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PostPosted: 09 Dec 2013, 02:59 
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All these coaches claim thicker sponge has less control. I say B.S. In my experience max sponges have a bigger arc and better control than thinner sponges. This was verified on Debater's video. The fact is thinner sponges go long more often when hit hard.

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What is the effect of sponge thickness in table tennis rubber? Is it the same for anti/long pips rubber as for smooth rubber?

Answer by: Stellan Bengtsson, Only player to have won singles, doubles and teams at both the Worlds and Europe Championships. 67 International singles, doubles and team titles. Coached Jorgen Persson, JO Waldner, Peter Karlsson and Erik Lindh, all World and Europe Champions.

The thicker the sponge the faster the ball speed. The density of the sponge also has an effect. Thicker means faster, the ball doesn’t stay as long on the racket. That means less control and more speed.
For anti it is about the same, thicker means more offensive and more effect.
For long pips thicker means less control but more effect.

Answer by: Massimo Constantini, ICC Head Coach, ITTF High Performance Coach

The effect of sponge thickness is related to spin, speed, and control, the 3 basic areas in table tennis. Every player, every day must deal with these 3 areas. With some exceptions, these principles can be applied to all kinds of rubbers.

A thin sponge gives better control (block and push) and less speed than a thick sponge. The spin created by a thin sponge can suit a player whose style matches up well with the attributes of a thin sponge.

A thicker sponge will have less control (block and push) but will enhance good speed and spin. A very thick sponge will give a lot of speed and spin and reduce control for a simple reason: the rubber is more elastic so to allow the ball to penetrate the sponge and create a spring like effect.

Whatever spin you impart, the thicker sponge will accentuate it, making it more effective. Naturally, playing with this kind of sponge, you have to deal with the control issue, which is the most important issue in table tennis.

Answer by: Jasna Rather, Texas Wesleyan University Coach

Sponge thickness allows a player to play certain styles easier. For example, loopers prefer thicker sponge (from 2.1 to MAX). Overall players that play at a high level prefer 2.0 to 2.2, defensive players require thinner sponge. Recreational players also prefer thinner sponge because the ball doesn’t bounce out of control.

For long pips it also plays an important role because the thicker the sponge, the nastier the ball comes to the opponent. On the other hand, it is much more difficult to play with and it will take longer to master the consistency. Thinner sponge doesn’t create as much spin and zigzag as thicker sponge.

Answer by: Samson Dubina, Rated 2461, 2009 US Men’s National Finalist

Thicker sponge gives more of a trampoline effect producing more speed and spin. Most offensive players use sponge that is at least 2.0mm. Thinner sponge gives more control and feels harder because the ball sinks deeper to the wood. Many defensive players use sponge that is 1.0-2.0mm.

Another factor to consider is the weight. For senior citizens, kids, and all beginners, I recommend a light racket. Having 1.0-2.0mm sponge will help keep the racket light.

Anti/long pips rubbers are not grippy and therefore give spin reversal. By having sponge, the anti/long pips will grip the ball more and give less reversal. For the nastiest block with spin reversal, I suggest to use no sponge or very thin sponge. For the mid to long distance chopper, I suggest using 1.5mm sponge to give more speed to the ball. From fifteen feet away from the table, the racket must have some speed to carry the ball back to the table. Although it will have less spin reversal, it will be able to produce more spin on its own and will be more consistent from that distance.

Thicker sponge is faster
Thicker sponge is spinier
Thicker sponge has less control
Thicker sponge is heavier
Thicker sponge gives less reversal on anti/long pips
Thicker sponge gives more of its own spin on anti/long pips

Answer by: Tahl Leibovitz, USATT National Coach and Paralympic Gold Medalist

The thinner the rubber, the more spin you can make but at the same time you will have less speed. Players often have trouble deciding between using 2.3 or 2.0 rubber. You have to decide if you win points more with speed or spin. You also need to know that sometimes a ball with less spin and more speed can be effective. However it is always better to have a combination of both speed and spin in your attacks. I like using the 2.3 rubber because when I block, the ball comes back faster at the opponent and I am able to generate a better first opening ball. If you tend to smash more, 2.0 might be the way to go.

If you are using long pips I would recommend using no sponge or a very spinny sponge to get the maximum effect. However if you tend to attack with long pips you might want to use a 1.3 sponge. Just remember that the thinner the sponge when using long pips or anti the better the deception your opponent will have to deal with. Also remember that when it comes to anti or long pips the thinner the sponge, the more difficult it will be to attack.

