Equipment

Bats and Rubbers

Rowden Fullen (1990’s)

Much of the advertising material which is written in the various brochures on materials is of very little use to the ordinary player and often misleading. The hardness of the wood and the make-up of the ply, how it is bonded and whether you have carbon fibre or titanium mesh layers will all affect the speed and control. Generally one ply will be more rigid and the ball will kick off the blade quicker, multi-ply will be more flexible with more control and stability. The choosing of a blade is a rather more personal matter than the rest of the equipment and it should feel right to the player. Tests in one or two countries appear to indicate that there is an ideal racket weight for the player at differing stages in his or her development and variation by even a few grams can cause a drastic loss of form.

Most rubber manufacturers use speed, spin and control ratings which are at best misleading — many of the tests they use are very simplistic and bear little or no relation to how a rubber is used in a match. Players also use the same rubber in different ways and with different feeling.

Let us examine the characteristics of the rubber as it is this which contacts the ball.

Dwell time

This is how long the ball stays on the racket during the contact phase of a stroke, (bear in mind this is a mere fraction of a second, if you have ever chalked a ball and thrown it to a player who slow loops and tries to maintain a long contact you find that the mark on the ball is never more than one centimetre). Rubbers have different dwell times for different strokes. The ball will be held longer for a slow loop as opposed to a kill. Some players also ‘carry the ball’ longer than others even for the same stroke. A long dwell time will often benefit spinners and blockers while a short dwell time will suit defenders and hitters. The dwell time is also affected by the blade you use and how the ball comes off the racket depends much on the rubber and sponge and how quickly it penetrates through these to reach the wood layer underneath.

Resilience

The energy stored in the rubber during the contact phase of the stroke. Some rubber and sponge combinations are much more elastic than others and will hold the ball longer on the surface at a closed racket angle. This stored energy is converted to produce spin. While elasticity levels will certainly increase we must bear in mind that the sponge cannot create energy, but can only minimize energy losses. Compared to a hard bat a ‘sponge’ bat can be swung in a much flatter plane so giving the ball more forward speed with spin. The sponge helps to lift the ball over the net.

Impact behaviour

A rubber and sponge can have differing performances at different impact speeds. At a slow speed there may be very little elasticity but you may get very good spin and speed when the ball comes into the racket with more pace. When you achieve maximum impact speed you can swing the racket harder but you will get little or no more effect. Some rubbers are said to have good gearing for spin and speed, which means they produce and maintain good effect over a wide range of impact speeds.

Throw-angle

The angle of the flight of the ball as it comes off the racket surface in the direction the bat is travelling. Differing blades and rubbers affect the throw-angle considerably as will different strokes (the angles would be very different if you were looping for example with very tacky rubber or with anti-loop). The throw-angle will also vary depending on whether the contact is on the outside of the racket or in the middle, or whether low, in the middle or high on the ball. High throw-angle rubber generally has a higher ratio of spin than speed, compared to low throw-angle rubber. (Flexible, slower blades typically increase the angle).

Stall-angle

The contact angle at which speed/spin of a rubber is dramatically reduced — at certain angles all rubbers will stall and not store energy (the ball will just drop off the racket, as it sometimes does when it contacts the outside edge). The stall-angle can be used effectively for dummy loops or short serves. A rubber with a wide range of stall-angles (or used with a badly matching blade) will have little or no control. A stall can also occur when the racket contact speed is too fast at a particular contact angle.

Friction

The grip of the rubber. Under certain conditions and with certain techniques some super-high friction rubbers can give less spin/speed than ones with much lower friction characteristics. Sometimes super-grippy rubbers have less spin at high speed — there is a critical level above which little or nothing is gained. Some very tacky rubbers have the characteristic of slowing the ball dramatically at low impact speeds, a function which is very useful in certain strokes. A low friction rubber has difficulty generating speed at closed racket angles. Remember always the friction of many rubbers is impact-dependent, they are more effective when the ball is coming at speed.

Sponge

Sponge can vary from soft to hard and from about 0.4 mm to 2.5 mm and the density of the sponge contributes to the weight of the racket. The amount of spin generated by a rubber is closely related to the elasticity of the sponge (irrespective of the top sheet of rubber), below a certain critical level for a given sponge, the spin of the rubber will be considerably reduced. This can be improved through the correct use of speed glues/optimisers which will increase the resilience by up to 30%. Players who glue usually prefer soft or medium sponges.

Glue

Adhesives and glue sheets are used to put the rubbers on the blade. Speed-glues/optimisers are used to increase the performance of the rubber in respect of spin, speed, control, throw and stall-angles. It is always recommended that you allow each coat of glue/optimiser to thoroughly dry before applying the next coat — otherwise you can get a ‘mushy’ effect which seriously affects performance when the glue is a little wet.

Properly applied speed-glues/optimisers can increase the spin and speed capabilities of the rubber by up to 30% (remember however that some glues/optimisers do not work well with certain sponges, especially most hard and more dense sponges). Also the glue must be regularly ‘removed’ from the rubber sheet and the build-up must not be allowed to become too thick. All rubbers (where speed-glue is used) should be taken off the blade as soon as possible after play so that the tension in the rubber is released.

One interesting characteristic of speed-glued/optimised rubber is that it has a very predictable effect over a wide range of strokes. Its ability to store energy is nearly constant over a large range of impact speeds, (in normal rubber the storage of energy bottoms out at higher speeds).

Funny Rubbers

Rowden Fullen (1990’s)

What is happening

Understand spin and its importance

Tactics to use and to expect

Advanced research areas

WHAT IS HAPPENING

When you play with a normal reverse rubber and topspin you get just that, topspin. You get what you execute and the opponent gets what he sees. Equally if you push or chop you get backspin. Of course the amount of spin will vary depending on how you play the stroke, how fast the forearm moves, how much power input, the fineness of touch etc. A great many players get into the habit of watching the opponent’s racket and come to understand that if it goes up then there is topspin, if it goes down there is backspin. Over a number of years of playing the habit becomes ingrained in the mind. What was a considered response becomes automatic, an involuntary reaction. It’s very like when you put your hand on a hot stove by accident — there is no conscious, considered thought, the nerve ends send a message to the brain and in a fraction of a second the hand is snatched away.

However what happens when your opponent pushes (you see the racket go down and the mind reacts instantaneously — backspin) and the ball comes over the net without spin or even with topspin! All the ingrained habits, all the automatic reactions are of no value and often the more experienced the player, the bigger the problem. The new beginner can be taught to look at things in a different way and quite quickly, here the coach has a blank sheet and can write what he wants on it. However with the player who has some ten years experience for example it’s rather more difficult to change thinking and attitudes reinforced countless times every day of his or her training life.

The problem is compounded in Sweden in that there are relatively few players who use the more extreme rubbers such as long pimple or anti-loop and there is no in-depth tradition of using such equipment or knowing how to play against it. In many countries in Europe especially those with large numbers of veteran players, youngsters come into contact very early in their careers with a considerable variety of rubber combinations both in league and tournaments and quickly learn how to cope with them. Many players in Sweden also use combination rackets without really understanding in any depth how they should gain advantage from them. A good example is the number of girls who play with short pimple then just use it exactly like a normal reverse rubber, playing the same range of strokes they would have used if they had never changed! Most also fail to realize and understand that there are a vast number of short pimple rubbers, some of which impart next to no spin while others are almost as spinny as a normal rubber (in experienced hands). Which should they be using and why? Again in most cases they don’t know!

The first priority in understanding how to play against different rubbers is to know the spin on the incoming ball and which stroke you should play if you were to play with the spin — for example if the opponent loops you would chop, if the opponent chops you would loop.

The second priority is to understand that anti-loop and pimple rubbers vary considerably from those which cannot reverse the existing spin to those which can easily reverse the spin on the ball. For example if you serve with very much backspin and your opponent pushes back just after the bounce you could very well get considerable topspin on the return ball, especially if he or she is using a hard anti-loop or a non-frictional long pimple without sponge. This happens because the opponent’s rubber doesn’t grip the ball so in effect you get your own spin back. When you serve backspin the ball is spinning back towards you — if this spin remains unchanged it must come back as topspin. The equation is further complicated because most players don’t serve just backspin, they serve sidespin too. The ball therefore then is returned as topspin with a sidespin kick, even though the opponent has pushed it back!

If on the other hand your opponent returns your backspin serve with a high-friction short pimple rubber you could very well have much backspin on the return ball. Your opponent has the capability of reversing the spin and imposing his or her own spin. Equally the experienced player depending on how he or she decides to play the stroke, can return the ball with very much spin or totally without!

As you begin to see there is much to be said for training young players to watch the ball and not the action of the other player’s racket. The Chinese train receive for example with the opponent serving through a narrow gap between two curtains so that the receiver has no visual clues as to which spin the server is applying — the only help he or she has is by watching the ball and the bounce.

Just what should we be looking for when we face players with combination rackets? Firstly those players are most dangerous who twiddle and play with both rubbers on both wings, perhaps sometimes blocking on the forehand with anti or pimples and looping the next ball with the normal rubber on the backhand, then changing.

Probably the single most important point to consider is whether the opponent can easily reverse the spin or not — because this will affect your tactics and how you play against him or her. For example if your opponent uses a hard anti-loop or a long pimple without sponge and you force him back so that he is defending, you know that he must continue defending and cannot counter-hit (with any effect or penetration) from this deeper position. (Of course he can always twiddle and hit or loop with the normal rubber). Because of the nature of the rubber the ball comes off the racket quickly and there is limited dwell-time, the ball is not held by the rubber long enough to reverse spin, so you know that the opponent must play with the spin. (With the spin you put on the ball.)

However the game becomes rather more complicated when the opponent is able to get in and block. You loop, he or she blocks, what spin do you get back? It can be just float if the opponent’s rubber is slow or it can be some backspin. But the return is further complicated by the fact that you don’t just loop with topspin, very few players do, you loop with topspin and sidespin. So you get back a float or backspin ball with a wobble and a sidespin kick after the bounce. The same for example when you serve your super-spinny chop and sidespin serve and the receiver pushes back with anti or long pimple — you get a topspin return with a sidespin kick (own spin back). There is in fact much to be said for serving and playing without spin against ‘funny’ rubbers.

The amount of effect achieved will vary from one long pimple rubber to another.

Generally speaking the most return spin will be achieved by long pimple without sponge and on a fast blade — because the ‘surface’ is hard, the ball rebounds very quickly and is not gripped by the rubber, therefore the spin already on it is returned without alteration. Where there is sponge, especially if this is a bit thicker 1.0mm. or above some of the return spin will be lost as there will be a slower rebound off the blade and the ball will come back more often as ‘float’ (without spin). After the bounce on your side of the table of course, the ball will ‘acquire’ a little topspin.

But what about players who can get immense spin with pimpled rubber? Usually these are the high-friction pimples, short, slightly bigger, with a rough surface to each pimple and if you want very good effect and control usually we are talking about a thinner sponge say 1.6 – 1.9 mm and very soft. Soft is the key to effect with control. Haven’t you sometimes wondered why almost all of the top Asian women rarely if ever use the standard sponge provided by the manufacturer? Instead they put their own sponge under the rubber. For years they have known something that the rubber manufacturers didn’t know. It is only very recently that manufacturers have started producing sponges in a number of differing hardnesses so that players can match up sponges and rubbers to their own individual requirements. There has for example over the last twenty-five years been much dialogue between the world’s top men and the rubber manufacturers as to what qualities they require from a rubber, but next to nothing with the top women. Of course it’s the women who play with the different rubber combinations but almost all the top players are from Asia and perhaps not so high a profile in the considerations of the companies who manufacture primarily for the western world.

