Choosing table tennis rubbers are equally important to select a table tennis blade. This is because when you hit the ball, the rubber surface will contact the ball directly which will have a direct impact on speed, spin, and direction. Unfortunately, there is no such magic rubber that is perfect for everyone and every situation but the best rubber for you must complement your play style.
There are a couple of factors to consider before choosing your table tennis rubbers:
1. Colour of table tennis rubber
According to ITTF regulation, the table tennis rackets must have red color on one side with black color on another. This is because nowadays, it is very common to use a different type of rubbers for forehand and backhand. So if both sides of your racket has the same color, it would be very difficult for your opponent to distinguish the type of rubber that is hitting the ball.
This two-color rule was announced in the mid of 1986 by ITTF to help table tennis players to determine an incoming ball easier. Normally the red side will be used for a forehand while the black side will be used for a backhand (but not compulsory).
2. Types of table tennis rubber
There are basically three main types of table tennis rubbers:
2.1 Inverted rubber
This type of rubbers is the most common and most popular special for pre-assemble table tennis rackets. The pips face will face toward into the blade. So the smooth side of the rubber will be on the surface which will touch the ball directly.
The level of the surface’s tackiness has an impact on the sensitivity of the spin ball. This means that a tacky rubber can generate a greater amount of spin power. However, the tacky rubber will also be very sensitive to an incoming spin ball from your opponent as well. The anti-spin rubber, on the other hand, is completely non-tacky and will not sensitive to an incoming spin ball at all.
This kind of rubber always comes with sponge underneath its surface which the thickness of sponge will have a great impact on speed and control.
2.2 Short-pips rubber
Regarding short-pips rubber, the pip will point outward from the surface which means that the pimple will contact the ball directly. It is commonly used by a player who wants to cut the spin strategy out of the game. This could be excellent for non-topspin smash technique, and also great for defense because the pimple will reduce the impact of the incoming spin ball. This type of rubber may or may not come with the sponge underneath its surface.
2.3 Long-pips rubber
The long pips rubber is likely to be used by a defensive player along with a defensive blade. Physically, it has long pip pointing outward from the surface which will contact the ball directly. Unlike short-pips rubber that will nullify spin effect, the long pip one will generate an unpredictable spin back to the opponent. As a result, this blade can screw your opponent well since your opponent cannot predict an incoming spin ball from your gesture but they have to determine from the actual spin of the ball.
3. The thickness of rubber
Actually, the thickness of the rubber has great impacts on speed and control of the contacted ball. The rule of thumb is that the thicker rubber will have greater speed and less control. However, the maximum thickness that ITTF allows is 2.5mm. The range of sponge could be classified into three main categories.
1.0 – 1.5mm > It is mainly used by all round and defensive players to maximize their control and touch. It is more suitable for the one who loves to play close to the table due to a relative lack of power. This type of thickness is also great for chopping the ball by a defensive player.
2.0mm > The most popular and common thickness. It offers you a great balance between speed, power, and control. It is used by all-round to offensive players.
2.5mm > Some manufacturers refer to it as “maximum thickness” because 2.5 mm is the maximum limit allowed by ITTF. It is generally used by offensive players who prefer very fast speed and powerful topspin (loop).
4. Forehand or backhand side
The advanced players will commonly use the different type of rubbers for forehand and backhand. There is no exact rule about choosing rubber for each side. It all depends on your style. However, the forehand side will generally require more speed and power to make a killer short while the backhand side may require more control to block.
5. Your table tennis blade
The surface of your blade is another important factor. For instance, using a hard surface blade with hard surface rubber will make the ball go very fast but difficult to control. On the other hands, using the soft blade with soft rubber may have too low power and very difficult to play at a far distance.
The general concept is trying to make the combination that offers you a balance between power, control, and spin. Nevertheless, some advanced players may want to play with extreme style.
Recommended Table Tennis Rubbers for A Beginner
A beginner should focus on control with a reasonable amount of spin power. Try to avoid the fast rubber with crazy spin since most beginners cannot handle it. So to make your game more enjoyable with more rallies, soft and flexible rubber is the way to go. The price of your rubber should not be too expensive since you are likely to alter your rubbers when you have higher skill. I would recommend DHS Hurricane 3 , DHS G666, or Yasaka Mark V as beginner rubbers.
Trying Different Rubber
There is almost no way to pick the perfect rubber unless you have tried all of them. But, you can definitely narrow down your options.
Experimenting with different rubbers will make you aware of the different spins and speeds from you and your opponent. There is a wide variety to choose from in each skill level and style of play, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to stay in your element.
As most players say to beginners, you do not want to get a table tennis rubber past your level of play. But at the same time, you also do not want to get one that will not allow you to improve.
If you have not grasped the basic strokes with the rubber you are using (and it is a fairly decent rubber, with some grip) then it is probably not time to upgrade. When you feel your game is improving and you require more speed and spin, then (and only then) should you try some different rubbers.
It can be from the same brand or from different brands. Realize some brands are more expensive than others and have less beginner and intermediate options available.
The bottom line is that you want to improve your game, not drown it. You want to get a rubber a bit faster and with more spin than you had, but not too much.
Initially, the ball should be bouncing off your rubber like you’re playing on the moon. Although after a few strokes you should get the feel for it and be able to do some light topspins, then carry on with your game after a few practices.
The Friendship 729 rubbers are a popular beginner sheet. The JUIC 999 line has some great intermediate and more advanced rubbers that are probably some of the cheapest out there.
Generally, you want thicker sponge (2.2, Max) on your forehand and one or two less (1.9, 2.0, 2.1) on your backhand. Rubbers also play very differently on different blades, but I’ll leave blades for another post.
I will say, however, that a middleweight blade (about 78-87) is the most promising. A decent blade, probably with a Balsa wood core for better control is good; and medium speed. This will allow you to really feel the upgraded rubbers.
The Importance of Choosing The Right Table Tennis Rubber
After some time, many players look to other types of table tennis rubbers for their rackets. These players want to take their game to the next level. A new table tennis rubber can help the transition. New table tennis rubbers can create more spin or more speed depending on the rubber. However, there are several key elements to changing table tennis rubbers.
First, get another opinion from someone who knows table tennis on what they feel would the best table tennis rubber. Talk to your local table tennis club or ask a player that’s been playing the game for a long time to help you evaluate other table tennis rubber.
The player should be able to see what types of strokes you do the most and help suggest which table tennis rubber suits your style of play.
Style of play makes a huge difference in choosing the right table tennis rubber. In many cases, a forehand stroke is hit differently than a backhand stroke. This can make the decision difficult when choosing the right table tennis rubber.
Some players prefer that the same table tennis rubbers are applied to both sides. There are others who want different table tennis rubbers to compliment their style of play.
Table tennis rubbers can differ between the thickness and hardness. The thicker the table tennis rubber is, the faster the ball bounces off. If you prefer attacking, then this is the table tennis rubber for you. The thinner the table tennis rubber, the more control over the ball you have.
Similarly, the same thing goes for the hardness of the table tennis rubber. The harder the table tennis rubber is, the faster your return shot will be. If you tend to smash the ball or like to drive the ball deep on the table, this would be the table tennis rubber for you. However, players who rely on spin should invest in a softer table tennis rubber.
Your style of play
Before you go into buying a custom paddle, you needed to know your style of play.
As you might expect, a different style of play will require different rubbers. But think of how you use your forehand and backhand. Chances are, they will be different.
Therefore, you will want to buy different rubbers for your forehand and backhand. The above doesn’t always necessarily hold true as well. So if you feel like your stokes are pretty similar on both sides, then you can use the same rubbers.
But ultimately, your style of play will most likely decide the rubbers that you need. Now let’s take a look at the different component of table tennis rubbers and see how it would affect your paddle:
The sponge of your table tennis has a different aspect that needs consideration. This includes the sponge thickness, hardness and density and whether it should be bought with the top sheet or not at all.
The thickness of the sponge determines how fast and how much control your rubber is going to be. A thicker sponge will be faster but in return, it will produce less control than a thinner sponge.
So it’s easy to understand that offensive players will use thicker sponges in general of at least 1.9mm or more. Also, most professional table tennis players tend to use thicker sponge rubber as they re-glue the rubber every time they play for a competitive match. A thicker sponge will absorb more glue than the thinner one and therefore increases the speed glue effect.
