Speed

It's one of the three key attributes you'll be faced with when buying a new racket. But other than changing the rate of travel when ball meets blade, what exactly does it mean? What affects it, and importantly, why?

But before we get ahead of ourselves, first we need to define exactly what fast equipment is. This is measured simply by finding the final ball velocity relative to the amount the force the player puts in. To put it simply - Timo Boll hits ball with bat. Ball changes direction and travels away from him.

But beyond this the mechanics are a lot more complex, and to be honest, rather irrelevant to your average player. All you need to know is that it's why the industry of Table Tennis rackets is very large, and evolving so quickly. It's all about trying to maximise speed and spin while reducing the amount of energy wasted. Faster blades and rubbers will require less effort to make the ball travel more quickly. If you're already very skilled at the game, then this can give you the power you need to slam right past your opponent. However, if you're still developing, you will almost certainly develop bad habits, such as relying on slapping the ball as opposed to truly looping it. Rackets that are too fast will only develop bad technique unless you have a private coach arranged.

In recent years, some blades have been reinforced with materials such as carbon fibre or fibreglass to make them even faster at the top level. If you're reading this, then there's a good chance you're a beginner looking for a new racket. I'd recommend sticking with something slower for now; speed 7-9 rubber with at maximum an OFF- blade. It's impossible to go too far wrong.

Spin

Spin is relative. Slapping the ball with a spinny rubber is not going to turn your pansy counter hits into sweeping Ma Long loops. The amount of spin generated is affected by three factors:

  • How well the ball grips the rubber
  • How long the racket is touching the ball for
  • The motion of the racket at point of contact

This is all partly on your technique. However if you're playing with dead rubbers, your loops will never work regardless of how fantastic they may be. Rubbers with more spin are better in that it is easier to generate a large amount of spin. Yet again, this comes at a price if you're not experienced enough. Spinnier rubbers are also more 'reactive' to spin. This means is that if your counter loops and service receives are not perfect, the ball may fly off unexpectedly during rallies and second balls. If you're already struggling to put loops on the table, then particularly spinny components will just make this weakness worse. For rubbers at least, don't worry too much so long as it's rated 7 or above. Unless you're eyeing up that new Tenergy sheet, spin is much more based on your blade than the rubber. For blades, keep in mind the flex, for that is the key to loops with an emphasis on spin rather than speed.

Control

Finally, control. Control is the most loosely defined term in the market of rackets. This is because there's no clearly defined meaning of this word. As a rule, it means how easy it is to make the ball do you want. Roughly. These days it's pretty much just an outdated metric from a different era of Table Tennis. I feel that the peak of control is going to be at about speed and spin rating 7 - 8. Any more than that it becomes more difficult to make the ball do what you want (even if it's more rewarding when you do so). Conversely, playing with anti-spin rubbers with no grip at all is again going to be a lot more difficult. If you're a beginner in the market for a new racket you want the control to be right up there, with a lower spin and speed rating. It's deceptive to rate equipment as 10/10 for speed and spin, yet still insist it's a perfect 10 for control as well. In general, look at the reviews for a much more reliable account of quality.

Footnote

Trying to grade equipment fully based on three measly zero to ten ratings (especially considering most non-specialist gear will be 6+ all around) doesn't work. The best way to pick out what's best for you is to actually get a testimony from someone who's used it. The Sriver L Rev and the Sriver FX appear to be almost identical, but I'll tell you from experience that the FX feels easier to loop with for me. It's as simple as personal preference, so I'd recommend trying as many rackets as possible before buying one.

Ask people at your club what they use, what they think of it, and if you can use it for a set. The last important thing to remember is that manufacturers lie. take the grades of manufacturers as anything more than a play style guideline. It doesn't take into account durability, feel, or ability suiting.

Written By: Stuart Johnson