How to Buy a Table Tennis Bat
I have played local league table tennis for nearly forty years (I just realised). Yet I remember being a beginner almost as though it was yesterday. If you are lucky, anyone who provides a table also makes bats available: but they are usually cheap, basic things. Such bats are often pimpled-out with no sponge. Or they are reversed but lifeless.
Any self respecting Table Tennis Player has to have his or her own bat. (From now on, “he” also means “she”). In fact I now own ten bats! I love to play in various styles, and my bats enable me to do so.
Let me cut to the chase. Table Tennis is mainly about either imparting lots of spin on the ball, or pretending to do so. The Player does this, of course, through skill. However, his choice of rubber is crucial.
The difficult thing here is not to name brands. I will do my best. However, I have to say that most of my equipment is bought online at Tees Sport or Jarvis Sports. I believe these remain the leading outlets, but of course there are other very good ones. Sports shops seem to have stopped selling “expensive” bats a long time ago. (Are they fashion retailers now?).
Any decent equipment seller will give you details of their blades and rubbers. How fast or slow, what they are made of (e.g. wood or carbon fibre blades), the shape of the bat-handle, and so on. How accurate these descriptions are is debatable. For rubbers, speed and “spinniness” are crucial, and they often give rubbers marks out of ten on these factors. But how do they decide how much speed or spin? Some advanced scientific test? I’ve heard that some top players have a “knock” with them and rate them!
Blades as such are not crucial. Carbon-fibre blades are generally faster than wood, but much more expensive. There are three shapes of handle: straight, flared and the fancier anatomic. Flared is a V shape to me. Anatomic has womanly curves. Nuff Said. It’s rubbers that count.
I mainly use Butterfly Sriver L medium-thickness sponge. A fast, spinny rubber but no way the fastest or spiniest. Tees Sport will show you which rubbers are now the fastest etc. Incidentally, I read that red rubber is slightly faster than black. The thicker the sponge, the faster the rubber, but also the heavier. I do not like a heavy bat so...
Then off course there are “dead” and “effect” rubbers. Anti-loop rubber is very slow and takes the speed and spin out of your opponent’s shot. “Spoiler” players love to block with anti-loop as it comes back dead and slightly “chopped” (backspin).
Long pimples (or “funny rubbers”) actually give you your own spin back. If you play chop, you get topspin back even when your opponent uses a backspin slice stroke. It can be murder to play against. Clearly you only buy anti-loop or long pimples if you find that you are adept at using such specialised rubbers. Basically you cannot impart spin with such rubbers, so using one would effectively prevent a new player from developing his spin-play. I occasionally use long pimples, mainly on my backhand, but I find they restrict my own attacking play, my backhand being my best offensive stroke.
It goes without saying that today most rubbers are Reversed with pimples in. Pimples out rubbers are classed as long or “short”. Those old-fashioned no-sponge “hard bats” are short pimpled (out). You can buy short pimples with sponge too, giving better control and a “skimmy” awkward block. Short pimples are good for defensively chopping away from the table (especially without sponge) and I find long pimples even better for this.
It is all swings and roundabouts really. A faster bat gives you more attacking potency but less control. A slower rubber provides more control and spin (as it hugs the ball more) but less offensive penetration. Heavier blades give more power but less “handspeed”. Long pimples can bamboozle opponents but also yourself to some extent. You need the right “balance” overall.
It looks like the use of fast-glue for (great) extra speed has been compromised by recent ITTF rule changes. So, in the main what Tees Sport et al says is what you get. However, you cannot beat just trying out a rubber. Sometimes sellers will set up their stalls at tournaments... Otherwise all you can do is “read what it says on the tin”. Table Tennis is at least one of the most technical of sports. Equipment choice, especially right rubber, is crucial. I hope you find this a useful introduction, especially as bats are seldom cheap.