Monday, 17 October 2016

Humidity: The Ultimate Pitfall of the Plastic Ball

It's been over 2 years now since the plastic ball was formally introduced into competition and, like most players, I have come to accept the new ball and continue on with playing. Most of my quarrels with the ball have been diminished but there is one which comes back to sting me over and over again. Humidity is probably my biggest pet hate when it comes to table tennis, that feeling of hopelessness in humid conditions when the ball constantly fails to make any kind of quality contact with the rubber at all. As a 5th ball attacker, moisture is my biggest enemy when trying to make a good quality heavy spin opening.

While it was difficult before, I never recall it being as difficult as it has been since we changed ball and there is a perfect scientific reason for that. One of the reasons that the plastic ball produces less spin is because of the surface of the ball.

It is commonly known that celluloid has an almost unseen layer of grip on the outside, you may remember that new celluloid balls have a certain grittiness (if that's a word) to their surface. Plastic on the other hand has a smooth surface. The difference is easily seen with the ball in normal playing conditions, the amount of spin achieved with celluloid is much greater than with plastic.

Add humid conditions into the mix. With the celluloid ball that microscopic level of grip seems to make quite a significant difference. I have found it much more difficult to play in damp or muggy conditions since the ball changed. It's more difficult to play slow spin and also to make soft blocks without the ball completely sliding off your bat. Also previously the level of humidity was visible in difficult conditions and usually left a ball mark. Now even with the slightest film of moisture on your rubber it becomes far more difficult to play.

I don't feel there have been significant advancements in rubber production to combat the effect and I'm left wondering if in future development of the ball, ITTF will look past the fact that they want less spin and at least make the ball more playable in wet conditions by adding some grip to the surface of it.

A slightly ranty post, be sure to let me know what your thoughts are and whether it is something you have found problems with. Also if you have noticed other issues give me feedback! :)


  1. I have experienced this too.

  2. I don't think we'll ever all come to "grips" with the plastic ball. Learned my first 2 years with celluloid and much preferred it.

  3. I experienced this problem in humid conditions as well, is just miserable because you just CAN"T play your game, you have to kind of "invent yourself a new way to play" I hope they put more grip in the plastic ball(is this is possible??) the only consolation is that both player are having the same issue but the quality of the game really suck in humid events !

  4. Sometimes I practice with a full bucket of old balls, and I do my drills perfectly, and then Hoping I will do good after practice , I come to the new ball world order (which if the ball is almost new, it is harder to tell the difference but it feels like I am a different player. I am lucky that my eyes and body motion adjust to it, but I do notice a bit of the oddness compared to my practice old balls. Although Forget about the quality of the new Butterfly balls and DHS, Xiuxhafas, etc. The only one more stable and that all players at my club play, is the Nittaku Japanese made.

  5. We play in one of the most moist environments on the planet here in Hilo, Hawaii. Adapting to the difficulty of creating a reliable dwell time with the plastic ball, many of us have modified our ball contact movements. Instead of grazing the ball at an extreme tangent to create spin, we contact the ball at more of a perpendicular angle, then activate the wrist to generate desired spin. Yes, this is requires changing mechanisms, but adapting is a key aspect of our game.

  6. I've found that humid conditions and smooth rubber make it difficult with any ball.

  7. the main problem with celluloid is that it is considered a fire hazard and no air shipper with allow it to be shipped.

  8. Also, there is no mention of all injures created by this ball. Which often are the tennis elbow.
    I just changed all my drills, instead of 12 or 10 minutes drills now I do 5. And my game is more focus in smashing than using loop spin. Also the blocking can be more aggressive.