Answer by: Scott Lurty, Rating 2328, SPIN New York Coach

For sponge thickness, the thicker the sponge for inverted and short pips the more spin and speed you can produce. With a thinner sponge you get more of a direct feeling, lighter weight, and a reduction in speed and spin which can be seen as a form of control.

Answer by: Sara Fu, Texas Wesleyan University Team, 2011 NCTTA Women’s Singles Champion and Mixed Doubles Champion, Rated 2437.

Normally, thicker sponges are faster but they have less control and spin. Thinner sponges are slower, but they are much easier to control the ball and they can produce more spin and the ball feels more solid than thinner sponges. For pips, thinner sponge is definitely better because they can easily create various spins to confuse the opponent.

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PostPosted: 09 Dec 2013, 05:05 
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I've been thinking this for years.

The reason why most hardbat players prefer a slow blade is because without sponge, the ball becomes incredibly hard to control with an offensive blade; it's just not on the paddle long enough with today's ball speeds to generate enough spin to keep the ball on the table.

With lots of sponge, even though the rubber will technically be faster, the ball will dig in nice and deep and have plenty of topspin to drop down on the table; this is especially true for blocking. With hardbat, a slow blade is almost a prerequisite for being able to block effectively since there is no sponge to keep the opponent's topspin and drop the ball.

Of course, there is more that goes into the discussion, such as spin reversal, chopping, and OX rubbers technically being slower (albeit they risk going long with lack of topspin), but having more sponge most definitely makes the ball easier to mold into whatever spin you want it to have, with an emphasis on the ability to generate and continue topspin in an arc.

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PostPosted: 09 Dec 2013, 06:46 
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Are touch shots and drop shots easier or harder with thicker sponge or thinner (or no) sponge? To me the answer to this question has something to do with what is referred to as "control".

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PostPosted: 09 Dec 2013, 06:50 
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Yes that is the trouble... control is never really defined. For the short game or for pushing/chopping I find it quite a bit easier to control with a thin sponge, but for looping, if the sponge is too thin it will bottom out, giving you speed with less spin => less control.

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PostPosted: 09 Dec 2013, 07:01 
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I do all my touch shots with OX long pips. However when it comes to blocking or driving or smashing the ball I have much better results with MAX sponge - not because of speed, but because of less errors. The ball comes down and doesn't go long anywhere near as often.

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PostPosted: 09 Dec 2013, 08:48 
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mynamenotbob wrote:
I do all my touch shots with OX long pips. However when it comes to blocking or driving or smashing the ball I have much better results with MAX sponge - not because of speed, but because of less errors. The ball comes down and doesn't go long anywhere near as often.


However, when driving and smashing the ball with OX and it hits, it can be quite deadly due to the trajectory, but there are bound to be more errors in the process.

It's also much easier to make drop-shots and return spinny serves with OX or thinner sponge, for what it's worth. I personally think it's easier to chop with OX as well, but I'm not the best chopper in the world to back up this claim.

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PostPosted: 09 Dec 2013, 11:47 
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With a thin sponge, I have little control on loops, mush less than a max rubber. I would venture that the control with a thin sponge is for shots requiring less impact, since there is less rebound and hence more control or easier to control.

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PostPosted: 09 Dec 2013, 13:27 
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mynamenotbob wrote:
I do all my touch shots with OX long pips. However when it comes to blocking or driving or smashing the ball I have much better results with MAX sponge - not because of speed, but because of less errors. The ball comes down and doesn't go long anywhere near as often.


MNNB you outweigh me in skill and experience I'm sure, but, I would have to add to what everyone else has said and point out that slower means more controllable for me. Slower for me means no sponge for the LP side and I'm sure it bottoms out at a certain impact speed. That critical speed added with arm movement is gonning to be slower overall compared to a thicker sponge which means more mass. On the other hand if you keep your arm still or you do one of those "stop blocks", a thicker sponge probably will absorb the incoming kinetic energy/momentum.

Also, I find that returning fast topspin serves with thicker sponge, the returns just fly off even if I use long pips.

But for attacking, I agree that I need more sponge for hitting and going-over-the-ball type strokes...so I guess control means different things when considering attack and defence.

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PostPosted: 10 Dec 2013, 04:14 
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Well it depends on the shot. I have more control with thin sponge for pushes, blocks, and chops. I have more control with thick sponge for looping, lobbing and hitting.


