New Poly table tennis ball review
Thanks to my good friend William Henzel I managed to get hold off one of the new poly balls. These balls were handed out after this years ITTF AGM to those that attended the meetings, so finally some of us mere mortals can check out one of these balls.
Well the ball does not look that much different to a normal 3* ball, except for the absence of the logo, which is probably because these are merely samples and not final production balls. Holding the ball up to the light, you can clearly see that there indeed no seam at all, unlike the current balls as pictured below:
Although the sound is not really a big deal, the sound this ball makes is very much like a broken ball, it’s horrible! Since I have not yet broken this ball, I’ll have to wait and see how a broken poly balls sounds.
I checked the measurements of this ball with a vernier at several position of the sphere, and one positive is that the ball is indeed perfectly round, within 0.01mm! Comparing that to the other balls I’ve checked, that’s significantly better, as some of the other varied a little over 0.10mm.
Here are the measurements of 3 balls I tested, all tested on 3 different positions of the sphere:
Poly ball: 40.24, 40.25, 40.24mm
3* ball1: 39.69, 39.72, 39.76mm
3* ball2: 39.56, 39.69, 39.69mm
Looking at the balls side by side, you can tell with the naked eye that it’s bigger. Taking an average of measurement of other 3* balls I had lying around, the new one is about 0.6mm bigger, measuring about 40.25mm.
Assuming that the average size of the current 3* ball is 39.65, and the new one 40.25, then the diameter is only about 1.5% bigger, but if the talk about the cross sectional area, which is the relevant value when calculating drag force, then the area of the 3* ball is 1234.7 mmsq and the area of the new poly ball is 1272.4 mmsq, which is an increase of 3%, which is more significant.
The Bounce test:
Here is my first test, a bounce test to see how the bounce compares to a regular competition ball. The new ball is on the right. What you can see is the initial bounce is not that different, but the plastic ball is slight higher and takes longer to stop bouncing. Video is taken at 120fps, ie. about 1/4 of normal speed.
So at low impact the ball is certainly a little more bouncy… for medium to high impact I’ll have to test it by playing, as a proper test is too much work and not really that valuable anyway.
The real test in play:
Finally I got to try it in real play in a practice session. Well I didn’t like it at all, and I doubt any long pip players or spin based players are going to like it unfortunately.
I didn’t have much trouble adjusting to a regular counter hitting warmup. The ball felt quite a bit more bouncy, but the speed and angle that it came off the bat was pretty similar. The sound is odd… it does indeed sound like a broken ball, but that’s not such big deal. I can’t say the ball felt any heavier… lighter if anything, but mostly just different… you tend to feel it less on you bat.
When I tried to put heavy spin on the ball, it had quite a bit less dip, and my practice partner who normall has trouble keeping those down, had no trouble at all. In other words there was either less spin on the ball, or the ball reacted much less on his bat. When I tried my sidespin loop (hook), which is a shot I greatly enjoy and love to see the curve and kick, I was very disappointed… almost no curve at all, and very little kick! The lack of curve pretty much implies there’s just less spin on the ball.. either I’m generating less or it wears off more quickly…
Blocking with the pips (long pimples OX) against topspin…well the ball bounces higher with less spin reversal… no doubt about it. The extra bounce off the ball made it much harder to keep the ball low and shorter…keeping it low was the biggest problem. Attacking backspin gave me trouble too… there was probably less spin on the ball in the first place, so there was less to reverse, and most of the ball went long. I needed more of a swiping action (which I tend to do against no-spin balls) to keep them on. Similarly with aggressive pushing… either the spin was not there in the first place, or the reversal was not there to bring the ball down. All in all my shots were much less deceptive and effective.
Conclusions (so far):
For my game this is great disappointment, as I rely on heavy spin with my forehand, and controlling the pace and manipulating spin with the BH pips. Both of these are significantly less effective. Sure I might be able to adjust to all this, but it might mean my current ‘style’ is no longer viable at my level, and I might need to adjust my game to be competitive again.
The only style that this ball is likely to benefit is that or short pip hitter… those that hit the balls at the top of the bounce with little spin. The higher bounce is likely to give more opportunities and the lack of spin will likely make it harder to keep the ball low.
The change may not have a great impact on the elite players, who have a good allround game and can make the required adjustments, but the impact on amateur players like most of us here will be greater. I think many of us don’t have a complete allround game which we can adjust with new equipment, but rather have a few big weapons and a few weakness to overcome. If the new ball remove the advantage of our big weapon, the effect will be major, as we may have to acquire a while new set of skills to create another weapon. Of course if the ball change enhances our big weapon we’ll be very happy.
For anyone that may not have seen it yet, here is William Henzel’s video review of the same new balls: