How to choose a table tennis rubber? This is a question we get very often and we hope this guide helps answer it.
Choosing a table tennis rubber is an important process for both new and experienced players. At the end of the day, the rubber you choose will to some extent dictate your overall technique and style of play. Therefore, it is important that you as a player know what to look for in a rubber in order to choose one that suits both your level of experience, and style of play. We have created a guide to help you do just this. We look at the key factors to consider when purchasing your rubber and how to assess these factors so that you can make a well informed decision.
Not all types do the same thing. Some effect your spin differently while others may improve your looping shot. It just depends on the type of game style you are looking for.
Here is the list of the four main types, in no order of preference:
- Inverted rubbers. Also known as “smooth rubber”. this type is the most commonly used, at least 85% of tournament players play with a smooth surface and sponge underneath. Versatile to function for a multitude of different styles of strokes that is good for everyone from powerful attackers to brilliant defenders. Great for putting spin on the ball.
- Subgroups Classifications of Inverted Rubbers: Those with an “offensive” rubber classification will create high levels of speed and spin on powerful strokes. “Glue Effect” rubbers that have greater tension will fall into the offensive category. “All-around” rubbers are geared to more control in your play, and “defensive” rubbers are those that slow the game down and have a greater impact on spin.
- Anti-Spin rubbers. Most players will use this rubber in combination with another on the opposite side. This style of rubber is designed to generate no spin at all. It will neutralize your opponent’s spin and reverse it. Made with a hard topsheet and soft sponge underneath. If you have trouble against spin, this type of rubber will be your new best friend.
- Long Pimple Rubbers. These rubbers are designed with the aim of controlling and manipulating spin on your serve return or attack. Although similar in effect to anti-spin rubbers, this type requires a little more adjustment for ball control. If your opponent has difficulty reading spin, then this rubber will put them at a disadvantage due to its unpredictability. It can however be challenging to play with an offensive style using this rubber. Long pimple rubbers are fantastic for slowing down play against aggressive topspin shots.
- Short Pimple Rubbers, or short pips”, enable fast paced play. If you want to engage in hard shots with quick speed, then this is the rubber type for you. Not much spin is generated using short pips, but they are also less sensitive to spin from your opponent giving you more control. The reason for this comes down to the narrow contact the surface provides on the ball. If you favour close-to-the-table play, all-around play, or a defensive style then short pips may be a good option for you.
Rubber Attributes (Ratings)
The spin rating deals with the revolutions of the ball after contact. Surfaces that provide more grip or surface impact on the ball generate more spin. Spin can cause the ball to go into unexpected directions where your opponent cannot counter. Rubbers with a higher spin rating will have more manipulation on generating and controlling spin, but are also more affected by opponent’s spin so this needs to be taken into account.
Your speed rating gives you an idea of how much velocity can be added to the ball after contact. Offensive style players like topspinners, drivers, loopers, and smashers usually prefer rubber with a high speed rating. However, if you want to be a more defensive player, then you will look for a low speed rating which will provide you with more control. These defensive style players are usually your underspinners, choppers, pushers, and blockers.
The control rating is just like it sounds. Rubbers with higher control ratings allow for easier manipulation of both spin and speed giving you more ability to to play passive, defensive shots. Usually faster or spinnier rubbers are harder to control and are less forgiving. However, control ratings can be more of a selling point due to the difficulty in actually calculating control. Control is based on additional factors other than your rubber’s makeup making it a debatable and somewhat subjective rating. It still can be an indicator of how the rubber will behave, but just remember rubbers with higher grades in spin and speed cannot have high levels of control. If you are a novice player or a defensive player, you should stay away from rubbers with very high spin and/or speed ratings. Using a more balanced rubber will provide you with more control and this is key when starting out.
The sponge is what catches and holds the ball before the wood of the paddle adds force to it. It is the part underneath the skin of your rubber. The hardness and thickness of the sponge that comes with your table tennis rubber has an effect on both spin and speed and is a major factor to consider when purchasing a rubber.
When you see the name of a rubber, like Andro Rasanter R47 Table Tennis Rubber, the number in that name refers to the rubber’s hardness level. A lower number is softer and a higher number is harder. Most table tennis rubbers fall between 30 and 45 degrees. Different numbers have different effects on your spin, speed, and control.
Hardness has the following impact on play:
- Lower hardenss will give you more spin at lower play speeds
- Higher hardness provides more spin at faster speeds
- If you like the “Chinese” style of play, bent elbow while looping, then you want a higher hardness rating
- European style players, bent elbow when looping, usually prefer a lower hardness rating
- Beginners usually prefer a lower rating and will increase their rating as they become more experienced or enter into a professional career.
You may see the hardness rating specified as “sponge density”. This is a parallel rating system with higher density being a harder sponge, and visa versa.
Sponges also have a thickness rating, anywhere from 1.4 to 4.0mm. Thinner sponges give the player better control while thicker ones provide more speed. Some players will have different thicknesses on different sides of their paddle to switch between defensive and offensive strikes. Easy way to remember, thick is offensive while thin is defensive. Loopers will go for thicker and choppers while gravitate towards a thinner sponge. If you are still developing your game or are a defensive player, go for with a thinner option. If you are looking to dominate your opponent through fast aggressive play, you will want a thicker sponge.
Anything more than 2.0mm is considered a thicker sponge. Anything less than this is a thinner sponge.
Chinese Versus Euro Style
Generally, when you see this mentioned in a rubber’s description it all boils down to the rubber’s tackiness and sponge hardness. A Chinese style will have a very tacky, or sticky, topsheet and a hard sponge, while European style trends more to a topsheet with grip, not as much as Chinese, and a softer sponge. Your Euro, and Japanese, style rubbers tend to hold the higher price tag, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are better. It all depends on your style of game play. Professional players will often actually have one style on the forehand side, Chinese, and the another on the backhand side, Euro. They both have a place in the game and at the end of the day, these decisions come down to personal preference and playstyle.
Generally speaking, Chinese rubbers will make it easier to create high levels of spin on serves and pushes and provides better control in the short game. Euro rubbers, with the more lively sponge, allow for better pace control and more ball “feel”.
Euro style require less effort for looping shots that can be done with a more compact stroke. Your Chinese style will give greater rewards on bigger and more powerful strokes due to their superior ability to create spin. Once again, it all goes back to your prefer style of play.
Other Helpful Tips
A couple extra factors to think about when purchasing your rubber are care and longevity. The better you care for your rubber and sponge the longer your rubber will last without any deterioration. Unless you want to pay for a rubber multiple times in a year (based on your rate of play), it is necessary to clean your table tennis rubber during play and after each session. You may want to consider a case or cover for your paddle as well. We have reviewed some of the best options for cases here.
These habits will reduce the amount of dirt, dust, and oil that can accumulate on your rubber’s surface, and reduce the impact of the elements, like heat and humidity. Never store your racket on the inside of your car.
One key factor is maintaining the tackiness of your rubber. We have written an article with some tips on how to do this.
There are also a few handy tools, such as this rubber comparison tool by RacketLab. This tool allows you to find rubbers suited to your level of play, quickly.
With so many rubbers available, it can be challenging to pick the perfect one. Our tips should help focus you more on your preferred style of gameplay and choosing the rubber that best supports it. Remember, you can use different rubbers on different sides, or just try out different types until you find your perfect match. Either way, don’t forget the fundamental points mentioned above.