The Journey from Reverse to Material

Rowden Fullen (2006)

The job of any coach is to help his players to reach their maximum potential – but the coach must bear in mind that all players are individuals and different and will only achieve the maximum if they allow their own special talents to develop and to flower. There are many different ways to the top especially in the women’s game and it is up to the coach to make available a number of alternatives to the player and to suggest the right direction for him or her.

On some occasions the coach can readily see that the player should use pimples by the way he or she executes the stroke (perhaps a ‘punching’ action on the backhand side). Often however it will come down to what the player can or cannot do with the ball in a match situation. First has the player good technique in both slow and fast loop and drive play and smash on FH and BH sides. Does the player have difficulty in creating strong topspin? In the case of many girls for example, rarely can more than one or two out of every ten create real topspin. If players have difficulty in creating or in controlling spin there can be a good case for material of one kind or another.

There are basically seven differing types of rubber surfaces on the market and we will look at these in some detail –

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. Anti-spin (Made mostly in Europe, Butterfly, Donic, Stiga, T.Hold, Yasaka but the odd Chinese such as RITC 804). Anti can come in two types, almost no spin or a with a little friction. Usually the rubbers are very slow with good control and the ball is slow off the racket.
  4. 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 much 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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 although often a very thin sponge (0.4 – 0.6 for example) can be helpful in controlling hard hit balls when in blocking mode.

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 0.9 but not more than 1.10).

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 –

Reverse normal =100%
Reverse tacky =100%
Anti-spin =5 – 12%
Short pimples =75 – 95%
Half-long pimples =65 – 75%
Long pimples with friction =30 — 35%
Anti-loop long pimples =0%

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