Guide to Choosing Table Tennis Rubber
You can notice that most of our rubber sheets have ratings of speed, spin, and control. A speed rating below 50 means very good control. From 50-70 is a good all-around rating and anything over 70 we consider fast for offensive play.
The preferred rubber sheets are mostly smooth inverted and sticky. Some players are still using the pips out for faster and more direct shots. Others may use long pips on one side, that imparts a knuckleball effect and reverses the opponents spin. A small percentage of players use an anti-spin rubber for defense which also reverses the opponents spin. Long pips and anti spin are mostly used for easy control against spinny serves and loops, but it also takes more practice and more time to get used to. The sponge behind the rubber comes in different thicknesses, from 1.2 mm to 2.5 mm. The sponge thickness and the top sheet color (red or black) can be selected before you add a rubber sheet to the shopping cart.
The thinner the sponge the better the control, a thicker sponge gives you more speed with less control. It is therefore possible to slow down a fast racket by using a rubber with thinner sponge. Some players will use a fast offensive rubber on the forehand and a slower more controllable sheet on the backhand. All rubber sheets are priced per sheet only. For a complete racket you will need 2 rubber sheets.
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How does the sponge thickness affect performance? If it affects speed, why are rubbers sheets given one speed rating irrespective of the chosen thickness?
The quick and easy rule is that thicker sponges (2.0mm or more) results in more offensive play. 1.9mm to 1.5mm is used by more 'control' or all around players while smaller numbers is common for short and long pipped rubbers.
When you swing at a ball and make contact, the sponge catches the ball and slows it down. As the ball keeps moving into the sponge and hits the wood underneath, the sponge helps kick the ball back out.
During the whole above process of catching and throwing the ball, the sponge allows the rubber topsheet to put friction on the ball, adding larger amounts of spin than could be achieved without the sponge.
When looking at the speed and spin ratings of different rubbers, you may notice that they don't break them down by different sponge thicknesses. This is because the effect of the sponge changes depending on how you hit and play. For example, if you take a soft swing, the sponge would slow the ball down (by absorbing the impact), but a hard loop will speed up your shot (by allowing you to take bigger swings).
Some rubbers are labeled by thickness (in millimeters) such as 1.9 or 2.0, while others are labeled as MAX, MX, or Maximum. ITTF rules state that the maximum of the sponge and topsheet cannot be greater than 4.00mm. There is no hard rule to how thick the rubber topsheet is (1.4mm to 1.7mm are common thicknesses for topsheets), so sponges labeled as Maximum are produced by the manufacturer to be as thick as they can while still staying under 4.00mm, usually they include a large enough margin of error to counteract the thickness of the glue used to attach the rubber to the blade.
Why does the hardness of a rubber sheet matter?
The degree represents how hard the sponge is. A lower number means a softer sponge, a higher number means a firmer sponge. To give an idea, a rubber-band is around 25 and a car tire is around 80. Most table tennis rubbers will be between 30 and 45.
Beginners (under 1200 USATT rating) will not be able to feel a difference. When in doubt, choose a lower to medium number.
What is a high tension/pre-tensed/tensor rubber sheet?
With the banning of VOC based glues (such as speed glues) and booster, manufacturers need another way to provide the extreme spin. Speed glue worked by swelling the sponge with what is basically a combination of rubber cement and paint thinner. This has the effect of massively stretching the topsheet beyond what would be done with normal manufacturing. Tension rubbers are rubbers where the topsheet is stretched before gluing it to the sponge during manufacturing.
There are two different methods of 'tensioning' rubber, chemical and mechanical:
It seems that each brand has their own twist to the above processes, here are some highlights:
What is anti-spin rubber?
An anti-spin rubber is a specialty rubber built to generate no spin on the ball at all. The term anti-spin is actually kind of a misnomer. The rubber does not automatically produce 'flat' shots, but instead it tends to 'reverse' the spin coming at you. If your opponent produces a hard top-spin shot, your return show will have a good amount of backspin.
Anti-spin topsheets are generally hard (and durable) and slick, more like a hard car tire than a normal table tennis rubber. The sponges range from medium soft to extremely soft. This has the effect of slowing the ball down, even to the extreme where dropping a ball on the rubber barely produces a bounce. The best example of this is the Butterfly Super Anti and Butterfly Super Anti Special.
There are two core groups who use anti-spin rubbers, "combination bat" players and beginning "modern defender" players. For combination bat players, anti-spin rubber (especially with soft sponges) allow the player to deal with hard, fast loops and drives and the speed changes can really throw off opponents. For modern defenders, the long term goal is usually to move on to long pipped rubbers. By starting with anti-spin, the players are able to focus on developing the fundamentals of their style.