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PostPosted: 10 Dec 2013, 04:16 
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vanjr wrote:
Well it depends on the shot. I have more control with thin sponge for pushes, blocks, and chops. I have more control with thick sponge for looping, lobbing and hitting.


Agree completely. I think "control" means the extent to which I get meaningful feedback as I play the shot. For delicate shots, the thinner the sponge, the better control. If it's a more flamboyant shot, I tend to feel better control with more sponge.

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PostPosted: 10 Dec 2013, 07:50 
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For me, the more spin I have, the more control I have over the ball.

Don't long pips offer less control over the ball's behavior than a spinny inverted?

Although this is not the kind of control they are referring to, it illustrates something: IF you read the opponent's spin properly and IF you know how to deal with it, then more spin capability will offer more control because you literally are controlling the ball more.

During this post, I am writing about a topspin shot, not a chop.

When considering control, there are 3 main variables to consider:

Variable A: You reading of the spin and speed created by opponent.

Variable B: Your technique/footwork/consistency.

Variable C: Your own equipment's speed and spin capabilities.

Equipment does not affect your technique/footwork, etc., other than you have to adjust it for your particular equipment. It is not variable in a game, though. We shall assume that you know your own equipment, so Variable B is undiscussed for the moment.

Thick sponge maximizes variable C, your speed and spin capabilities. However, it also makes variable A far more demanding and difficult.

Thin sponged rubbers (And long pips...this discussion could actually relate to long pips, anti, short pips, and the like, but this discussion is not currently about that.) effectively increase variable A by reducing its importance as related to ball control. They do this at a loss of variable C.

For some people, their variable A is low enough that using thin sponge rubbers helps their game by offering more net control. However, as a player develops, variable A, which is directed by the opponent, should become stronger and he should look for ways to maximize variable C. Once he does this, he has MUCH more control than before.

To summarize this, a player who does not read and adjust to spin as well might gain a bit of control with thinner sponged rubbers, but once he can deal with the opponent's spin, thicker sponged rubber will offer him more control.

This is why loops can go off the end of the table more with thinner sponges. The less spinny rubbers simply don't offer the control over the ball necessary to successfully complete the shot.

For myself, I find spinnier rubbers to offer more control. I am not an excellent player (yet), but I can generally read and react to spin decently.

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PostPosted: 10 Dec 2013, 09:44 
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PostPosted: 10 Dec 2013, 17:00 
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In general, thicker sponge means you can transfer more energy to the ball, and the incoming energy is also better preserved. This is good for control, or bad, depending on who you are asking.

A simplified perspective:
  • An offensive player will want max energy in his strokes, and focuses on the ability to use a sufficient amount of that energy to impart spin. With spin you can control the trajectory of the ball even at high speed. Sponge is good! You are in control.
  • A defender will often want to be in "total control" of the energy, so some energy absorbing feature is useful. Thinner sponge yields a less elastic impact, which translates to the ball having less kinetic energy after the stroke. With lower speed you can control placement better. Less sponge is good! You are in control.
  • A beginner does not have the ability to control the energy, so in the initial learning phase, thinner sponge is also good. You have some control.

Even though those three groups may have different opinions about what is good for control, they can all be right, and truthful.
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PostPosted: 11 Dec 2013, 14:02 
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While it is the "conventional wisdom", it doesn't make it true that thin sponge has more control, whatever that "control" means. (I always ask, control of what?) One thing I suspect is true is that a lot of coaches, probably including some of the ones quoted by the original poster have rarely if ever actually compared the same rubbers in, say, 2.1 mm vs 1.9 mm to see for themselves! After all, they are good players. I know of essentially no modern offensively oriented good players who use anything less than the thickest rubber they can buy. It sounds like it should be true, so, well that must make it true. So they repeat the conventional wisdom.

And lit might be true. But my guess is that it very much depends on what shot you are trying to play, and there are certain shots where the thicker sponge will make it more likely that your intention will actually be realized on the shot, and some shots where thinner is better. I am perfectly willing to believe that defenders do better with thinner rubbers because I have seen it quite a bit.

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PostPosted: 11 Dec 2013, 19:27 
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I think keme summed it up nicely. In general I think for beginners thinner sponge means more control. However another way of looking at it is this: thinner sponge means longer contact with the ball so more control but also more time to do something wrong. Thicker sponge means less contact time so you hit the ball right or wrong, not much margin to correct your stroke.

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