By Averlynn Lim
The Chinese may be the most dominant table tennis players in the world today, but did you know that the sport first originated in England during the 1880s?
Back then, British military officers would use books as paddles, while golf balls were hit back and forth on any form of table they could find.
Soon, table tennis was played with paddles made out of cigar box lids connected to wooden blades; finally evolving until E.C. Goode, in 1901, invented the modern version of the racket – by fixing a sheet of pimpled, or stippled, rubber to the blade.
For many casual players today, a ready-made bat is more than suitable for a recreational game with your friends. However, if you want to take your game to the next level, a customised racket can make the difference between being a ping-pong pauper or prince.
Step One: Purchase Your Blade And Rubber Separately
By purchasing the blade and the rubber separately, you gain a lot of control over the specifications and details of your racket. If you purchase a blade and a rubber together, you may find it difficult to find a blade-rubber combination that will suit your playing style.
Step Two: Picking A Blade
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.
Carbon fibre, for instance, is generally used to make the blade harder and therefore faster, as well as enabling the blade to have a larger "sweet spot".
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.
The weight of the blade is another factor. 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.
Finally, there are different types of handles for a blade. The most common handles are:
Photo Credit: Sportsjam.in
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 Backhand and Defensive players. Allows for active use of the wrist to flip the bat.
Good for powerful attacking play. The bat is gripped between the thumb and index finger, similar to holding a pen.
Step Three: Choosing The Rubber
Rubber thickness affects spin, speed and control of the ball. There are basically two types of thickness:
1. Thin sponge (less than 2.0mm): for better control, but less speed.
2. Thick sponge (2.1mm and above): for more spin, but less control.
Don’t forget that you will need two sheets of Rubbers for both sides of your bat and they will need to be trimmed individually to the size of your chosen blade.
Photo Credit: tabletennis.about.com
Table tennis rubbers tend to deteriorate with age, so you'll need to replace them at regular intervals.
Step Four: Care For Your Racket
The first thing to do is to buy a good quality racket case (sometimes referred to as a racket cover) to store it in. This will keep it safe from damage such as liquid spills, dirt and sunlight.
A cleaning and maintenance regime is also recommended to keep your racket in good condition. Just a good wipe with plain water from time-to-time will do the trick, as regulations now prohibit chemicals or other forms of treatments for in-competition rackets.
Step Five: Know Where To Buy
Ready-made table tennis rackets can be bought at all good sporting good stores. For customised bats, try hunting at Queensway shopping centre or online for a variety of brands and types.
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