The new plastic ball: how about technical or tactical adaptions?
In some cases he is already on duty, in other cases players did not even had the chance to see a single ball: it is the new plastic ball! We are talking about a modification in our sport which is not automatically an alteration of the basic rules (plastic ball are allowed since many years). It is more a necessary step to make sure that table tennis can survive the next years. Celluloid is connected with problems in production, handling, transport and storage. Plastic comes along with so many advantages that a change to this new material is absolutely necessary.
As I am not an expert in these affairs, I would prefer to report you from my first experiences with the new plastic ball in order to take away the fear of bigger changes in our sport.
The sound of the new ball is almost identically to the sound of the celluloid ball, the ball feedback provided by the racket is the same, there is a little bit less spin arriving on the other side of the table and the ball bounce is slightly different from time to time. After a short time of acclimatization these points should not cause any trouble any more to you.
As we still have many celluloid balls in our regional training group and our younger players are not playing in official events with the plastic ball, we are still training with the celluloid balls sometimes. Of course sometimes balls get mixed up but what can I say: the kids do not feel a difference at all. This is surely a good sign.
Also for the players of the German Bundesliga this is not a big issue any more: “After five weeks of practicing with the new plastic balls it feels as if there is no difference to the balls we used in the past.” This is what my players tell me.
However during several matches in the German Bundesliga and when observing our more experienced regional talents I have seen some special changes and new skills that I would like to inform you about:
- Long returns are now played with more speed and power. Even the so called “banana”-backhand flick is often played with more speed instead of spin. This seems to be more effective.
- During passive playing situations simple blocks are not enough any more. It is too easy nowadays to play harder second and third topspins. This means that block variations, spin blocks and counter spins but as a minimum a good ball placement is becoming more important today!
Before the plastic ball was invented many players expected that table tennis would have higher physical demands in the future. Indirectly you can assume this from reading the two points above. All in all I think that the sport has not changed so much at all. The development of table tennis goes on and on and on anyway and even the „banana“ flick has brought more tactical and technical changes into table tennis compared to the plastic ball.
And let me say it as it is: players who have been good athletes before, will also be in the future successful. That is for sure! ;-)
All the best