How sponge rackets changed table tennis foreverby Guido Mina di Sospiro / September 18, 2013 / Leave a comment
Published in October 2013 issue of Prospect Magazine
Asian players began to dominate table tennis after the introduction of the foam racket in the early 1950s. (© AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Four years ago, I had a routine check-up at the doctor’s and the diagnosis was high blood pressure. Not uncommon in men of my age, but still something that needed attention. Physical exercise was prescribed. What to do?
Apart from skiing, the only sport I’d enjoyed in my youth was ping-pong, so I went along to the nearest club. Clustered around three tables were half a dozen Chinese men in their thirties and forties. When I played them, I couldn’t “read” their strokes because I’d never played against someone using the typical Chinese penhold (with the racket held as a pen). The amount of spin they placed on the ball was shocking; never had I experienced anything like it. When I played with them, the ball bounced off the table and off my racket, if I managed to reach it, in the most incredible ways. I spent more time collecting balls off the floor than playing. Extreme spin didn’t only alter the trajectory and the bounce, it also increased the speed. This was not the ping-pong I knew.