A while ago I promised Alex I’d write something positive about the Galaxy Pluto, since we both felt it should by rights be back on the ITTF list of approved racket-coverings. I had to put off writing for a time, however; and now, taking it up again, for two reasons I’d like to do something more than just a rubber-review. The first reason is that playing with the Pluto I was reminded of the fact (which has been mentioned on the forum before) that the rubber is very useful for close to the table attacking styles. A number of female players (like Song Ah Sim) is using fast medium pips successfully in combination with short pips and it may be that this kind of rubber will become more popular – also with manufacturers, for some new items have hit the market lately. The second reason is that because of experiences attributable to advancing age (yeah, right, that means I’m irritated because I’m getting older and slower
) I was led to try out a milder paced
medium pip in a penholder style aiming for control and counter-attack, like Gao Jun’s. It surprised me how well this worked. So this is an attempt to describe the virtues of medium pips and indicate how they can be used.
For those who are unfamiliar with them: medium pips are short pips with long pips’ characteristics; generally, they are faster than long pips and reverse spin better than short pips. Attacking with short pips you may run into the problem that on a shot which should win you the point the ball is returned, because even high speed does not always suffice to make the kill and with most short pips you cannot produce the amount of topspin that would make the ball difficult enough. A hit with medium pips, however, will very likely result in a ball that cannot be blocked (or will go low into the net) because of its backspin; to be returned, it has to be lifted, that is, slow looped, which will make it even more attackable. So medium pips are very fine for finishing off a rally. But spin-reversal also has its downside: it is much more difficult to land a fast ball on the table with medium pips than it is with short pips. With short pips you can use topspin on the very fast shots to bring the ball down somewhat; with medium pips generating topspin is virtually impossible – you simply have to hit straight. As for blocking, with short pips this is very effective, but with medium pips your block will be even more dangerous because of the spin-reversal. Yet with this, too, there is a downside - you have to be careful what you do, because a fast topspin ball which is blocked passively will turn into a fast backspin ball and float over the table instead of land on it. All in all, then, medium pips are useful but you must take care that you won’t let them work against you.
The Galaxy Pluto is a fast medium pip on a soft sponge, so it is not really a blockers’ pip, but almost perfect for quick attack close to the table. Although Galaxy maintains it is a spinny pip, I haven’t found that to be true; generating topspin as you would with a short pip, rubbing the backside of the ball fast, doesn’t work well with this rubber. A thick sponge (over 2.0 mm, I guess) will probably allow producing some topspin this way, but the 1.3 mm and 1.8 mm I used did not. Actually, close to the table this is partly an advantage, because spin-reversal is better with non-spinny pips. With the 1.8 mm I found I could hit balls flat if they were high enough, but I had to flip or roll balls that bounced low and carried a lot of topspin. Because the Pluto is so fast, it was difficult to land those balls on the table; rolling and flipping the bat had to go mostly upward, or the ball would go into the net; when I wanted to flip or roll a fast one, the ball tended to go over the table. I found the rubber difficult to control in this respect. Pushing against heavy backspin with the Pluto you will produce topspin, which is fun until your opponent becomes aware of this fact and starts to attack; pushing short or even half-long proved to be rather difficult because the rubber is so fast, so in the end I tried to avoid it. The kind of play that worked best consisted of blocking, flipping and rolling concentrating on accurate placement with low incoming balls, and instantly hit flat and hard the higher ones. It meant taking almost every ball before the top of the bounce and that is great if you want to put your opponent under pressure, but it did the same thing to me! I found it hard to keep up that pace for a whole match. I’d say this rubber is for the young and adroit
If you are currently playing a two-winged short pips style, you might consider trying the Pluto as a replacement for one of your rubbers. Even if you can’t, at the moment, use it legally in competition, the rubber is cheap and it would give you an idea of what is possible with fast medium pips. Technically, playing with medium pips resembles attacking with long pips, but at a far higher speed; you need to play with the face of the bat almost vertical, sometimes really vertical or slightly open (with rolls or flips against backspin), but if you are used to playing with not too spinny short pips, the transition shouldn’t pose much of a problem. I wouldn’t recommend the Pluto for a single-sided penholder style, though, since it is not a rubber you can serve well with. The limitations for play over the table (the rubber is not spinny enough and maybe too fast there) would, I think, also indicate use for shakehand attacking styles.
After playing with the Pluto, being out of breath, I came to wonder if a medium pip would actually be useful in a single-sided penhold style. It couldn’t be an all-out attack style. But perhaps all-round, or control & counter-attack? Since the Pluto’s limitations lie in its speed and its non-spinny topsheet, I thought I’d try something slower and spinnier. I decided on a Meteor 575, 1.5 mm, and glued it on a simple all-round C-pen frame (Friendship 6040 ALL; a hard, rather fast all-round blade). I was in for a surprise. The 575 is rated 70 for speed, 80 for spin (but you have to realize that this is a rating for medium pips; compared to inverted the spin would be less than 60), and 94 for control, which made me expect a slow, rather tame rubber. It is not! Despite its spin-rate it reverses spin pretty well; heavy backspin will come off fast pushes as heavy topspin and any topspin will come off passive blocks as backspin. Taking the speed off the ball is easy, but smashing a low ball very fast is easy as well (perhaps the 1.5 mm sponge has to do with this – it is hard, about 48 degrees; and in this thickness the speed of the hard frame will be put on the ball when you hit flat). The 575’s control is fabulous; you can place any ball whatsoever with pinpoint accuracy. Blocking on the left I could vary speed and spin (from topspin to no-spin to backspin) as much as I wanted, which is essential in getting control in a rally. Pushes could be kept low and slow, or could be done deep and fast. A backhand drive or smash in the traditional way weren’t a problem either. Forehand flips and rolls were easy. I had played a tournament some days before, using alternately a shakehand and a penhold frame, both of them with pips-out rubbers, and the latter with a Friendship 802 in 1.5 mm; I did pretty well, but in hindsight I would have loved to use the Meteor for it. A smashed ball simply will not come back or be looped so slow and high that you can go on smashing until you’ve won the point. I guess this kind of rubber is not for most of the young and the quick, who will prefer the much higher pace which is possible with a short pip; but for – let us say – the experienced player (yes, yes, I mean for the old and grumpy) this Meteor medium pip is a delight.