The hardness of a sponge also plays an important factor in the speed of the table tennis rubber. So the harder the sponge, the less the ball will sink into the table tennis rubber. Consequently, it will produce less spin than its softer counterpart.
Now if we look into the control aspect, it actually depends more on the type of strokes being used. Ball smashers tend to like harder sponges whereas loopers prefer to the softer sponges for their table tennis rubber.
What if I want to buy the sponge separately from the top sheets?
Some players might look for the perfect combination and will look for any ways to perfectly customize their table tennis paddles. If you are on these players, be warned that not all combinations are legal for competition. But the majority of players will find a rubber suited to their needs by buying the usual table tennis rubber that has the sponge and top sheets joined together.
Play without a table tennis sponge
Yes, this a possibility but you will need to play with pimple-out table tennis rubber. However, it is illegal to use a smooth or inverted rubber without a sponge. Players who choose that route tend to be played defensively. Generally speaking, pimple-out rubbers without sponges can be an effective way of counter-attacking spins.
Let’s move on to top sheets
This is the top surface of your table tennis paddle that sits on the blade. The top sheet is the part that comes in contact with the ball. Just like the sponge, the top sheet will have different factors affecting its performance.
The player can choose to stick with normal table tennis rubber or pimples-out rubber. But to reinforce that it’s quite rare to see new table tennis players starting with pimples-out table tennis rubber.
The tackiness of table tennis rubber is a measure of its grip when the ball is struck. Some rubbers will grip the ball a lot and this usually required the defending player to adjust accordingly with varying degree of difficulty. A good example of table tennis rubber with a lot of grips would be the Friendship 729.
Other table tennis rubber such as the Sriver or Mark-V allows the ball to slide across the surface of the top sheet. We have also discussed previously that pimples-out or anti-spin rubbers will have virtually no resistance at all when the ball is hit.
Generally, the tackier the rubber, the more spin you can generate. However, it suffers from being affected by the opponent’s spin too.
In today’s modern game, most professionals use speed glue to increase the speed and spin produced by their table tennis rubbers. They also prefer using less tacky since it is less affected by the opponents spin while the speed glue increases the speed and spin produced by the sponge itself. If you think about it carefully, this sort of combination gives a player the best of both worlds.
So what is speed glue?
Generally used by advanced players for competitive tournaments, speed glue increases the spin and control of the paddle. However, it is recommended that beginner players should avoid speed glue as they risk of not developing their technique and style of play.
Another point-needed consideration is the price of speed glue. It’s pretty expensive as a matter of fact! Gluing up your table tennis rubber all the time is expensive, and it reduces the rubber’s life span. So unless you are competing at a high level, it’s probably not worth it.
Top sheets thickness
The thickness of the top sheet also varies however it only applies to players who buy their sponge and rubbers separately. If you are going this route, then the combination of the sponge and table tennis rubber is only 4mm. Otherwise, the paddle will be considered as illegal for competition if you want to use it for the purpose of course.
Top sheet hardness
Just like the other factors, this will affect the spin and control on the ball. A hard top sheet will reduce the dwell time and hence give less spin than a softer top sheet.
This is also quite important as you don’t want to end up with a paddle too heavy or too light. As you might already be aware, table tennis rubbers come in different weight too!! So rubbers with very thin or no sponge will tend to be lighter than those with sponges.
If you use speed glue, it will also add to the overall weight of the bat as well. You need to remember that some of the solvent found in the glue will build up as residue over time.
Any other advice I should know before buying my table tennis rubbers?
I think your best bet would be to ask your coach or an expert in table tennis to watch you play. They will be able to better assess your strength and whether you are an offensive or defensive player. If you play for a club get your friend’s opinion too.
Once you have something to work with, check if you can try out some rubbers. It’s easier if you play for a club as you have lots of different players with a varying style of play. You could politely ask to borrow their bat and see how to feel playing with it.
But make sure you try all type of strokes and play a few matches before you make your mind up. Check whether you like the feel of them and how they compare to your old rubbers. Always keep in mind you want rubbers that match your style of play.
Finally, once you have your new table tennis rubbers, give yourself enough time to adjust to them. It can take a few weeks before you adjust properly to the rubbers new characteristics. Hopefully, you will have made the right choice and will play better than ever before!!