The Re-Impact Hydra blade
Weighing around 50 grams, being about 6.4 mm thick, the Hydra is a flexible, all-round defensive combination blade with forehand and backhand sides that possess moderately different (at least for a Re-Impact blade) characteristics. The core of the blade is a relatively thin balsa ply. Added to this on the forehand two more rather soft plies provide high control, good spin, and moderate speed. On the backhand the harder, thin outer ply offers good reversal; the combination with the other plies provides a distinctive dampening effect, resulting in low speed and high control. The emblematic balsa catapult is hardly noticeable in the backhand, but present to a greater extent on the forehand which, on hard contact, results in somewhat higher speed, less spin and less control. Overall, the balsa is predominantly increasing spin and absorbing speed in this blade. The blade is quite low-throw on the backhand side, but higher throw on its forehand.
Suitability for styles:
The Hydra is designed for a combination of backhand defense and controlled forehand topspin attack, in tactical rallies using spin-variation, but is essentially a very versatile all-round blade with very moderate speed. It does suit backhand blocking well, and is almost equally well suited for chopping. Its controlled and passably fast forehand suits looper-attackers that concentrate on spin more than on speed, but is also well suited for chopping away from the table. Especially evolving young players will be able to use it for a very controlled, completely all-round style of play.
Suitability for rubbers:
The Hydra’s forehand combines well with almost any type of inverted rubber, but (on account of its very moderate speed) less so with short or medium pips-out rubbers. Fast rubbers will add to the difference between forehand and backhand. As the balsa-effect is relatively low in this blade, even max thick rubbers can be used (on medium sponge), but thick soft sponges will tend to produce a ‘mushy’ feeling and low feedback.
As the forehand plies offer qualities consistent with high-spin-low-speed looping, pips-out rubbers, if used at all, should be very fast and have relatively thin sponge (1.5 to 1.8 mm) if classic pips-out effects are required. If, however, the player’s main needs are only speed and relative insensitivity to incoming speed, thicker sponge can be used as well.
For looper-attackers, fast inverted rubbers of the modern Chinese type (medium to hard sponge and tacky top-sheet) are very suitable for the Hydra’s forehand, as are Japanese and European type tensioned and tuned rubbers with medium to hard sponge, in any thickness required, but best 1.8 mm or thicker. For choppers, inverted rubbers on thinner sponges of medium to soft hardness do best. Chopper-attackers can use their preferred compromise on this blade.
The Hydra’s low-throw, slow and controlled backhand combines ideally with almost every well-reversing long pips-out rubber without sponge (even the very cheap ones like Kokutaku 911 or Friendship 755), if used for close to the table defense. Long pips-out rubbers with sponge and/or more friction can be used for more aggressive play at the table, but are best for defense away from the table; control is, however, slightly lower with these rubbers. Short or medium pips-out rubbers as well as inverted rubbers on thin sponge can also be used for blocking, but do better for chopping. Generally, as the Hydra’s backhand is very slow and offers almost no catapult whatsoever, chopping away from the table demands rubbers which are able to generate some speed themselves.
The Hydra will also fit anti-spin rubbers, but they should be of the well-reversing type. The Hydra’s backhand will enable controlled play with low-control anti-spin rubbers.
Almost all Re-Impact blades, having been designed for specific purposes, have special properties which are beneficial to the desired style of play, but in some situations may pose unexpected problems.
The relatively thin balsa ply in the Hydra’s core will absorb speed on soft to medium hard contact with the ball, but if contact is very much harder (incoming very fast loops or smashes) the forehand will become somewhat faster and hence somewhat less controlled. It is advisable to make contact with these balls in the ascending phase of the trajectory, so that the player is able to close the bat far, which will prevent problems, and will allow a maximum of topspin in attacking strokes. Smashes will (depending on the rubber used) tend to be less effective and less controlled with this blade.
Slow loops having a lot of spin, which are difficult to handle with most set-ups using OX LP’s, may also be hard to deal with using the Hydra. The ball, being slow and thus contacting the blade rather softly, will lose even more of its speed because of the braking effect of the balsa; added to its high spin, this will result in much higher friction (for a long pimple) if a passive block is attempted, and as a result the ball will tend to be returned too high. However, since the balsa core is relatively thin, this effect is less pronounced in the Hydra than in most other Re-Impact blades. Still, as an alternative to blocking, these balls can be safely chopped or chop-blocked aggressively, moving one step away from the table.
The blade is sealed; extra sealing is not really required. It won’t do any harm to add some extra protection on the blade’s face, but adding more than two thin layers is inadvisable, as it will harden the feel of the blade. Balsa is very vulnerable and since it is exposed on the edges, it makes sense to protect the edge of the blade. A coating will help some, but better still is thick (or foamed) edge-tape.
Protection of the soft balsa grip using sealing or tape is not advisable, as the blade’s KSLS-system should be in optimal contact with the hand.
Below are some pictures of this blade. Click on the image to see the full size version.