Whether you’re playing at the local club or league, or wearing the colours of your country, your table tennis experience begins when you hold the racket for the first time. The right racket doesn’t feel like a foreign object in your hands but an extension of your body.
The question that every player asks themselves is: How do I choose the right racket? Which grip suits be best?
The answer to this question begins with 2 simple questions:
- What level is your playing skill
- What type or player are you: an aggressive one or defensive one?
To begin with, if you’re just starting out, you can look to buy a ready-made racket with the suggestion of your coach or a more experienced player. As you get better and understand your gameplay, you can look at customizing your racket matching different blades which come in different sizes, shapes, weight and material compositions with the right rubber for you.
The International Table Tennis Federation mandates that at least 85% of a blade must be made of natural wood. A composite blade can include materials such as carbon fibre, aralyte, or glass fibre; and this will affect elements such as speed, consistency, ball feel and spin. The optimal blade thickness is from 5.7mm to 6.1mm and the composition includes 5-ply, 7-ply, 9-ply, ALC or ZLC. The number of plies (or layers) of wood also makes a difference. An offensive player would normally favour a higher ply count, while defensive players are the exact opposite. When in doubt, avoid the extremes and take comfort that the differences are hard to feel for all but the most active and experienced players. Carbon fibre is generally used to make the blade harder and therefore faster, as well as enabling the blade to have a larger "sweet spot".
A lighter blade, under 77 grams, is often preferred by players who have a fast game and tend to play close to the top of the table, while heavier blades are used to generate more spin and power.
Rubbers also come in different thickness’ and textures that helps amplify your natural game. For instance thinner rubber will give you more control but less speed as compared to a thicker rubber. A smooth rubber will help negate the effects of spin in a game and rubber with pimple like texture will help you manipulate spin.
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The handlebar also plays an important part in accentuating your game.
Depending on how you hold the racket (pen hold grip or shake hand grip), you would choose a handle bar that is either:
Good for Backhand and Defensive players. Allows for active use of the wrist to flip the bat.
Good for Forehand players. It offers a firm grip on the blade without compromising on the flexibility.
Similar to the flared grip, except with a bump in the centre that fits the shape of your hand.
Good for powerful attacking play. The bat is gripped between the thumb and index finger, similar to holding a pen.