Table Tennis without Glue or Boosters
2008 — 2009
Players will try to use the whole table more and tactical placement of the ball will be used more often in the rallies and will become more important. With less speed and spin on the ball the player will compensate with placement.
Men play on average 40% of balls from a distance, women only about 15%. As it is more difficult to play from a distance without glue this will be a bigger handicap for the men. Without glue there will be better control in return of serve and in active and passive play near the table, which women mostly do. Against defenders it is now more difficult for attackers to win points by smashing. It is necessary to prepare special fitness programmes to help the players meet the new demands.
Without glue players like Samsonov have better control in passive play and in return of serve and can create very good counter-attacks. It’s only with topspin that some problems are present.
We have to work much more on fitness. I had especially big problems playing topspin from a distance. Now I have to be in a perfect position if I want to hit the ball properly. This is why I have to improve my footwork significantly.
For me it is now easier to control the ball when returning the service, I have better short play and can create heavy backspin on the long push. However I still find it difficult to find the right angle of the racket when blocking.
I have had heavy muscle inflammation due to changes in my stroke technique. Now I have to go to the gym more often as I will need more power to perform as I did before. I see that girls playing with pimples now have some advantage as the ball is slower and with less rotation. When they stay close they have more time and better control in the block strokes.
Players with better technical abilities will find solutions for their game more easily. There is now less speed and rotation in the game, all my colleagues share this opinion.
Without gluing I have a problem with my topspin; I have to execute my swing in a more upwards direction.
I immediately had muscle inflammation as I was using techniques, which I wasn’t used to. I saw that the ball trajectory is quite different than with the speed glue and is much more even. The player has to start the topspin stroke much lower and execute it more upwards and less forwards. When the ball has a different trajectory or bounces unexpectedly, then you try often to change your stroke in a very short time and try to change direction abruptly this brings the danger of injury. When a player has a good first, slow topspin attack it is now extremely difficult to do much with this ball.
We need to be much more athletic. You have to be perfectly positioned when hitting each ball and use much more power in the strokes. There is not so big a difference when you play up to the table but this increases as you get further away. Without glue there is no difference when playing short, but when you try to force the block the ball ends up in the net. It’s much safer to give the ball some rotation than just to hit it.
I have to focus much more on precise technique in stroke-play.
The technique of the strokes will change and as the game is already slower we have to play closer to the table. It is more difficult to play topspin from a distance but I have less difficulty in controlling the ball when the opponent attacks first.
The game is slower and with less rotation on the ball. It is more difficult to hit the ball hard and you always have to be in a perfect position. If you are just a bit late the ball is in the net. Footwork is even more important than before.
Most players complain they have to change their habits and technique and that the risk of injury is much greater.
I have to change many details in my stroke technique and footwork. The biggest problem is to perform a good topspin attack.
Summary of Main Points
Almost all the men and some of the women emphasise the difficulty of playing topspin and especially back from the table. It would appear that to play several successive topspin balls in a row is now more difficult as this requires a different position (closer to the table), a different stroke (more upwards and less forwards) and a bigger power input. Hitting the ball with full power results in more errors while at 80% input it would appear that the ball is on the table all the time. Safer play would seem to be better. Players also emphasise the importance of better technique and better footwork, the days of reaching for the ball and letting the bat do the work are over. These factors obviously have a much bigger impact on the men’s game and the women’s game will in most cases (because of styles of play and distance from the table) be less affected. However even the women complain of the lack of quality in their first attacking stroke.
Some coaches feel that players will try to use the whole table to more effect and tactical placement of the ball will be used more often in the rallies and will become more important. With less speed and spin on the ball the player will compensate with placement. Placement, use of angles and long and short balls have always been part of the women’s game at top level but perhaps these will now be used to a greater extent in the men’s game too.
There is also the feeling that without glue there is rather better control in return of serve, in short play, and in active and passive play near the table, which women mostly do. Some players feel they can create more backspin in the pushing situation over the table. Players also mention the ease of counter-attacking and of controlling the opponent’s attack (as opposed to counter-topspin from a deeper position) except in the case of the much slower loop ball (this is probably coming through with much less pace and dropping sharply). The point is made that girls playing with pimples now have some advantage as the ball is slower and with less rotation. When they stay close they have more time and better control in the block strokes. The only problem appears to be when players try to play the ‘forcing’ blocks which because of less racket speed often end up in the net. But this is largely a matter of finding the right racket angle.
We also hear the view that it is now more difficult for attackers to win points by smashing against defenders. In fact Dirk Schimmelpfennig, the German Table Tennis Sports Director, considers that one of the most important training priorities in 2009 for the top German National players at all levels is to improve smash techniques. He explains that it is now necessary to learn to play using the whole body and that the FH technique depends now not only on the hitting arm but also on body rotation and if playing from back on the player’s weight being shifted forwards in the direction of the shot.
The lesser power in smashes may well also have a knock-on effect with block techniques. In the past a straightforward normal block would result in a smash from the opponent. Therefore the normal block was replaced by a variety of spin-blocks, ‘stop’ blocks or forcing blocks. Now however the normal, controlled block can be used again more often, especially in response to an opponent’s opening shot with topspin.
One area however in which everyone is in agreement, both the coaches and the players, is that the game without glue demands much higher fitness levels and that specific programmes must be developed to prepare players to cope with these new demands.