Just what sort of game and tactics can you expect if you play top Asian short-pimple, pen-hold attackers? Hard flat-hitting from the forehand but used over almost all the table, often a low, fast, flat ball with little topspin, certainly they will kill through your loop and at an early timing point — because many of them come down on the ball at the moment of impact you can quite regularly get a hard hit with some backspin! Not easy to take! On the pushes you will face great variety, stop blocks both with and without spin and many sidespin balls almost always early timed. Much change of pace short/long, hard/soft and good use of the angles. Also devastating short play – pen-hold players are very good at flicking short balls, dropping short and early-pushing long and fast. This is one of the main reasons why it is so difficult to get any advantage from the receive situation when they serve very short.

Against the long pimple players you face rather different problems more associated with lack of speed. Often you get a low return but one which slows very rapidly. What you should always remember against long pimples is that your opponent can usually only use what you give him and his capability to initiate is limited. Playing against such a player is more often a question of tactics and not of the problems posed by the rubber. If you play the wrong tactics, yes, you will make life extremely difficult for yourself! Invariably in Sweden players try to use power and spin and usually continuous power and spin against such rubbers. With long pimples you get back what you put in. If you feed in very much power and spin you get back very much effect and encounter problems with unusual spins and bounces on your own side. On the other hand if you give the long pimple player nothing, then he has nothing to use and nothing to send back to you. Why not play a slow roll game with little pace or spin and wait for the ball to hit hard, or change the pace more often, hit one, push one for example? In this way you avoid the build-up of spin and effect which is what causes the problems. More often than not it is lack of spin or speed that makes life more difficult for the player using a long pimpled rubber.

UNDERSTAND SPIN AND ITS IMPORTANCE

Let us look a little at spin, what it is and how it affects the ball, because we need to know a little about the basics before we can cope with playing against different rubber combinations. Most players and coaches in Sweden will be aware of what is known in physics as the Magnus effect. In many countries in Europe it is taught in the first coaching stage on trainers’ courses. The important point is that both backspin and topspin cause the ball to deviate in flight. Test this for yourself. In your own training hall loop the ball hard and long with much topspin — it will dip quickly to the floor during flight then after bouncing will spin forward and run on to the end of the hall. The backspin ball will veer upwards before dropping down, will run forward only a little, then will spin back towards you and can end up spinning back past you. Not only does the type of spin affect the ball in the air but it also affects the way the ball behaves after the bounce.

  • No spin — same angle in and out, (physics, angle of incidence = angle of reflection.) This rarely happens in table tennis, test for yourself by throwing a no-spin ball forward, the ball acquires topspin after bouncing because the bottom of the ball is held momentarily by the floor and the top moves forward. (If a topspin ball hits the net, the bottom of the ball is held and even more topspin is created.)
  • Topspin has a smaller angle after the bounce and the ball shoots forward low and fast. However if you have a high, very slow loop with much spin, because the main impetus is down the ball will often kick up a little, then drop down very quickly. This is why this type of loop is very useful against defence players.
  • Backspin has the bigger angle after the bounce, the ball slows and kicks up sometimes quite sharply. Why many players have problems against backspin is that they don’t understand this slowing-down effect, that the ball doesn’t come to them. They must move forward, lower the centre of gravity and get under the ball.

Topspin is of vital importance in modern table tennis. Without topspin it would be quite impossible to hit the ball as hard as we would like to. When we for example hit a ball which is below net height gravity is not enough to bring the ball down on the other side of the table, especially if it is travelling fast. Another force is required and this is provided by topspin which causes the ball to dip sharply downwards. Thus the harder we hit, the more topspin we need to bring the ball down on the other side of the table. Our modern reverse rubbers give us great help in hitting the ball very hard from below net height, because they are capable of imparting very much topspin and this has an additional advantage that the ball shoots off the table very fast after the bounce.

 Magnus Effect

But why does spin cause the ball to deviate in flight and why do we sometimes have unusual, unpredictable effects after the bounce? This is in fact to do with the interaction of the spinning ball as it moves through the air against the flow of air molecules. (We have all felt air, when we stick our hand out of a car window moving at speed we can feel that air is rather more solid than we thought). As the ball moves through the air different areas of the surface are subject to lesser or greater resistance, the Magnus effect. Topspin forces the ball down, backspin conversely forces it up. If we take a topspin ball for example, the fast moving area at the top of the ball opposes the air flow and we get resistance or high pressure. However at the bottom, the fast moving area of the surface moves with the air flow, the air molecules speed up and you get low pressure. As a result the ball is forced downwards. At the bounce the bottom of the heavily spinning ball is held, topspin increases and the ball shoots forwards very quickly.

Sometimes the ball behaves in a different way and not as the laws tell us it should. In fact at times it can behave exactly the opposite to what we are led to believe — a topspin can jump up and a chop can skid low under certain circumstances. This is because of what occurs in the last 20 – 25 centimetres of flight, just before the ball actually strikes the table, (this is also a time when few if any players watch the ball.) A skidding chop occurs when a ball comes through low with very much backspin, (often for example when a defender takes the ball early when it is still rising) — the spin tries to make the ball rise during the last few centimetres of its travel and hit the table later with a shallower angle than usual, but also the faster speed gives a lower trajectory. What ends up happening is that the ball skids through quite fast and low after bouncing. Equally a slow loop with a great deal of topspin and a high arc, will dip sharply at the end of its flight and hit the table at a steeper angle than normal. Its downward velocity is increased and it has a higher impact speed so often the ball will kick sharply upwards after bouncing before dropping down quite quickly.

TACTICS TO USE AND EXPECT

Now we have looked at spin and have a little better understanding of what is happening, how can we use the Magnus effect against pimple players and how do they use it against us? A common tactic for example of many ‘funny’ bat players is to use their service spin or speed against us on the third ball. They serve (with the reverse rubber) short chop for instance with very much sidespin, then block/push fast or short on the third ball from a very early timing point with the pimples — we receive a fourth ball with varying degrees of topspin and a pronounced sidespin kick (sidespin is one of the most effective spins to use with pimpled rubber, especially long pimple). Short pimple players often serve very fast and flat with the pimples and then just kill the third ball.

We should of course be thinking how to frustrate their attempts to use spin or speed against us and not to play the type of return they want us to play. If we for example play back a ‘nothing’ ball, roll slowly from a later timing point, we take away much of their advantage and they have not so much spin or speed to use against us. Also if we ‘stop’ or chop block against the fast serve then we give the opponent back a different spin/speed return and not the simple fast ball he or she expects.

Another area where many of us encounter problems is that pimple players hit the ball much flatter without topspin, so that it’s very easy to play into the net. Pimple players too have more options which changes how the ball is returned to us — it’s very easy with pimples to take the ball extremely early after the bounce with both push and block. A pimple player may for example block early and soft (throwing back our own spin), force block early and hard (imposing his own spin) or drive at the top of the bounce giving us a fast flat ball. These returns will behave very differently on our side of the table. It’s also often much harder to gain a real advantage when serving against the pimples.

Lack of speed is a very effective weapon against pimple (or anti) players. Speed and power or fast spin they usually handle well and they train much against this type of game. The slow roll ball however without much spin or speed, which doesn’t come through very fast, often causes big problems to such players. For the same reason the slow spin loop with the high arc is a difficult ball for the pimple player — again it doesn’t come through like the fast loop on to the racket and it drops low very quickly.

Equally the constant stop/start, change of speed/spin game, is not liked by ‘funny’ bat players. The spin doesn’t have a chance to build up on the ball and as a result we don’t encounter so many severe problems with effect and bounce. If we hit one, push one and keep doing this, sooner or later we will get a high ball to kill.

Of course one of the first areas we should consider when playing against ‘funny’ rubbers is our own service. There is little point in serving with immense spin only to have severe problems when we get all our own spin back. Often it is in fact a good tactic to serve with very little spin, short or very long and fast. In most cases we know we will only have little spin back (unless the opponent is using a high-friction short pimple rubber). However some pimple players have difficulty against short, heavy backspin serves or the blockers against long, fast topspin or flat serves. Of course serving and playing to the normal rubber is always an option we should explore, but quite many pimple players are strong on this wing and often play very positively here. Footwork however can often be underdeveloped with pimple players, especially those who prefer to play much backhand from the middle of the table — a long ball to the crossover point and the next wide to the wings can often pay dividends.

Playing defence players who use pimples is a slightly different ball game, especially those with high–friction short pimple — such players can chop with very heavy backspin, float or even hit hard from both close and back. Defence players in general are a type of player against whom the Magnus effect is a very useful tool as is variation in all aspects — slow, high loop (very short or very long), where we may get an unpredictable bounce but which will certainly drop very quickly after bouncing, is never easy for defenders. There are also the options of topspinning, using sidespin, hitting hard and a little flatter or dropping short. Here we have a tactical difference between the men’s and women’s game. Often the men chop so heavily and to such a good length that the only options are to attack in one form or another or to push long. In the women’s game the spin is usually rather less and the length not so good — also women loop with less power and as a result get a less hard return ball, so the option to drop very short is an excellent tactic.

In both men’s and women’s play we must be on the alert for the topspin ball — the defender who chops with very much backspin then after one or two, loops with very much topspin causes problems to players of the highest level. The difference between the two extremes (much backspin and much topspin) on successive balls is great and too many in Sweden try to smash the topspin with a predictable result — out! Perhaps rather better to block short at an early timing point and back to the pimples where we may well get an advantage on the next ball.

One fact is certain — when we play against the various rubber combinations we must think a little more than usual and think in the context of the type of rubber we are playing against and the type of playing style we face. It is not always possible to play our own game or in the way we normally do. The more fixed we are in our thinking as to the effectiveness of our own game and the lack of necessity of changing anything, the more problems we can face. Flexibility of mind is a vital priority when dealing with factors we don’t fully understand.

What we have looked at so far is a rather simplistic view of coping with ‘funny’ rubbers and there are many things we have not examined in any detail. A chop block for example can come back very fast and flat, without spin if the opponent plays down and forward through the ball, or come quite slow, short and with quite much backspin if he or she just plays down at a timing point close after the bounce.

ADVANCED RESEARCH AREAS

If we wish to increase our knowledge of what happens and understand the differing properties of the varying rubbers we play against, we must be prepared to research and examine in detail the individual factors which have weight in determining how much or how little spin a ‘funny’ rubber is capable of initiating.

Rubber Factors.

  • The ‘pitch’ ratio of the pimples (how many to a square centimetre).
  • The ‘line’ of the pimples (down or across the racket).
  • The length of the pimples.
  • The size of the pimples (how broad).
  • The air ratio (how much air between the pimples).
  • The grip of the pimples (smooth or rough).
  • The thickness of the base sheet of rubber (under the pimples).
  • The softness or hardness of the rubber sheet.
  • The thickness of the sponge layer.
  • The softness or hardness of the sponge layer.
  • The amount of glue used.

An assessment of the above rubber factors taken in joint consideration with the following areas relative to the racket qualities as a whole will help you to arrive at a decision as to the behavioural characteristics of a rubber.

Racket Qualities.

Dwell time — How long the ball stays on the racket during the stroke, depends on the thickness and softness of the sponge and the rubber, whether the ball sinks in and is held for a fraction of a second or kicks off immediately (can also be adjusted by the blade one uses).

Resilience — The energy stored in the rubber during the contact phase of a stroke, some rubber and sponge combinations are much more elastic than others and the ball will be held longer on the surface. This stored energy is thus converted to produce spin. While elasticity levels will certainly increase we must bear in mind that the sponge cannot create energy, but only minimize energy loss. Compared to a hard bat a ‘sponge’ bat can be swung in a much flatter plane so giving the ball more forward speed wih spin. The sponge helps to ‘lift’ the ball over the net.

Impact behaviour — A rubber and sponge can have differing performance at different impact speeds. At a slow speed there may be very little elasticity but you may get very good spin and speed when the ball comes into the racket with more pace. When you achieve maximum impact speed you can swing the racket harder but you will get little or no more effect. Some rubbers are said to have good gearing for spin and speed, which means they produce and maintain good effect over a wide range of impact speeds.

Throw-angle — The angle of the flight of the ball as it comes off the racket surface in the direction the bat is travelling. Differing blades and rubbers affect the throw-angle considerably (the angle would be very different if you were looping for example with very tacky rubber or with anti-loop). The throw-angle will also vary depending on whether the contact is on the outside of the racket or in the middle (or whether the racket is more closed or open), or whether it is low, in the middle or high on the ball surface.

Stall-angle — The contact angle at which the speed/spin of a rubber is dramatically reduced — at certain angles all rubbers will stall and will not grab the ball (it will just drop off the racket, as it sometimes does when it contacts the outside edge).

Friction — The grip of the rubber. Sometimes super-grippy rubbers have less spin at high speed — there is a critical level above which little or nothing is gained. Some very tacky rubbers have the characteristic of slowing the ball dramatically at low impact speeds which can be very useful in certain strokes.

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.

Table Tennis and other Racket Sports

Rowden Fullen (2006)

No two players play the same — there is a product however for every variation of style and this makes the choice of the right combination just for you an extremely difficult decision. Of all racket sports table tennis is the one which has by far the biggest variety of racket coverings. This of course creates a bigger variety of playing styles and tactics, especially amongst the women, who in most cases lack the power of the men. In tennis for example one may have over-sized racket heads or higher and lower tension in the strings, but basically one racket does not vary radically from the next — the same applies to badminton and to squash.

However it is not only the racket which is very different in table tennis with its many permutations of spin, speed, control and effect, but also the ball which makes the game rather more difficult to master. This is because the ball is so light, takes much more spin than the balls used in other racket sports and slows so much more rapidly in the air. Not only must the developing player be aware of what his own weapon can do, but also of the characteristics of the opponent’s weapon and what his opponent is likely to be able to achieve with it. But equally, to be effective the player must be aware of what the ball will do after contact with the racket, both in the air and after the bounce. In other words to be proficient at our sport the player requires to be rather more aware of the mechanics and science of table tennis and especially as we have the least time of all ball sports to react, recover and play our next shot.

What we also have to bear in mind is that to reach full potential we have to select the weapon which most suits our style of play and which will enable us to develop in the right way. It would be of little use for a strong topspin player to use 1.0mm sponge as the ball would not be held long enough on the racket. But such a thickness might well benefit a defender who wishes to initiate heavy backspin. The beauty of table tennis is that you can tailor the equipment you use to be of maximum benefit to your long -term development – the main stumbling block however is that there are such an immense number of sponges and rubbers on the market, that it can be difficult if not impossible to find the right combination to suit you. However if you are a player who is always looking to develop and to move on, then more often than not such evolution will involve experimentation with differing materials. We must also bear in mind that there will be changes in players’ styles and tactics over the years which will require research into different playing materials.

Above all what we must be able to do before we select ‘the weapon’ is to analyse our own game in detail and decide just what characteristics the racket of our choice should possess and what we should be able to do with it. Do we need speed, spin, control, feeling or effect and in what quantities and combinations? If we ourselves are not capable of doing this then we will need to call in outside help in the form of trainers or coaches who know how we play and how we win points.

Once we have our style analysis the first step is to research the blade. The choosing of a blade is a rather more personal matter than the rest of the equipment and it should feel right both in terms of speed and especially of weight. Blades usually vary from about 65 grams up to about 100 grams – very few players would want to use a blade heavier than this. Tests in a number of countries appear to indicate that there is an ideal racket weight for the player at differing stages in his or her development and variation by even a few grams can cause a drastic loss of form. We must also bear in mind that the thicker sponge and rubber sheets (2.2 and maximum) and particularly those with harder sponges can add considerably to the overall racket weight (Both Western and Chinese reverse can weigh around 40 – 45 grams, pimples out between 28 – 38 grams and long pimples without sponge as low as 14 – 20 grams). Handles are also important and players often have a preference for one shape or another. In the case of ‘twiddlers’ the type of handle and the width of the blade shoulder too may assume more importance.

The second stage is to decide on the sponge, both thickness and softness/hardness. Thicker sponges are more effective for topspin play and have better control and feeling for blocking. Medium sponges (1.7 – 2.0) are good for close-to-the-table play and drive/counter-hitting, while the thin sponges are best for defence, especially where heavy backspin is needed. The softness of the sponge is of particular importance in the areas of control and effect – soft sponges are better for blocking, attacking from an early timing point and for achieving different effects when using pimples. Harder sponges give more speed and a faster and lower ball after the bounce when combined with topspin.

Finally we come to the selection of the rubber topsheet. Here we are concerned with softness, thickness and the ‘tackiness’, the friction of the rubber. Softness and thickness are important because these characteristics allow the full influence of the blade and the sponge to come into play. For example the combined thickness of ‘sandwich’ rubber (the rubber and sponge layers) must legally be no more than 4.0 millimetres and the rubber itself is not allowed to be more than 2.0mm. There is however no legal requirement as to the thickness of the sponge. What has happened over the last 5 – 8 years is that with modern manufacturing techniques, the rubber layer can be produced in much thinner sheets (as low as 1.1 – 1.2mm) and as a result sponge layers have been able to grow in thickness up to around 2.8mm. This obviously is very good for the loop players.

‘Tackiness’ is also important to many players, both in the service game and in the rallies. Under certain conditions however and with certain techniques some super high friction rubbers can give less spin/speed than ones with much lower friction characteristics. Sometimes super-grippy rubbers have less spin at high speed — there is a critical level above which little or nothing is gained. Some very tacky rubbers have the characteristic of slowing the ball dramatically at low impact speeds, a function which is very useful in certain strokes. A low friction rubber will have difficulty generating speed at closed racket angles. Remember too that the friction of many rubbers is impact dependent, they are more effective when the ball is coming at speed.

Lecture on Material

Rowden Fullen (2007)

  • The cheating rubber
  • Table tennis and other racket sports
  • Principles of table tennis
  • Diminishing ball speed
  • Mechanics of flight, bats and rubbers
  • Racket coverings, standards and sponges
  • European women at world level
  • Authorised racket coverings
  • Rubbers – reverse to material
  • Rubber categories

1. THE CHEATING RUBBER

Long pimples come in many variations and different friction levels. They are not always easy to play against but their use is quite legal. They have however always been controversial.

  • Long pimples allow easy control of spinny balls – TRUE but is easy control better control? Playing a variety of strokes with long pimples against different spins is very difficult!
  • These rubbers are difficult to play against if you don’t know the right tactics – TRUE but whose fault is this? You may as well make excuses that left-handers, pen-hold players and defenders are equally difficult.
  • You have to think when playing against long pimples – TRUE but if you normally play without thinking then you are playing with one less weapon than your opponent!
  • Top players never play with long pimples – UNTRUE some top players do and some world champions have!
  • Long pimple rubbers allow you to do nothing and just wait for your opponent to make a mistake – if you wish to use the rubber in this way you can, but it’s not the most effective method and in any case winning by forcing the opponent to make errors is quite legal.
  • Long pimples are more effective at lower levels – TRUE but this is still nothing to do with cheating.
  • Returning the ball without taking any risks is easy with long pimples – UNTRUE it can be very hard to return a very difficult ball so that the good opponent is unable to attack. Also at top level the golden rule is ‘don’t let the opponent attack or at least don’t let them attack hard’.
  • It’s easier to do more things and do them well with a normal reverse rubber – TRUE so this should make it more difficult to be successful with long pimples!
  • Long pimple players have it easy and don’t need to work – UNTRUE good long pimple players have to work twice as hard to master both rubbers on both wings!
  • Some pimple players use the rubber to cover a weakness – TRUE but some players use pots of glue, blast every 3rd ball and have little control over their reverse rubber. However this is then called good tactics or positive play, never cheating!
  • There is considerable variation in how different long pimples play – TRUE but again it’s up to you to update your knowledge and your tactics instead of just whinging. There are far fewer legal and deceptive rubbers since the aspect ratio rule.

2. TABLE TENNIS AND OTHER RACKET SPORTS

No two players play the same — there is a product however for every variation of style and this makes the choice of the right combination just for you an extremely difficult decision. Of all racket sports table tennis is the one which has by far the biggest variety of racket coverings. This of course creates a bigger variety of playing styles and tactics, especially amongst the women, who in most cases lack the power of the men. In tennis for example one may have over-sized racket heads or higher and lower tension in the strings, but basically one racket does not vary radically from the next — the same applies to badminton and to squash.

However it is not only the racket which is very different in table tennis with its many permutations of spin, speed, control and effect, but also the ball which makes the game rather more difficult to master. This is because the ball is so light, takes much more spin than the balls used in other racket sports and slows so much more rapidly in the air. Not only must the developing player be aware of what his own weapon can do, but also of the characteristics of the opponent’s weapon and what his opponent is likely to be able to achieve with it. But equally, to be effective the player must be aware of what the ball will do after contact with the racket, both in the air and after the bounce. In other words to be proficient at our sport the player requires to be rather more aware of the mechanics and science of table tennis and especially as we have the least time of all ball sports to react, recover and play our next shot.

What we also have to bear in mind is that to reach full potential we have to select the weapon which most suits our style of play and which will enable us to develop in the right way. It would be of little use for a strong topspin player to use 1.0mm sponge as the ball would not be held long enough on the racket. But such a thickness might well benefit a defender who wishes to initiate heavy backspin. The beauty of table tennis is that you can tailor the equipment you use to be of maximum benefit in your long term development – the main stumbling block however is that there is such an immense number of sponges and rubbers on the market, that it can be difficult if not impossible to find the right combination to suit you. However if you are a player who is always looking to develop and to move on, then often such evolution will involve experimentation with differing materials. We must also bear in mind that there will be changes in players’ styles and tactics over the years which will require research into different playing surfaces.

Above all what we must be able to do before we select ‘the weapon’ is to analyse our own game in detail and decide just what characteristics the racket of our choice should possess and what we should be able to do with it. Do we need speed, spin, control, feeling or effect and in what quantities and combinations? If we ourselves are not capable of doing this then we will need to call in outside help in the form of trainers or coaches who know how we play and how we win points.

Once we have our style analysis the first step is to research the blade. The choosing of a blade is a rather more personal matter than the rest of the equipment and it should feel right both in terms of speed and especially of weight. Blades usually vary from about 65 grams up to about 100 grams – very few players would want to use a blade heavier than this. Tests in a number of countries appear to indicate that there is an ideal racket weight for the player at differing stages in his or her development and variation by even a few grams can cause a drastic loss of form. We must also bear in mind that the thicker sponge and rubber sheets (2.2 and maximum) and particularly those with harder sponges can add considerably to the overall racket weight (Both Western and Chinese reverse can weigh around 40 – 45 grams, pimples out between 28 – 38 grams and long pimples without sponge as low as 14 – 20 grams). Handles are also important and players often have a preference for one shape or another. In the case of ‘twiddlers’ the type of handle and the width of the blade shoulder too may assume more importance.

The second stage is to decide on the sponge, both thickness and softness/hardness. Thicker sponges are more effective for topspin play and have better control and feeling for blocking. Medium sponges (1.7 – 2.1) are good for close-to-the-table play and drive/counter-hitting, while the thin sponges are best for defence, especially where heavy spin is needed. The softness of the sponge is of particular importance in the areas of control and effect – soft sponges are better for blocking, attacking from an early timing point and for achieving different effects when using pimples. Harder sponges give more speed and a faster and lower ball after the bounce when combined with topspin.

Finally we come to the selection of the rubber top sheet. Here we are concerned with softness, thickness and the ‘tackiness’, the friction of the rubber. Softness and thickness are important because these characteristics allow the full influence of the blade and the sponge to come into play. For example the combined thickness of ‘sandwich’ rubber (the rubber and sponge layers) must be legally no more than 4.0 millimetres and the rubber itself is not allowed to be more than 2.0mm. There is however no legal requirement as to the thickness of the sponge. What has happened over the last 5 – 8 years is that with modern manufacturing techniques, the rubber layer can be produced in much thinner sheets (as low as 1.1 – 1.2mm) and as a result sponge layers have been able to grow in thickness up to around 2.8mm. This obviously is very good for the loop players. ‘Tackiness’ is also important to many players, both in the service game and in the rallies. Many high friction rubbers have other qualities too, such as being able to slow the ball quite dramatically in short play.

3. PRINCIPLES OF TABLE TENNIS

1st Principle — ADAPTABILITY

The main problem in our sport is the instability of the environment. The player must be effective in a constantly evolving situation. High level players for example learn from mistakes immediately and do not repeat errors - they find effective solutions rapidly. As Waldner says in his book - ‘In order to win big titles, you must master play against all playing styles. Therefore, you must regularly practice and compete against players of different styles. The most important styles to embrace are loop players (maximum topspin), attackers (maximum speed) and choppers (maximum backspin). Another important aspect is play against left-handed players. I would like to remind you that both right- and left-handed players spend 85% of their playing time playing against right-handed players. To be successful against both right- and left-handed players requires well-developed technique and very good balance.’

Players can reach a high level (even playing for their country) and still have major limitations in their game if they ignore this advice. The lack of ADAPTABILITY or inability to play against a rubber or style is ONLY your fault (no-one else’s) and the problem is in your early training.

It is interesting to note that in some countries in Europe, France and Germany for example, there is strong evidence in players as young as 9 - 10 years of age of a highly developed adaptation capability and their coaches are to be commended. On the other hand in countries which one may consider to be highly progressive, such as UK or Sweden, the same capability is severely lacking even among players in their late teens or those at senior level.

Rubbers - To access the best rubber for your particular style of play is a monumental task. There are over 1000 differing rubbers and if you consider all the sponge thicknesses probably around 4000 or more variations. The most rapidly increasing sections are China reverse and long pimples. Chinese rubbers are popular because of the low cost, increasingly better quality, good choice and variation and the possibility of marrying together a variety of sponges and rubbers. Especially in the case of pimples and women’s play it is possible to experiment with differing effects by using differing sponges and differing hardnesses of sponge under the pimples. In the West our approach to rubber selection is usually rather amateurish.

However we can’t just talk about rubbers - we must investigate sponges and what happens to the ball in the air. If we don’t understand how the ball behaves during its trajectory and after the bounce it’s hard to understand the advantages and disadvantages of differing materials. Without understanding what happens to the ball in the air and after the bounce and the 3 speeds - off the bat, through the air and after the bounce, one doesn’t see the whole picture and is not fully informed. Also much of this material unfortunately is just not available in the UK.

2nd Principle - TIME AND THE CONSEQUENCES.

In the case of the average person reflex speed is around 0.20 of a second; one or two rare individuals may be faster than this. A smash on the other hand takes 0.10 to cross the table from end line to end line.

 Lecture on Material

As we can see from (J) there is a big difference looping close to the table and executing a similar stroke three metres back. If we feed in an initial speed of 15 m/second, ball (1) will reach the other end of the table in 0.2 of a second or slightly less and will then have a speed of 10 m/second - ball (2) on the other hand will take around 0.5 of a second and the speed will have dropped to 7.0 m/second. We must also bear in mind that even at relatively slow speeds, say an average of 40 kph, the ball will cover the length of the table in about 0.25 of a second which is just within the limit of human reaction time for the average player.

In our sport the importance of ‘reading the play’, of seeing what is happening as the opponent plays the ball (or in fact 5/6 centimetres before ball contact) is absolutely critical. We must use all possible cues (body and arm action etc) in order to give us every possible advantage.

It is also true to say that our sport is becoming faster and faster and as a result technique (and the economy and streamlining of all technical movements) becomes more and more important. Balance and ‘retained square-ness’ are especially vital. Because much of our technique has to be automated and because we play best when we react subconsciously, we have to make sure that the automated reflexes are absolutely flawless. With today’s time restrictions there is no room for manoeuvre.

Above all training must provide continuous and evolving possibilities for our athletes to apply a variety of techniques in a realistic and competitive environment. Coaches must ensure that players, as they progress through the learning process, are able to identify the most suitable technique and apply this in a variety of differing situations. In other words because we are facing a rapidly changing situation all the time we play, to cultivate adaptive intelligence is absolutely vital. This is the ability to evaluate a scenario in an instant, take in all the immediately available solutions and then take the best action. Often this is called reactive thinking - the ability to think clearly under pressure and use any available means to hand to resolve the problem.

4. DIMINISHING BALL SPEED

Metres/Second Equals Km/Hour Speed after 3M Speed after 6M Speed after 9M
31 = 112 20.1 13.3 8.5
27 = 97.2 17.4 11.0 7.6
24 = 86.4 15.0 10.0 7.0
21 = 75.6 13.0 8.5 6.5
18 = 64.8 11.5 8.0 6.0
15 = 54.0 10.0 7.0 4.8
12 = 43.2 8.0 6.25 4.0
09 = 32.4 6.5 4.5 3.0

At what speed does gravity come into effect? With a speed of 8.5 m/second (30.6 k/hour, 19.125 mph.) the air resistance is about equally as strong as gravity. Below this speed the effects of gravity come into play very quickly. Air resistance however increases or decreases by the square of the speed. This means that a doubling of the speed to 17m/second signifies a fourfold increase in air resistance. Halving the speed to 4.25 m/second would bring about a reduction in air resistance to around one quarter of gravity. In the case of fast counter play a normal speed would be in the region of 13 — 15 m/second which means immediately that it’s always the air resistance which is the dominating factor in the early stages of the ball’s trajectory.

We must also bear in mind that even at relatively slow speeds, say an average of 40 kph, the ball will cover the length of the table in about 0.25 of a second which is just within the limit of human reaction time for the average player.

5. THE MECHANICS OF FLIGHT, BATS AND RUBBERS

Mechanics of flight

Once the ball has left the racket, the trajectory and direction is determined by the power and spin fed into the stroke. The trajectory itself is determined by gravity, the air resistance and the influence of the spin. A similar stroke will always produce a similar result in terms of spin, speed and direction.

However significant variations can and do occur. The major one is in air pressure and when we talk about height above sea level. At 1000 metres air pressure sinks by 12% and at 3000 metres by up to 30%! This has a major impact on both the air resistance and the effect of the spin on the ball in flight. A major championship event played for example in Mexico City will result in the ball ‘flying’ in an unusual manner and the players must be ready for this, as the trajectory of the ball will not conform to expected criteria.

Let us look however closely at the ball in the air and before the bounce. What we must first understand is that the ball surface is not smooth and contains pockets of air in the surface which react with the flow of air against the ball. We do know that in the case of the top part of a topspinning ball, this spins against the oncoming air while the bottom part is in the same direction. Therefore we have an area of high turbulence at the top and low turbulence at the bottom. However the air flow round a ball moving at high speed changes from turbulent to laminar as it slows down in the air and this is what causes the ball to dip. Just what do we mean by this?

At the ‘static point’ which is the leading point of the ball at speed there will be an ‘eye’ like at the centre of a hurricane where there is an area of pressure. The flow of air around the ball however will in the initial stages of flight as the ball leaves the racket at speed, be chaotic or ‘turbulent’ in nature. By this we mean there is no smooth pattern of air molecules flowing around the surface of the moving ball.

It is only as the ball slows down that a pattern starts to emerge and the air flow around the ball forms a more ordered outline. We call this a ‘laminar’ effect. It is of course at this stage that the high and low pressure areas forming on different parts of the ball’s surface have a direct effect and as a result the ball is forced upwards or to dip sharply downwards on to the table.

After leaving the racket regardless of the spin, speed or direction, the ball is influenced simply by 3 factors - gravity, air resistance and spin (Magnus effect). In the case of topspin, gravity and the influence of the spin work together giving a more arced trajectory. With backspin gravity and the spin factors work against each other so that the ball will rise initially in a curve before dropping sharply when gravity predominates over the lessening spin. Gravity is always equally strong and always directed downwards. Air resistance is always against the direction of travel and its effect is strongly influenced by the speed of the ball.

But just at what speed does gravity come into effect? With a speed of 8.5 m/second (30.6 k/hour, 19.125 mph.) the air resistance is about equally as strong as gravity. Below this speed the effects of gravity come into play very quickly. Air resistance however increases or decreases by the square of the speed. This means that a doubling of the speed to 17m/second signifies a fourfold increase in air resistance. Halving the speed to 4.25 m/second would bring about a reduction in air resistance to around one quarter of gravity. In the case of fast counter play a normal speed would be in the region of 13 — 15 m/second which means immediately that it’s always the air resistance which is the dominating factor in the early stages of the ball’s trajectory.

Bats, rubbers and sponges

Questions relating to materials and the differing spins and effects can be rather more complicated as the manufacturing companies have not tried to create standardised tests to measure exactly what their products can do. Often experienced players or testers (or in some cases not so experienced) categorise rubbers in terms of spin, speed and control, but obviously these classifications are purely subjective. Different players will for example use rubbers in differing ways and one player will often be capable of getting far more out of a particular rubber than another player would. Such ‘subjective’ testing can give some useful information but helps little in giving any base for objective measurement when comparing products from different manufacturers. Also materials and indeed techniques and tactics are constantly in change - it is necessary that we always have an open mind and are ready to look at new ideas and ways of doing things.

Much of the advertising matter which is written in the various brochures on materials is of very little use to the ordinary player and often misleading. The hardness of the wood and the make-up of the ply, how it is bonded and whether you have carbon fibre or titanium mesh layers will all affect the speed and control. Generally one ply will be more rigid and the ball will kick off the blade quicker, multi-ply will be more flexible with more control and stability. The choosing of a blade is a rather more personal matter than the rest of the equipment and it should feel right to the player. Tests in one or two countries appear to indicate that there is an ideal racket weight for the player at differing stages in his or her development and variation by even a few grams can cause a drastic loss of form.

In the interests of weight reduction, the central core of many modern blades consists of a thick layer of balsa wood and the speed comes from the outer veneers of much harder woods often supported by carbon or glass fibre or titanium mesh layers (these supporting non-wood layers should not be thicker than 7.5% of the total blade thickness or 0.35mm whichever is the smaller). According to the rules at least 85% of the blade by thickness should consist of natural wood.

Most rubber manufacturers use speed, spin and control ratings which are at best misleading — many of the tests they use are very simplistic and bear little or no relationship to how a rubber is used in a match. Players also use the same rubber in different ways and with different feel. Let us examine the characteristics of the rubber as it is this which contacts the ball.

