Table tennis is a game of inches and precision. Players’ games are constantly changing as they adapt to their rivals as well the development of their own skills.
As we develop as players, we start settling on preferred grips, serves, and play styles. Choosing a paddle that suits your playstyle, as well as your technique such as grip, can take your game to another level.
We have crafted the complete table tennis paddle buyer’s guide to help you make the right decision – we hope this provides assistance on how to choose a ping pong paddle.
This article will look at the key components of table tennis paddles, and how they affect performance. We will look at four different factors, namely: Grip, Playstyle, Blade, and Rubber.
Before we get started here, let us say that each of the materials included in a table tennis paddle should be ITTF approved. Meaning that it is legal for competition play.
1 – Grip
Finding a grip that is most comfortable and effective for you is a key decision, as the chances are you’re going to stick with it for the rest of your playing days.
The paddle handle should be a key determinant for you when choosing a paddle, as you should choose a paddle that has a handle that fits your grip.
The standard table tennis grip is the Shakehand grip. This is the typical European-style grip where the head of the paddle faces up, and your hand looks like it’s ready to go in for a handshake. Players using this grip use both the front side and the backside of the paddle. We’ve written a guide on how to grip a ping pong paddle.
The Penhold grip is the Asian-styled grip of holding the paddle. This grip makes the paddle face down and is held in a similar way to a person holding a pen or a pencil.
If you’re using a Shakehand grip, we feel your best bet is the flared handle. It prevents the blade from falling out of your hand, especially for higher-powered shots. Its indented shape allows for great comfort and long sessions.
However, the straight handle grip may also suit your style and may be more comfortable. Straight handle grips can provide a slightly better balance between the head and the handle. The shape also allows for more movement from the wrist, which can benefit spin play.
Overall, choosing a handle that compliments your grip can help you grow in terms of skill and technique, and is one of the first things to look at before you checkout.
2 – Playstyle
Each and every one of us table tennis lovers has a different playstyle. This is our strategy that we use to win points. There are essentially three different types of playstyles. Namely: Aggressive Type, Control Type, and the Defensive Type. We’ll give an overview of each type, and which kind of paddle is suited for the style.
This style of player likes to play from close to the table and try to keep their opponent on the back foot. The aggressive type will usually like to keep the ball on their forehand, as the chances are, this is their most comfortable shot. However, it is still possible to remain positive and attack the backhand.
As an aggressive player, you’re looking for spin and control in a paddle, as this will help you guide your power shots. A heavier paddle will suit this kind of player, as less effort will be required to add more speed. This type of player should look for paddles weighing more than 90 grams.
The control type player is someone who we don’t really enjoy coming up against! They’ll make you work hard for each shot, and will test your range of shots.
The main goal for a control-type player is to just keep the ball in play, and varying factors of spin, speed, and placement. This type of player uses their creative side to plan placements and responses from their opponents.
This kind of player requires a large amount of skill, as accuracy is key. Patience is also a vital trait for this playstyle, as a lot of the time you’re waiting on mistakes made by your rivals.
A paddle with maximum control and spin, with a fair amount of speed, is the ideal paddle for this kind of player. The speed will help in situations where there is a chance to finish off your opponent!
Also, a lighter paddle is ideal for this kind of player, as it helps with control.
The last of the main three player types is the defensive type. Their main strategy is to simply outlast their opponents by returning shots until a mistake is made. We’ve written a piece on the key defensive strokes to master.
This playstyle requires confidence, as you need to feel that you can return anything that comes at you. Placement is also a key skill here, as placing the ball where your rival is weaker will increase the chances of a mistake.
Once again, a paddle with great spin and control is ideal here, so that you can potentially out-smart your opponent through deft touches and sneaky plays. A lighter paddle would also be a better option.
The defensive-style player also needs to be highly skilled at returning balls with high amounts of spin on them.
3 – Blade
This is the wooden composition of the racket, which may have other composite materials such as carbon or zylon.
There are two things to consider when looking at layers of a table tennis paddle. The first is the number of layers in the blade, consisting mainly of wood, but can consist of other elements, such as carbon, which can add to the stiffness of the paddle.
When choosing a paddle, the blade should have at least a 5-ply wood structure. This means that the paddle has a solid base. This also impacts the weight of the paddle, which impacts the way the ball is struck. As the plies go up, the more rigid the paddle becomes, which may not suit certain types of players, such as a defensive player.
Blades have a direct impact on speed, and the equation is pretty simple – the higher the speed in the paddle, the less control in the paddle. The thicker the paddle, the higher the speed will be on the paddle. So, a player looking to increase his/her control should look at a paddle with fewer plies. While a player looking to increase speed should consider a paddle with more plies.
4 – Rubber
Our final key determinant of choosing a paddle is rubber. This is the material on the outermost layer of the paddle. Modern table tennis rubbers are usually composed of two layers, a layer of foam underneath, as well as a layer of actual rubber on the surface – the part that makes contact with the ball.
There are two different types of rubbers, namely: Inverted Rubbers and Pimpled Rubbers. Both of these kinds of rubbers will suit different kinds of players.
These are called inverted because of the rubber pimples, present at the top of the sheet and are facing down towards the sponge layer of the rubber. This means the smooth surface of the rubber is exposed to the ball.
These are split into two categories: Tacky and Anti-spin.
Tacky rubbers are more commonly used for inverted rubbers, as they have a smooth, but sticky surface – ideal for providing spin on the ball. The higher the tackiness in the surface, the more grip and spin available to players.
Anti-spin rubbers do not have much grip and therefore do not generate much spin on the ball. This surface is less tacky and more slippery. The nice thing about this is that it can neutralize and nullify spin put on by your opponent, meaning you’ll be able to control your shot, even if the opponent has put a lot of spin on his/her shot.
Anti-spin rubbers are also great for slowing down the ball, meaning you can buy yourself time to position yourself for the next shot.
There are two kinds of pimpled rubbers – the short pimples, and the long pimples.
Short pimples are broad and slightly sticky pimples. They have a sense of tackiness to them, which means spin can be applied to shots, however, they don’t grip as well as the tacky inverted rubber. This is because there is less amount of rubber on the ball at contact.
Short-pips are less affected by the spin on incoming balls, which makes it great for smashing and counter-attacking shots.
Long pimples are the opposite of short pips. They have longer pimples, and are great for defensive-minded players, as these longer pimples tend to slow down the ball on impact.
These longer pimples also have the capability of adding unpredictable spin, leading to confusion for your rivals. Overall, longer pimples provide players with more control, and a greater ability to spin the ball.
There are many factors to consider when upgrading table tennis paddles. We feel that Grip, Playstyle, Blade, and Rubber should be your starting points when it comes to picking a paddle that will improve your game.
We’ve reviewed some of our favorite ping pong paddles here – these paddles range from all skill levels and many different price ranges.
If you’re a more advanced or experienced player, you may be more interested in building your own racket with custom rubbers and a blade. RacketLab offers a tool where you can filter through rubbers and blades that fit your playstyle and playing level.