4.3.1, which says that "Players are entitled to practise on the match table for up to 2 minutes immediately before the start of a match...". What if I don't want a warm up at all? Or if I want to hit up with my own practice partner? What happens then?

  • Exactly how much of the practice period should a combination bat player use his funny rubber for? If, for example, he is a penholder who only uses the pimples on the back side of the bat once or twice a match, surely he would only have to hit it once or twice in the warm up? Or maybe if he only hits with the pimples for 10% of the warm up, he can only use the pimples for 10% of the match? If so, who is responsible for keeping track of this proportion?

Conclusion

As you can see, the issue of whether a combination bat player should use his junk rubber during a warm up is a touchy one. I'm not sure that this issue will ever completely go away, but with a bit of common courtesy and give and take between players, we should all be able to get through the warm up successfully and enjoy the match. Who wants to be upset before the game has even started?

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