  • Dwell time — This is how long the ball stays on the racket during the contact phase of a stroke, (bear in mind this is a mere fraction of a second, if you have ever chalked a ball and thrown it to a player who slow loops and tries to maintain a long contact you find that the mark on the ball is never more than one centimetre). Rubbers have different dwell times for different strokes. The ball will be held longer for a slow loop as opposed to a kill. Some players also ‘carry the ball’ longer than others even for the same stroke. A long dwell time will often benefit spinners and blockers while a short dwell time will suit defenders and hitters. The dwell time is also affected by the blade you use and how the ball comes off the racket depends much on the rubber and sponge and how quickly it penetrates through these to reach the wood layer underneath.
  • Resilience — The energy stored in the rubber during the contact phase of the stroke. Some rubber and sponge combinations are much more elastic than others and will hold the ball longer on the surface even at a closed racket angle. This stored energy is converted to produce spin. While elasticity levels will certainly increase we must bear in mind that the sponge cannot create energy, but can only minimize energy losses. Compared to a hard bat a ‘sponge’ bat can be swung in a much flatter plane so giving the ball more forward speed with spin. The sponge in fact helps to lift the ball over the net.
  • Impact behaviour — A rubber and sponge can have differing performances at different impact speeds. At a slow speed there may be very little elasticity but you may get very good spin and speed when the ball comes into the racket with more pace. When you achieve maximum impact speed you can swing the racket harder but you will get little or no more effect. Some rubbers are said to have good gearing for spin and speed, which means they produce and maintain good effect over a wide range of impact speeds.
  • Throw-angle — The angle of the flight of the ball as it comes off the racket surface in the direction the bat is travelling. Differing blades and rubbers affect the throw-angle considerably as will different strokes (the angles would be very different if you were looping for example with very tacky rubber or with anti-loop). The throw-angle will also vary depending on whether the contact is on the outside of the racket or in the middle, or whether low, in the middle or high on the ball (or whether the racket is more closed or open). High throw-angle rubber generally has a higher ratio of spin than speed, compared to low throw-angle rubber. (Flexible, slower blades typically increase the angle).
  • Stall-angle — The contact angle at which the speed/spin of a rubber is dramatically reduced — at certain angles all rubbers will stall and not grab the ball (the ball will just drop off the racket, as it sometimes does when it contacts the outside edge). The stall-angle can be used effectively for dummy loops or short serves. A rubber with a wide range of stall-angles (or used with a badly matching blade) will have little or no control. A stall can also occur when the racket contact speed is too fast at a particular contact angle.
  • Friction — The grip of the rubber. Under certain conditions and with certain techniques some super high friction rubbers can give less spin/speed than ones with much lower friction characteristics. Sometimes super-grippy rubbers have less spin at high speed — there is a critical level above which little or nothing is gained. Some very tacky rubbers have the characteristic of slowing the ball dramatically at low impact speeds, a function which is very useful in certain strokes. A low friction rubber has difficulty generating speed at closed racket angles. Remember always the friction of many rubbers is impact dependent, they are more effective when the ball is coming at speed.
  • Sponge — Sponge can vary from soft to hard and from about 0.4 mm to 2.8 mm and the density of the sponge contributes to the weight of the racket. The amount of spin generated by a rubber is closely related to the elasticity of the sponge (irrespective of the top sheet of rubber), below a certain critical level for a given sponge, the spin of the rubber will be considerably reduced. This can be improved through the correct use of speed glues which will increase the resilience by up to 30%. Players who glue usually prefer soft or medium sponges.Sponges are manufactured in different thicknesses, from around 0.4 up to about 2.8 mm. According to the rules the pimple layer of a sandwich rubber should not be more than 2.0 mm but modern manufacturing techniques have reduced the rubber layer to a little over 1.0 mm, allowing the sponge thickness to be increased accordingly. Sponges are also made generally in 5 differing hardnesses, 23 - 28 (the softest), 30 - 35, 38 - 43, 40 - 45 and 45 - 50. In very general terms most sponges used by European players are in the 30 - 35 range while Asian players use 40 - 45. Many top players especially in the women’s game (and players using material), experiment with differing sponges until they find the most effective hardness for their particular style and/or a hardness which produces maximum effect when combined with the ‘material’ top sheet.
  • Glue — Adhesives and glue sheets are used to put the rubbers on the blade. Speed-glues are used to increase the performance of the rubber in respect of spin, speed, control, throw and stall-angles. It is always recommended that you allow each coat of glue to thoroughly dry before applying the next coat — otherwise you can get a ‘mushy’ effect which seriously affects performance when the glue is a little wet. Properly applied speed-glue can increase the spin and speed capabilities of the rubber by up to 30% (remember however that some glues do not work well with certain sponges, especially most hard and more dense sponges). Also the glue must be regularly ‘removed’ from the rubber sheet and the build-up must not be allowed to become too thick. All rubbers (where speed-glue is used) should be taken off the blade as soon as possible after play so that the tension is released. One interesting characteristic of speed-glued rubber is that it has a very predictable effect over a wide range of strokes. Its ability to store energy is nearly constant over a large range of impact speeds, (in normal rubber the storage of energy bottoms out at higher speeds).

6. RACKET COVERINGS, STANDARDS AND SPONGES

Questions relating to materials and the differing spins and effects can be rather complicated as the manufacturing companies have not tried to create standardised tests to measure exactly what their products can do. To assess spin, speed and control some companies utilise a scale of 1 - 10, others from 1 - 12 and still others measure up to 100%.

Often experienced players or testers (or in some cases not so experienced) categorise rubbers in terms of spin, speed and control, but obviously these classifications are purely subjective. Many of the tests used are very simplistic and bear little or no relation as to how a rubber is used in a match. Different players will also use rubbers in differing ways and one player will often be capable of getting far more out of a particular rubber than another player would. Such ‘subjective’ testing can give some useful information but helps little in giving any base for objective measurement when comparing products from different manufacturers. Also materials and indeed techniques and tactics are constantly in change - it is necessary that we always have an open mind and are ready to look at new ideas and ways of doing things.

Sponge can vary from soft to hard and from about 0.4 mm to 2.8 mm and the density of the sponge contributes to the weight of the racket. The amount of spin generated by a rubber is closely related to the elasticity of the sponge (irrespective of the top sheet of rubber), below a certain critical level for a given sponge, the spin of the rubber will be considerably reduced. This can be improved through the correct use of speed glues which will increase the resilience by up to 30%. Players who glue prefer soft or medium sponges as these usually produce most effect.

Sponges are manufactured in different thicknesses, from around 0.4 up to about 2.8 mm. According to the rules the pimple layer of a sandwich rubber should not be more than 2.0 mm but modern precise manufacturing techniques over the last 5 years have reduced the rubber layer to a little over 1.0 mm, allowing the sponge thickness to be increased accordingly (up to a combined maximum of 4.0 mm). Sponges are also made generally in 5 differing hardnesses, 23 - 28 (the softest), 30 - 35, 38 - 43, 40 - 45 and 45 - 50. In very general terms most sponges used by European players are in the 30 - 35 range while Asian players use 40 - 45. Many top players especially in the women’s game (and players using material), experiment with differing sponges until they find the most effective hardness for their particular style.

The softness of the sponge is particularly important when playing with pimpled rubber and this is something the Asian players especially the women have known for many years. Rubbers and sponges are manufactured and sold separately in Asia and it’s easy to combine suitable sponges and rubber sheets. Only recently has this facility been available in Europe. It’s also interesting to note that rubber manufacturers have had considerable dialogue with the top men in Europe to help develop suitable weaponry to win at world level. There has been little or no discussion with the top women in the world who are primarily from the Asian/Oriental block and the production of pimpled rubbers in the West has more often than not been sub-standard.

7. EUROPEAN WOMEN AT WORLD LEVEL

World Singles Final Last European Winner A Roseanu 1955 
World Singles Final Last European in Final  A Grofova  1973  
World Doubles Final Last Winning Euro/Pair Z Rudnova/S Grinberg  1969   
World Doubles Final Last European in Final M Alexandru 1975  Also Final ‘73/Japanese

and ‘61/Romanian

World Team Final Last Winning Euro/Team  Russia 1969  
 BRITAIN        
World Singles FInal Runner Up D Gubbins 1926   
World Singles Final Runner Up E Blackbourn 1947  
World Singles Final Runner Up V Thomas  1948  
World Singles Final Runner Up A Haydon 1957 3 Finals/Lost in 5th

in each 

World Doubles Final Winners M Franks/V Thomas 1948  
World Doubles Final Winners H Elliott/(G Farkas) 1949  
World Doubles Final Winners H Elliott/D Beregi 1950  
World Doubles Final Winners D and R Rowe 1951  
World Doubles Final Winners D and R Rowe 1954 On 21st birthday
World Doubles Final Runners Up K Best/A Haydon 1954  
World Team Final Winners England 1947 By scoreline 21– 0!
World Team Final Winners England 1948  
Euro/Team Final  Winners England 1958 First time held
         

8. AUTHORISED RACKET COVERINGS

http://www.ittf.com(equipment/, Racket Coverings)

Dark sponge, (black, blue, brown, green, purple, red,) should not be used under translucent red coverings. This is liable to make the rubber illegal (Law 2.4.3. governs the use of sponge).

Many racket coverings contain additional text on the rubber surface and all text appearing in the authorised list must be there (eg. ‘D13 S’). The ITTF stamp must of course also be plainly visible.

Altogether there are around 850/1000 rubbers on the authorised list from around 75/86 companies. These are split approximately as follows -

COMPANIES RUBBERS JAN/JUNE 2004 JULY/DECEMBER 2006
PRODUCING 1 — 5 RUBBERS 39 38
PRODUCING 6 — 9 RUBBERS 13 17
PRODUCING 10 — 24 RUBBERS 11 18
PRODUCING 25 — 35 RUBBERS 5 4
PRODUCING 36 — 55 RUBBERS 7 9
TOTALS 75 86

The major companies are as follows -

JAN/JUNE 2004 JULY/DECEMBER 2006
COMPANY NUMBER OF RUBBERS COMPANY NUMBER OF RUBBERS
BUTTERFLY 55 BUTTERFLY 55
NITTAKU 53 DONIC 55
JOOLA 44 DOUBLE HAPPINESS 50
DOUBLE HAPPINESS 42 NITTAKU 47
YASAKA 41 JOOLA 44
DONIC 40 YASAKA 44
TIBHAR 38 TIBHAR 44
TSP 33 TSP 39
STIGA 29 FRIENDSHIP 37
FRIENDSHIP 28 STIGA 33
ARMSTRONG 28 ARMSTRONG 31
JUIC 25 JUIC 28
CHAMPION 20 ANDRO 25
ANDRO 19 BAMCO 20
BANCO 19 CHAMPION 17
SUNFLEX 19 LION 15
YASHIMA 16 SUNFLEX 15
IMPERIAL 14 GLOBE 14
LION 12 PALIO 14
DOUBLE FISH 11 KOKUTAKU 12
BOMB 11 GIANT DRAGON 12
DONIER 10 BOMB 11
PRASIDHA 10 NEUBAUER 11
IMPERIAL 11
MILKY WAY 11
POINT BLANK 11
PRASIDHA 11
XIOM 11
YASHIMA 11
DAWEI 10
DOUBLE FISH 10

Rubbers are divided into the following categories on the authorised list –

CATEGORY JAN/JUNE 2004 JULY/DECEMBER2006 PERCENT INCREASE
WESTERN REVERSE RUBBERS 518 611 18%
CHINESE REVERSE RUBBERS 94 127 35%
ANTI-LOOP 20 17 -15%
SHORT/MEDIUM PIMPLES 149 150 SAME
LONG PIMPLES 66 96 45%
TOTAL 847 1001

NB. In the case of all pimple rubbers there must be no less than 10 pimples to a square centimetre and no more than 30 to a square centimetre. In the case of all long pimple rubbers the aspect ratio (ie. The pimple length divided by the pimple diameter) must be larger than 0.9mm but under no circumstances larger than 1.1mm ie. For pimples with a length of 1.8 the largest permissible diameter would be 2.0 mm).

The 850 or 1000 rubbers on the authorised list are divided percentage-wise approximately as follows –

CATEGORY JAN/JUNE 2004 JULY/DECEMBER 2006
WESTERN REVERSE RUBBERS 61% 61%
CHINESE REVERSE RUBBERS 11% 12.7%
ANTI-LOOP 02% 01.7%
SHORT/MEDIUM PIMPLES 18% 15%
LONG PIMPLES 08% 9.6%

Probably the most significant increase is in the number of long pimple rubbers on the market, up from 66 to 96, an increase of 45%!

9. RUBBERS – FROM REVERSE TO MATERIAL

There are basically seven differing types of rubber surfaces on the market –

  • Reverse (normal rubbers Butterfly, Donic, Stiga, Yasaka, etc.) usually with soft rubber sheets and softish sponge around 35 – 40. Used by top men and women in Europe and by the top men in China on the BH side. Very good for looping and the best control for blocking.
  • Tacky reverse (Chinese rubbers DHS, Double Fish, Friendship, Globe, etc.) with sticky rubber sheets and usually a harder sponge (around 39 – 45) than that used by top European players. Mostly used in Asia as a FH rubber for the top men and women. Very few players in Europe use this type of surface, except former Asian players. (Used successfully by Drinkall and Knight in the European Youths).
  • Anti-spin (Made mostly in Europe, Butterfly, Donic, Stiga, T.Hold, Yasaka but the odd Chinese specimen such as RITC 804). Anti can come in two types, almost no spin or with a little friction. Usually the rubbers are very slow with good control and the ball is slow off the racket.
  • Short pimples are between 0.6 – 1.0 in length (rubber sheet only) and made by both European and Chinese companies, Butterfly, Donic, Friendship, Globe, Neubauer, Stiga, TSP, Yasaka, etc. Short pimples vary very much nowadays and some sheets are capable of creating a great deal of spin while others have much less friction. Generally shorter, broader, grippy pimples will create more spin. For maximum effect very soft sponge is a must (30 – 35 but no harder) and top women normally use a thickness of 1.6 –1.8mm sponge while the men tend to go a little thicker, between 2.0 and 2.3 mm. Men of course hit the ball much harder.
  • Medium or half-long pimples vary between 1.1 – 1.4 mm. and are made by both Chinese and European companies, Butterfly, RITC, TSP etc. These pimples too vary in grip (some have a more anti-spin surface). The characteristic of half-long pimples is the ease with which players can open against backspin and yet still play a good counter-hitting game with effect. Usually players use these rubbers for attacking and with thicker sponges, 1.5 – 2.0.
  • Long Pimples (with friction) are between 1.5 – 1.8 mm. and are made by both Chinese and European companies, Butterfly, DHS, Donic, Prasidha, RITC, TSP, Yasaka, etc. There is an element of friction with these pimples and they are used by many defensive players the world over usually with a thin sponge varying between 0.6 – 1.2. Occasionally attacking players use long pimples with a thicker sponge, Carl Prean, Gary Tendler, Ni Xialan, Deng Yaping.
  • Long pimples with an anti-loop effect (between 1.5 – 1.8 mm. too) are made primarily by two companies, Neubauer and Hallmark. These pimples are hard and feel more like plastic than rubber. They have absolutely no friction and all the opponent’s spin is returned.

Maximum spin reversal is achieved by using the rubber sheets without sponge and in the red colour. Spin reversal with a thin sponge (0.4 – 0.6) will be a little less effective for blockers but the thin sponge will give better control with this type of game. Bear in mind that once the player is competent with the long pimples the Ox version will give lower and shorter balls and will add another dimension to the blocking game. In Neubauer’s opinion his Super Block Ox is the rubber which gives maximum spin reversal.

NB. In the case of all pimple rubbers there must be no less than 10 pimples to a square centimetre and no more than 30 to a square centimetre. In the case of all long pimple rubbers the aspect ratio (ie. The pimple length divided by the pimple diameter) must be larger than 0.9mm but under no circumstances larger than 1.1mm). A pimple length of 1.8mm and width of 2.0mm would give a figure of 0.9 – the same length with a width of 1.8 would give a figure of 1.0 – one can therefore say that the purpose of the regulation is to keep long pimples within certain limits and especially not to permit the manufacture of very thin pimples.

If we look at these seven categories in the light of their ability to affect or change the spin on the incoming ball we get results somewhat as follows –

CATEGORY PERCENT EFFECT
1 WESTERN REVERSE RUBBERS 100%
2 CHINESE REVERSE RUBBERS 100%
3 ANTI-SPIN RUBBERS 5 — 12%
4 SHORT PIMPLE RUBBERS 75 — 95%
5 HALF-LONG PIMPLE RUBBERS 65 — 75%
6 LONG PIMPLES WITH FRICTION 30 — 35%
7 FRICTIONLESS LONG PIMPLES 0%

10 RUBBER CATEGORIES

  • WESTERN REVERSE
  • CHINESE REVERSE
  • ANTI-LOOP
  • SHORT PIMPLES (0.6 — 1.0mm)
  • HALF-LONG PIMPLES (1.1 — 1.4mm)
  • LONG PIMPLES WITH FRICTION (1.5– 1.8mm)
  • FRICTIONLESS LONG PIMPLES (1.5 — 1.8mm)

Performance Assessment Cards

Rowden Fullen (1980’s)

PERFORMANCE ASSESSMENT CARD

It is a simple matter to draw up an assessment card where you can plot the number of points won or lost on both the BH and FH side and see as a result the patterns that emerge from this exercise.

ATTACK
• Loop
• Topspin
• Drive

CONTROL
• Push
• Block

DEFENCE
• Chop
• Float

SERVE/REC
• Serve
• 3rd Ball
• Receive
• 2nd Ball

UNFORCED ERRORS
• Over the table
• Back from the table
• Others

SERVE/RECEIVE ASSESSMENT

In the same way you can assess how effective your player’s serve and receive are functioning in match-play and where points are won or lost and on which wing.

SERVE
• Short
• Half-long
• Long

RECEIVE
• FH Push
• FH Drop
• FH Flick

• BH Push
• BH Drop
• BH Flick

COMMENTS

Developing Speed for Table Tennis

Extracts from Seminar. Dr Larry Van Such

We have all heard of fast and slow twitch fibres in muscles -- in almost every sport the secret to improving your athletic skill is to make your muscles not only stronger but also faster. Fast muscles give you a big advantage in almost all sport related skills but especially in fast reaction sports.

The fast twitch muscle fibres are responsible for giving the athlete his speed, agility, quickness, and power. Fast twitch fibres are up to 10 times faster than slow fibres. In most muscles, these fibres are intermingled. However, there is usually a predominance of one or the other. In skeletal muscles like those found in the arms and legs, the fast twitch fibres dominate. Fast twitch fibres allow for powerful forces to be generated over a relatively short period of time. Because the fibres are intermingled it is not possible to isolate out a single fibre type during a muscular contraction. All of the fibres contract together, though at times one class of fibre may be dominant during the contraction.

You cannot condition your muscles for speed in the same way you condition your muscles for strength. With isometric training, a muscle opposes some form of resistance and is contracted to a certain length and then held for a certain period of time, usually 10 seconds or more. There are no repetitions required in isometrics as in weight training. The advantage of this type of training for muscle speed is twofold.

• By forcing your muscle to hold a position without changing this for a certain length of time, your body will begin to recruit more and more motor units to help maintain this contraction. Motor units that are rarely exercised within a particular muscle are now brought into use, perhaps for the first time.

• By limiting the amount of time the muscle holds a position, fast twitch muscle fibres can be conditioned for their natural ability of speed and quickness – something that is rarely achieved when using extensive repetitions in your workout routine. While the muscle is held in position against resistance the motor units that are recruited are forced to contract continuously, time after time, until your muscles achieve a state of maximum intensity, safely and effectively. The end result is that the entire muscle matures very quickly.

The resistance band is an outstanding product that has a very unique physical property known as a variable elastic potential. This means that the more you stretch the band the more force you will have to apply to maintain the resistance level. The amount of resistance found within an elastic band is therefore a function of its length when stretched. When the length of the band changes, even if by a small amount, the resistance level changes also.

When holding a position, the resistance band is stretched and is exerting a significant amount of force back into your muscle. After a few seconds, your muscle will naturally start to weaken. When this happens, your muscle will begin to recruit more and more motor units to help keep the arm/leg in a fixed position. When your muscles start to shake keep holding the position.

1. With each ongoing recruitment pattern of motor units a muscle’s weakness and lack of coordination is instantly exposed on a much deeper level than normally experienced. This forces the muscle fibres to immediately get stronger and quicker and with more precision than before. The result is that the muscles are conditioned to contract faster with increased strength, coordination and responsiveness. The athlete will start to notice the difference in his/her athletic performance, often in just a few days.
2. A second benefit of this training strategy is that the muscle does not get a chance to adapt to the force of the resistance and plateau, or level off, at the level of resistance applied. ‘Muscle confusion’ is the term often applied to the idea of keeping the muscle guessing as to what force to expect and this promotes ongoing muscle development.
3. Thirdly, the mass of the muscle typically does not increase with this type of training, which, if it did, could potentially offset speed gains. So, whenever you are able to increase a muscle’s strength and coordination without adding any additional body weight, your speed and quickness will automatically improve.

These are just some of the reasons how and why this type of training works and why athletes often see dramatic results in their sports performance in a short period of time. However many so-called speed training experts, trainers, coaches and athletes never take certain aspects into consideration. When you mention isometrics, they immediately think of using weights for resistance, this won’t work for speed; and, when you mention resistance bands, they immediately think of performing repetitions with them, which again, won’t work either.

Isometric training with weights won’t help you get faster and using resistance bands with a weightlifting strategy (that is, performing repetitions with them) won’t work either. It’s ONLY the combination of isometric training with resistance bands that makes muscles contract faster.

The interesting thing is that when we look into a lot of the different so-called speed training programs on the internet or in books or articles, practically all of them are very similar to strength and endurance programs. Some of them are almost identical. You have to ask yourself, if there are two different fibre types in the body with two different functions, wouldn’t you think there should be at least two different ways to train your muscles?

This is what makes isometrics with the resistance band so vital to speed training. Because the fibres that produce faster muscles respond to this type of training. Fast twitch fibres won’t respond to weight training and they won’t respond to plyometric training. In fact, when you do these types of exercises, you are literally re-training and re-programming your fast twitch fibres to behave like slow twitch fibres. Not only will they not make you faster, they will probably in fact make you slower.

This is why you will always feel wiped out, totally exhausted after doing plyometrics and weight training. These routines strip your muscles of their elastic contracting ability which makes even doing the simplest routines afterwards such as washing your hair or brushing your teeth almost impossible. However, after you train with resistance bands you will immediately start to feel lighter, faster and more responsive. This is the complete opposite of what happens after using strength training programs.

Training Charts

Rowden Fullen(1990’s)

 Group Chart

 Training Chart

Forms and Questionnaires

Rowden Fullen (2002)

  • Training camp report form.
  • Player’s evaluation form.
  • Training questionnaire.
  • Innovation assessment form.
  • Attitude and development questionnaire.
  • Assessment and marking of attitude and development questionnaire.
  • Girls – big ball questionnaire.
  • The player’s development.
  • Stroke correction techniques.
  • Style profile.

1. Training camp report form.

Name Age Club
Stroke Production
Movement
Serve/Receive
Mental Approach
Style Development
Comments
Course Director Date

2. Player’s evaluation and feedback form.

NAME:

CLUB:

  • Which stroke do you think is your greatest strength?
  • What is the biggest weakness in your game?
  • Which type of player causes you most problems?
  • How is training here different from your own club?
  • What have you liked most about the training?
  • What else would you like included in the programme?
  • Do you think you have improved and learned anything?
  • How would you rate your service game out of 10?
  • How would you rate your receives out of 10?
  • Are you physically fit enough for table tennis?
  • How much do you train in your own club?

3. Training questionnaire.

  • How does the session differ from those you normally attend?
  • Do you think one/two day/one week camps like this are good? Why? Do they benefit you in your play? How?
  • Is the content satisfactory for you? What else would you like included?
  • Do you find the work-load too hard? Too easy? About right?
  • Do you relate to the coaches involved?
  • Do you prefer all girl camps? Some boys? About 50/50? Why?
  • Was enough time spent on serve/receive? Do you need more personal help in this area?
  • In which areas does your own game need attention? Spin? Movement? Stroke play technique? Power? Change of speed? Others — give details.
  • Do you feel coaching development is good in your club/area/district? Can you become a top player just by training in your area?
  • Is the girls’ game declining and standards falling? What do you think are the reasons for this?
  • What do you think is the ideal coach/player ratio for a session/camp like this?
  • How do you think the training could be improved?
  • What would you personally like to be included to benefit your own style development?
  • Do you think that your style is being developed and guided towards the senior game?
  • What is your ultimate aim in table tennis? At what level for example will you be playing at 16, 23 and 32 years?
  • Which do you consider most important while you are young (15 years or younger), tournaments or training? Why?
  • Why do you play table tennis?

4. Innovation assessment form.

  1. Do I want to be the best I can and reach my fullest potential?
  2. Am I negative in certain parts of my game? Do I for example win points or do I wait for my opponent to make mistakes.
  3. If I am negative, how long have I been negative? Six months, one year?
  4. Just when am I going to do something about it?
  5. What new serves do I have in the last six months, one year?
  6. What different receives do I have in the last six months, one year?
  7. What new strokes or tactics do I have in the last six months, one year?
  8. Am I prepared to listen to new ideas and to try different ways of doing things?
  9. If I am not prepared to change do I understand that my development is finished? That I am not going to get any better and I am going to stay at the level I am now?
  10. Do I understand and accept that without change there is no progress?

5. Attitude and development questionnaire.

  1. When I lose to a player I should never lose to, am I prepared to talk about it —
    1. a) Immediately after.
    2. b) After 3 or 4 hours.
    3. c) Never.
  2. The opponent pushes all the time to my back- hand. It’s 9 — 9 in the 5th.
    Do I —
    1. a) Open direct.
    2. b) Only open when I am sure I can win the point.
    3. c) Wait for her to open.
  3. Do I have any new strokes or tactics in the last months?– a) Six months. b) One year. c) None.
  4. Do I understand and accept that without change there is no development? a) Yes. b) No. c) Don’t know.
  5. On the backhand wing do I usually open up and attack–
    1. a) After I – 2 pushes.
    2. b) After 3 – 4 or more.
    3. c) Never.
  6. Am I prepared to listen to new ideas and to try new things? — a) Always. b) Sometimes. c) Never.
  7. Do I have any new serves in the last — a) Six months? b) One year? c) None.
  8. If the opponent pushes long to my forehand, do I open on the — a) First push? b)The second? c) Earliest the third?
  9. Do I have new ways of receiving the serve over the last — a) Six months? b) One year? c) No.
  10. Do I ever push high balls on the backhand?
    1. a) Never.
    2. b) Sometimes.
    3. c) Always.

6. Assessment and marking for attitude and development questionnaire

1.

  • a = 5
  • b = 2
  • c = 0

2.

  • a = 5
  • b = 3
  • c = 0

3.

  • a = 5
  • b = 3
  • c = 0

4.

  • a = 10
  • b = 0
  • c = 0

5.

  • a = 5
  • b = 3
  • c = 0

6.

  • a = 5
  • b = 2
  • c = 0

7.

  • a = 5
  • b = 3
  • c = 0

8.

  • a = 5
  • b = 3
  • c = 0

9.

  • a = 5
  • b = 3
  • c = 0

10.

  • a = 5
  • b = 2
  • c = 0

A 36 – 55 Positive and developing.

B 22 – 35 Development starting to stagnate, needs to be more positive.

C 0 – 21 Negative, no development.

7. Girls – Big ball questionnaire.

  • Does the increased control benefit your game or cause you problems?
  • Can you use different methods of breaking up the control game — slow roll, spin, early ball, chop or sidespin block?
  • Can you attack from a control situation in different ways — hard hit, loop, forcing block?
  • Are you aware that the whole serve and receive situation up to the first four balls is now much more important?
  • Can you hit through topspin?
  • When the opponent opens whether hard or spinny are you reduced to blocking or can you pressure them on the next ball?
  • Can you kill the next ball after your first loop?
  • Are you aware that many of your best hits are going to come back more often? Are you ready for this both tactically and mentally and can you do something different with the next ball?
  • Do you understand that the first hard attack (or counter) will usually win the point?
  • Do you appreciate that the slower ball and change of pace is still a good tactic?
  • Are you thinking more of placement and variation in placement?
  • Are you aware that you have less chance to win points from back without increased power?
  • Do you fully understand that if it’s harder to win with power, then variation in all its aspects is a much higher priority?
  • There have always been more options available to players playing closer to the table — do you realize that the value of such options is now enhanced?
  • 8. The player’s development

    During a player’s development the coach has to be active in a large number of areas and he/she has to be quite precise in trying to direct the player towards the most suitable end-style for him/her as an individual.

    TECHNIQUE – In this area the various strokes will be assessed to see where the player is naturally proficient and this will be done on both BH and FH.

    • DRIVE – Early, ‘peak’.
    • TOPSPIN -- Slow, fast, sidespin.
    • SMASH – Early, ‘peak’, late, topspin.
    • BLOCKS – Soft, forcing, ‘stop’, topspin, sidespin.
    • DROP BALL – Short, angled.
    • PUSHES – Chop, float, early ball.
    • FLICKS – Early, ‘peak’, late.
    • DEFENCE – Chop, float, fishing and lobbing.

    SERVE/RECEIVE AND NEXT BALLS – This is such a vital area that it should be treated separately. The whole serve and receive area must, even from an early age, be geared to the player’s style. How is this player, with his/her style, going to win points? Which serves/receives will fit in with the style and which tactics will be most suitable on the next couple of balls?

    • SERVE – Short, half-long, long.
    • RECEIVE – Short drop, long push, flick, slow roll, chop, float.
    • 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th balls.

    APPROACH – It is also important to assess what the player can do with the ball in more general terms and from differing areas and lengths.

    • CONTROL
    • ACCURACY
    • CONSISTENCY
    • FEELING

    MOVEMENT – This is of course crucial and players need to be assessed early on to see which patterns they will need for their style to be effective.

    • READY POSITION
    • MOVEMENT – In and out, side to side, diagonal.

    USE OF THE TABLE – This is also vital. Does the player do things instinctively or does he/she need to be programmed?

    • ANGLES
    • STRAIGHT BALLS
    • CHANGE OF SPIN
    • CHANGE OF SPEED
    • DECEPTION

    QUALITIES OF THE PLAYER – The person is above all important and the physical and mental attributes should be evaluated early.

    • PHYSICAL – Condition, speed, strength, flexibility, feeling.
    • MENTAL – Willpower, fighting spirit, ability to focus, work-rate, confidence, self-belief, positive thinking.
    • ADAPTIVE INTELLIGENCE – The ability to adapt to new situations and quickly’.

    EQUIPMENT/BACKING – Does the player have access to a robot, good multi-ball training, varied sparring, is his/her home life stable and is there good support in this area? Is there enough financial support?

    IN THE FINAL ANALYSIS – No player is ever going to become great without harnessing his/her own talents and abilities and without doing what he/she does best. Unless the coach directs the player into the right channels to make the most of natural talents, the greatest potential can be wasted.

    9. STROKE CORRECTION TECHNIQUES.

    • Stance.
    • Body Action.
    • Length.
    • Timing.
    • Table Position.
    • FreeArm.
    • Bat Arm

    .

    10. Style profile.

    • What % F.H./B.H. strokes do you play in a game? 70 – 30%, 50 – 50%, why?
    • What are your main strokes on each wing? If more than one list in % of use.
    • What blade (in terms of speed) and rubbers (sponge thickness) do you use? Do you use glue? Do these help your prime strokes and why?
    • Do you think you have the physical requirements to play the game you want to play? Speed round the table, reactions etc?
    • At what depth from the table do you normally play? Close, mid-area (3 – 4 feet) or deeper? If you change and play from varying distances try to breakdown in percentage.
    • Do your strokes alter in overall quality/strength over varying depths? Is one wing weaker close or back? Why?
    • Is your general game unbalanced? One wing stronger close and one stronger deep? Which is the main strength?
    • Do your serves fit in and help you gain advantage in terms of your overall style? Which is your best serve?
    • How would you describe yourself? Blocker, drive player, loop player, defender, all-rounder? What is your prime strength?
    • Can you impose your game on your opponent however he/she plays?
    • Do you feel looking ahead to the senior game that you should be thinking of making any changes in the way you play? F.H./B.H. split, playing depth, stroke development, tactics etc?
    • Are you on the whole happy inside with the type of game you play or are you dissatisfied with the way you win? What type of opponent really frustrates you?

    Training Exercises

    Exercise 1

    Warm-ups 15 mins

    • X’s and H’s Controlled knocking-up

    Training Ex1

    A)

    1. C to middle/BH regular. P plays BH/FH
    2. C one/two to BH, 1 to middle
    3. C one/two to BH, then middle or FH
    4. C 1/2 to BH, 1/2 to middle or FH

    B)

    1. FH to FH corner, C plays angle
    2. FH to FH, C plays to middle or random angle
    3. C anywhere in FH half, random angle play

    C)

    1. Fast serve, no spin, from BH to FH/middle/BH
    2. P controls with slow returns. Examine alternatives

    D)

    1. Games to 11 up.

    Excercise 2 Warm-ups 10 mins

    Knock-up 3 ball 1BH - 1FH 2BH - 1FH 3BH - 1FH
    control from the 1BH - 2FH 2BH - 2FH 3BH - 2FH
    BH corner 1BH - 3FH 2BH - 3FH 3BH - 3FH

    Training Ex2

    A)

    1. P topspins 2 straight, C plays to the BH, P straight, C to the FH, continue
    2. After P plays BH straight, C to initiate free play
    3. C switches anywhere after first 1 - 2 FH topspins from P and initiates free play

    B)

    1. BH to BH slow/fast, long/short
    2. As 1. but C short to FH at random, play free
    3. As 1. but C at random plays anywhere short, free play

    C) Backspin serve short

    1. BH to FH or middle
    2. FH to middle or BH
    3. All returns - push short/long, play free

    D)

    1. Games to 11 up, starting from 5 - 5

    Exercise 3 Warm-ups 15 mins

    Training Ex3

    • Control exercise straight, narrow channel, 10 - 15 cms

    A)

    1. Line play to P’s BH, C switches to FH and sometimes angles ball. 2 to BH and 1 to FH
    2. 2 or 3 line balls, then 1 to FH
    3. 2 to 5 line balls, 1 or 2 to FH
    4. Line play 2 - 5, switch, then free play

    B)

    1. Backspin or float serves, short or half-long. Use same action but different parts of the racket
    2. Flick/open or drop short, play free

    C) Games to 15 up, three serves each

    Exercise 4 Warm-ups 10mins

    Training Ex4

    • 4 Ball, BH, middle, BH, FH

    A)

    1. BH - BH slow/fast,long/short + angle
    2. As 1) 3 times, short/long to FH, play free
    3. As 1) 1 - 3 times, to FH short/long, free

    B)

    1. BH - BH variation, mix topspin,chop/sidespin block, experiment to find what suits you.
    2. BH - BH 1 - 3 balls, chop-block, spin to FH, play free

    C)

    BH Serve - variations

    D)

    Games to 11 up starting from 7 - 8 and serving

    Exercise 5 Warm-ups 15mins

    Training Ex5

    • X’s and H’s
    • 4 Ball, BH, middle, BH, FH

    A)

    1. C plays BH/middle, BH/FH
    2. First 3 one ball, last to FH 1 or 2
    3. BH/middle 1 or 2, BH/FH 1 or 2
    4. BH 1 or 2, middle or FH

    B)

    1. Topspin to block
    2. Blocker hits/forces right ball

    C)

    BH serve, high throw, side, topspin or chop

    D)

    Games to 11

    Exercise 6 Warm-ups 15mins

    • Control 5 ball
    BH FH BH FH BH FH BH FH BH FH
    1 1 2 1 3 1 4 1 5 1
    2 2 2 2 2
    3 3 3 3 3
    4 4 4 4 4
    5 5 5 5 5

    Training Ex6

    A)

    1. Reverse Falkenberg - small
    2. And large
    3. FH middle, 1 or 2 from FH, BH from BH
    4. As 3. but 1 or 2 from BH

    B)

    1. Backspin serve short/half-long, push long to BH, open
    2. Same serve, push long to FH, open
    3. Push return to FH/BH, open

    C)

    Games to 11 up, from 8 - 8

    Exercise 7 Warm-ups 10 mins

    Training Ex7_1

    • Control 5 ball, BH/middle/FH/middle/BH

    A)

    1. BH/middle, BH/FH. Control with FH, P plays BH/FH alternately.
    2. First 3 one ball, to FH 1 or 2
    3. BH 1 or 2, middle, BH 1 or 2, FH 1

