The table tennis racket (also called as bats, blades or paddles) is made of a wooden blade coated with rubber on one or both sides, based on the grip of the player. However, all the modern table tennis rackets normally have one or more carbon layers within them to provide the players with a higher margin of error so that they would be able to execute more powerful shots. Materials like Kevlar, titanium, arylate, aramid and aluminium are incorporated in modern table tennis rackets.
The table tennis rackets generally contain a coating of pimpled rubber, with the pimples turned outwards. However, certain rackets may contain rubber composed from two materials, a sponge layer, covered by a pimpled rubber. The pimples may point either inwards or outwards. Rackets without rubber coating known as ‘naked’ rackets have been banned by ITTF and they cannot be used in competitions. ITTF has also approved only certain types of rubber that can be used on the rackets and other types of rubber are not approved. The approved rubbers will have the ITTF emblem on the base of the rubber. Even though there are several table tennis racket manufacturers all over the world, Butterfly, Joola and Stiga are the most preferred manufacturers.
Players have the freedom to choose and vary the rubber sheets on their rackets. Most of the top ranking players have their own customized rackets that suit their particular style of play. The type of wood and the rubber layers provide either a slower or a faster racket. The different types of rubber sheets and their composition enable the player to achieve levels of spin, speed and other specific playing characteristics that are individual to that particular player.
A sheet of rubber is glued to the racket by using rubber cement. This rubber is used until it wears out or becomes damaged. Since the 1980s, a new technology has emerged, where the player uses special glue known as speed glue, which is applied to fix the rubber before every match. This glue helps provide more spin and speed and is called ‘regluing.’ This technique has become the standard for most of the top players in recent years.
Different types of rubber sheets like non-Chinese inverted rubber sheets, Chinese inverted rubber sheets, short pimples, long pimples, anti-spin, etc. are used to manufacture player-specific rackets. The non-Chinese rubber provides a smooth surface, with the pimples facing inwards, so that high levels of speed and spin can be generated. With these types of rackets, the spin is generated both by the top sheet as well as the sponge into which the ball sinks, so that more surface area comes into contact with the ball. The Chinese inverted rubber has stickier topsheets, with the sponge relatively more condensed and firmer. This enables the players to generate more power and play a faster and shorter game.
The short pimples rubber rackets are used by players like Liu Guoliang, who prefer playing close to the table and hit and chop the ball. These types of rackets do not generate much spin compared to inverted rubber but provides more protection against the spin generated by the opponent. Long pimples rubber usually has long and soft pips. This enables the player to use the spin of the opponent itself to upset the rhythm of the opponent, as the pips slide and bend on impact. Anti-spin rubber is also like the long pimples rubber but has a low fiction coefficient and the player can produce a no-spin ball. However, this is not very widely used at international levels.