An article by Achim Rendler, owner and designer of Re-Impact blades, about the use of Re-Impact blades with the new Plastic 40+ balls.
The advantages of Re Impact blades for the 40+ ball
The properties of the 40+ ball lead to changes in the game, as could be seen in e.g. the European Games in Baku. Mainly the four following (interacting) properties change the game and make it more complex than before.
1: the new ball is slightly slower, basically allowing players more time for their returns; as a consequence, even professionals will seldom win the point by speed alone any more. Speed as, since the 1980s, the #1 factor for winning the point, has become less important than placement and spin. Some players have decided to adapt to this by changing to even faster equipment, but faster blades and rubbers now cause new problems in the new close to the table game with the 40+ ball.
2: it is also slightly harder to load the new ball with spin; with conventional blades one needs a longer arm movement and more power for it. But faster blades or rubbers do not avail here – only blades that are capable to produce topspin with a shorter movement. Especially close to the table it is now harder to make quickly topspin, for even if the new ball is slightly slower than the old one, rallies are still too quick to allow the longer arm movement that is now required. This is why in Baku, much more often than before, many players returned fast loops by blocking the ball when playing close to the table. Here, faster blades and rubbers in particular are disadvantageous, for they make it much harder to get the balls on the table. As an alternative, players will play away from the table to be able to play loop to loop rallies. Loop to loop rallies away from the table are easier (but of course for both players) and continue for longer than before, because the new ball bounces higher. Thus, the ability to control the ball now decides who will win the point in these rallies and the player with the fastest blade (and therefore the lowest control) will seldom have the advantage any more.
3: the new ball also retains its rotation longer. This makes blocking spinny balls close to the table much harder, but play with heavy topspin and backspin away from the table easier and more effective than before. In Baku, the problems even professional players now have with blocking strong topspin were obvious! Blocking, hitherto considered a simple and harmless return, as become clearly more important with the new ball. Also, making mistakes against defenders has become more frequent.
4: the new ball has a slower bounce; it comes slower off the table towards the player who has to return it and generally bounces higher, as has been remarked already. This means over the table play has become more important.
Top players like Vladimir Samsonov have decided they would not use a faster blade for the new ball, but actually a slower one, with better control. And in Baku it could be seen that technically gifted all-round players, like the members of the French men’s team, who do not centre their game around speed, but around spin-variation and placement, now are much more successful than before. But even these players are frequently forced to back away from the table.
In contrast to conventional blades, however, the properties of Re Impact blades enable play close to the table, and especially with the new ball even more successful than before. Because of this fact they are an interesting alternative for players who, even with the 40+ ball, do not want (or are unable) to play away from the table.
1: Re Impact blades are easier to make speed with than conventional blades and with the slower ball this is an important advantage close to and over the table, for it enables a player to still win the point with speed alone. But, also in decisive contrast with conventional blades, this does not mean that blocking becomes much more difficult and risky with fast and spinny balls with them, for Re Impact blades are at the same time capable of effectively taking the speed off the ball. They dampen well and accelerate well! This combination of acceleration and dampening is of much more importance with the 40+ ball.
2: with many Re Impact blades it is also easier to produce spin; this allows re-looping loops at the table. Especially with Re Impact active blades one makes more spin with a shorter arm movement, according to the modern table tennis lore, where conventional blades require a longer arm movement. This is also an important advantage with the new ball for players who want or have to play close to the table.
3: Re Impact blades block much better than conventional blades – they not only control the speed better (as was mentioned above) but they are also much less sensitive to incoming spin. An effective blocking game is, therefore, in fact much easier with Re Impact blades than with conventional ones.
4: Re Impact blades are much more light-weight and have accordingly better aerodynamic properties than conventional blades. With them one is able to get easier and more accurately to the new ball, close to and over the able, even when the ball will suddenly “hold up”.
Re Impact blades, then, and especially the active models, offer only advantages over conventional blades and with the new 40+ ball these advantages are even more important than before, as for the 4 essentially new properties of the 40+ ball that change the game fundamentally, Re Impact blades possess playing parameters that effectively fit those new properties, in contrast to conventional blades. This of course also means that Re Impact active blades offer less advantages when played away from the table, where conventional blades generally work better. But there are already models, like Smart and Rapier 44, with a classic design (e.g. with Mahogany for outer plies) that enable the impact of the ball to “spread” over a much larger part of the blade’s head surface and accordingly make the Balsa core vibrate less. Active blades for effective play away from the table must, in contrast, have more weight, enough to transfer by their mass sufficient energy to the ball. But it is my personal opinion that the strength of the Re Impact active blades, built for modern table tennis, is rather play close to the table, offering with the 40 + ball better support for modern table tennis than ever before.
Thanks to Kees from OOAK Forum for his translation into English!