    B)

    1. Start with drive, loop to loop or drive FH from deep
    2. As 1. but random ball to BH side

    Training Ex7

    C)

    FH axe serve with both top and backspin (+ side)

    D)

    Games to 11 up from 5 - 5

    Exercise 8 Warm-ups 10mins

    • Control 5 ball
    Knock-up 3 ball 1BH - 1FH 2BH - 1FH 3BH - 1FH
    control from the 1BH - 2FH 2BH - 2FH 3BH - 2FH
    BH corner 1BH - 3FH 2BH - 3FH 3BH - 3FH

    Training Ex8

    A)

    1. Falkenberg - small 3A
    2. Falkenberg - large 3B
    3. Either small/large

    B)

    1. Small F, spin first FH from BH, drive next from middle
    2. 1 - 3 to BH corner, then into Falkenberg small/large
    3. Large F, play second FH free

    C)

    Smash to lob

    D)

    Long, fast serve, play free

    E)

    Games from 8 - 8 to 11 up

    Exercise 9 Warm-ups 15mins

    • Knock-up - X’s and H’s play 2 diagonal before switch

    Training Ex9

    A)

    1. P plays 2 FH’s from BH corner, C plays straight to P’s FH
    2. As 1. but C plays 1 - 2 to P’s FH
    3. C plays 1 - 3 to P’s BH, then 1 - 2 to FH
    4. C plays 1- 3 to P’s BH, then to middle/FH and free play

    B)

    1. C - short serve to FH
    2. P - long push or flick straight
    3. C - slow topspin with FH/BH straight twice
    4. C - fast topspin or drive to P’s BH
    5. P - straight, free play

    C)

    • Reverse spin serve, long to BH/middle, or short to middle/FH

    D)

    • Games to 11 up

    Exercise 10 Warm-ups 15mins

    • Knock-up 5 ball 1BH - 1-5FH, 2BH - 1-5FH, 3BH - 1-5FH, 4BH - 1-5FH, 5BH - 1-5FH
    • Control

    Training Ex10

    A)

    1. C short serve, middle or BH. P returns half-long to FH. C topspins/drives wide to P’s FH side, free play
    2. As 1. but C topspins/drives to P’s BH, free play
    3. As 1. but C plays anywhere, free play

    B)

    1. C - one ball to middle, 1 to FH, then middle and BH
    2. C - alternate balls to the middle then to BH/FH
    3. C - alternate balls to the middle then 1 - 2 to BH/FH
    4. C - 1 - 2 to middle then 1 - 2 to BH/FH

    C)

    • Sidespin, float or chop serve with FH. Work at variation with same action

    D)

    • Games to 7 points, only one serve each

    Exercise 11 Warm-ups 10mins

    • Control - FH/FH from FH to middle, then FH from BH to the middle

    Training Ex11

    A)

    1. P topspins 4 - 5 slow with FH to block on BH diagonal
    2. As 1. with control to varied block
    3. After 4 balls C plays to P’s FH, free play
    4. C plays to FH at random, free play

    B)

    1. P topspins fast 2 - 4 FH to FH, C drives later with control
    2. P topspins fast 2 - 4 FH to FH, C drives 1 - 2 then counter-topspins
    3. As 2. but C topspins down line, free play
    4. As 3. but C topspins down line, then wide to FH, free play

    C)

    • Reverse spin serves - test both arcs

    D)

    • Games to 11 up, 3 serves each

    Exercise 12 Warm-ups 15mins

    • Control 3 ball, but BH from BH corner, FH from FH corner

    Training Ex12

    A)

    1. P topspins BH straight, C blocks
    2. As 1. but C uses varied blocks
    3. Any time after 2nd topspin, C plays to FH and P continues straight to C’s BH.
    4. As 3. but free play after C plays to FH

    B)

    1. P spins and drives with BH to block
    2. As 1. but C mixes returns, block, drive and spin
    3. Either player switches to FH then free play

    C)

    • Axe and reverse axe serves, with backspin, topspin and sidespin

    D)

    • Games to 11 up from 9 all, both as server and receiver

    Exercise 13 Warm-ups 15mins

    • Control FH from middle to BH, then middle to FH

    Training Ex13

    A)

    1. FH/FH topspin to block, after 3 balls C plays line, P diagonal, C straight, repeat
    2. As 1. then free play
    3. After P plays diagonal BH, C plays either to FH/BH, then free play

    B)

    1. Short or half-long serve, C drops short or pushes long to FH. P opens or pushes short or long
    2. As 1. but C short or long to BH
    3. C short or long to BH or FH

    C)

    • Short play training, from short serve situation both players play several short balls in succession

    D)

    • Matches to 13 all, short backspin serve to FH/middle or long, fast serve to middle/BH. 3 serves each

    Exercise 14 Warm-ups 10mins

    • Control straight, short and long

    Training Ex14

    A)

    1. C short serve to BH
    2. P flick/push to BH
    3. C FH slow spin diagonal twice
    4. P then blocks straight
    5. C slow topspin to FH 2 - 3 times, switches middle/BH, free play

    B)

    1. C short serve to FH
    2. P drops short or flicks to C’s FH
    3. C topspins 2 - 3 slow to FH or flicks then topspins
    4. C then topspins slow to P’s BH
    5. P blocks diagonally to C’s BH, free play

    C)

    • Short backspin/float serves to the middle or FH, flick return

    D)

    • Games to 11 up

    Exercise 15 Warm-ups 10mins

    • 1 BH from BH,1 FH from FH
    • 2 BH from BH, 2 FH from FH/Middle
    • 3 BH from BH, 3 FH from FH/Middle/FH
    • 4 BH from BH, 4 FH from FH/Middle/FH/Middle
    • 5 BH from BH, 5 FH from FH/Middle/FH/Middle/FH

    Training Ex15

    A)

    1. Drive play BH/BH 2 to 4 balls, C topspins FH line, P returns to middle, C topspins to BH. Repeat
    2. As 1. but play free after P's return to middle
    3. Reversed, C topspins to P's BH, P returns to middle, C topspins to P's FH, P straight, repeat.
    4. As 3. but free play after P returns straight
    5. As 3. but free after C topspins to P's FH

    B)

    1. Long serve to the middle, return to BH, 3rd ball to BH
    2. Long serve to BH, return to BH, 3rd ball to middle
    3. Serve either to BH/middle, return FH, 3rd ball to corners
    4. As 3. but 3rd ball to the body

    C)

    • Fast serve float/spin to body or corners

    D)

    • Games to 15 up. Three serves

    Exercise 16 Warm-ups 15mins

    • Control 1BH - 1FH from FH, 2BH - 1FH from FH, 3BH - 1FH from FH
    • 2BH - 1FH from FH, 2BH - 2FH from FH, 2BH - 3FH from FH
    • 3BH - 1FH from FH, 3BH - 2FH from FH, 3BH - 3FH from FH

    All BH's from BH, all FH's from FH

    Training Ex16

    A)

    1. P FH topspin from BH corner to BH/middle/FH
    2. Same from FH corner
    3. To 3 areas from BH then from FH
    4. Emphasis on CONTROL

    B)

    1. From BH to BH and middle then random to FH
    2. From BH to FH and middle then random to BH
    3. From BH to BH and FH then random to middle
    4. From FH to BH and FH then random to middle
    5. From FH to FH and middle then random to BH

    C)

    • FH serve with chop, sidespin and float

    D)

    • Games to 11 up

    Exercise 17 Warm-ups 10mins

    • C to BH/middle then to BH/FH. Control from FH

    Training Ex17

    A)

    1. FH topspin/drive from middle to FH/BH
    2. As 1. but 1 - 2 to BH and 1 - 2 to FH
    3. As 2. but random ball to body

    B)

    1. FH topspin to counter-topspin training
    2. FH topspin to drive counter (both players in mid-area)
    3. FH topspin to BH counter on diagonal from back
    4. FH topspin diagonal, random switch to middle
    5. FH topspin diagonal to BH, random switch to middle

    C)

    • BH serve to middle or FH, short or half-long, drop short, flick or push long (Examine differing timing points)

    D)

    • Games to 11 up from 7 all

    Exercise 18 Warm-ups 15mins

    • From middle with FH to middle/FH then middle/BH

    Training Ex18_1

    A)

    1. FH topspin or drive alternately from FH/BH to middle
    2. C 1 or 2 to FH and 1 to BH
    3. C 1 or 2 to BH and 1 to FH
    4. C 1 or 2 to BH or FH

    Training Ex18_2

    B)

    1. Chop defence v loop or drive

    Explore differing methods of attacking, loop, slow or fast, drive, punch, sidespin etc. Also look at different timing points and the option of dropping short.

    C)

    • Serve training - short to FH/middle, long to corners/middle

    D)

    • Games to 11 up

    Exercise 19 Warm-ups 15mins

    • BH/middle, FH/middle, FH/BH control from BH

    Training Ex19

    A)

    1. FH to FH, C plays 2 balls, P topspins line, C blocks on diagonal, P drives straight, repeat
    2. Start FH/FH but between 2 - 4 balls, then continue as 1.
    3. FH/FH 2 - 3 balls, P topspins down line 1 - 2, continue as 1.
    4. Play free after 1,2 or 3.

    B)

    1. Receive training - against sidespin serves with backspin and topspin, train to play with and against the spin. Work also to leave the server’s spin on the ball at times and return it to him or her

    C)

    • Games to 11 up, only the receiver can win points. If he wins on receive he carries on receiving, if he loses then he must serve

    Exercise 20 Warm-ups 10mins

    • FH to FH/middle, then BH/middle, then BH/FH

    Training Ex20

    A)

    1. C to middle/FH 3 times, switch straight, P diagonal, C straight, repeat
    2. C switches 2 straight, continue
    3. C switches 1 or 2 straight, continue
    4. P plays 1 or 2 diagonal, continue
    5. C plays any number to middle/FH, then switches into exercise
    6. Any time after first or 2nd switch, free play

    B)

    1. Varied serves and spin - BH, axe, FH and reverse, short and long. Work at differing timing against the short serves and to play with, against or return the spin. Against the long serves train to play positively but do not overlook the control element and the value of playing the slower ball at times with less pace.

    C)

    • Games to 11 up but only the server can win points. The server carries on serving as long as he/she wins the point

    Exercise 21 Warm-ups 10mins

    • Diagonal control, alternately short/long

    Training Ex21

    A)

    1. C/P drive or spin on BH diagonal between 2 - 6 balls
    2. P plays FH on BH diagonal, then FH straight
    3. C plays diagonal and P straight. Repeat.
    4. P plays 1 or 2 diagonal, continue
    5. At any time after 1, 2 or 3 free play

    Training Ex21_2

    B)

    1. FH/FH P loops to block 3 - 6 balls. C then drops back and counter-topspins
    2. As 1. but after 2 - 3 counters C plays to middle/BH then free play
    3. As 1. but C topspins alternately to BH/FH
    4. As 1. but C topspins 1 - 2 to BH, 1 - 2 to FH
    5. As 1. but C topspins to BH or FH, then free play

    C)

    • Short serve to middle or angles, long to corners

    D)

    • Games from 8 - 8, 8 - 9 and 8 - 10 and serving

    Exercise 22 Warm-ups 15mins

    • Control FH from middle to BH, then middle to FH

    Training Ex22

    A)

    1. C topspins 1 chops 1 on FH diagonal, P blocks 1 and topspins 1, C blocks and P chops and so on (both play with control and keep changing).
    2. Same on BH diagonal
    3. C topspins on FH diagonal, P blocks straight, C chops on BH diagonal, P topspins straight, C blocks on FH diagonal, P chops straight etc.
    4. C straight, P on diagonal

    B)

    1. High throw BH serve from middle, with sidespin or side and chop to FH short or long. Same serve with topspin long to the BH corner

    C)

    • Serve games from 8 -8, only server can win points