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A real low and short no-spin serve can give you some easy points in matches, as they are difficult to flip hard, and they require good timing to push hard. Mix it up with a heavy backspin in the same spot. Remember to get it short, the ball should bounce short on your side close to the net...

 Factory Tuned rubbers - what's the fuss all about?
Factory Tuned Rubbers - are they right for you?

The latest craze in rubbers seems to be factory tuned rubbers. Despite being undetectable (for most tuners) by ITTF devices, tuning or boosting was deemed to be illegal under ITTF rules, as they change the characteristics of the rubber. However if the rubber is tuned at the factory, as part of itís manufacturing process, it is quite legal, as long as the VOC content is low enough. VOC based glues are still used at the factory to attach topsheets to sponges, and as long as they are aired before they are shipped out, they are perfectly legal.

So ever since the ITTF ruling regarding tuners (or boosters) was clarified and put into action, some of the Chinese manufacturers have started working on rubbers pre-tuned at the factory, so that elite players can play with rubber that are close in performance with the former speed glued rubbers. These rubbers have tuned/boosted at the factory, and this effect is (to some extent) preserved by an adhesive layer and plastic sheet attached to the sponge.

Iím sure some of you have heard about some of these factory tuned rubbers, which have now made their way to the public as well. As soon as word gets out that the Chinese National team is testing or using some of these rubbers, there is an immediate demand for them. Haifuís Blue Whale II was among the first, and more recently Tuttleís Beijing II and DHSís new tuned Hurricane rubbers have all been much talked aboutÖ

So the question is, are these rubbers worthwhile, and how do they compare to some of the latest glue effect rubbers? The answer is not so simple, as it really depends on your level, your budget, availability and whether you are going to re-tune the rubbers. So letís discuss these issues one by one;

Level: These rubbers are designed for a fast attacking style game, giving you a high level of power and spin. The fact that these are usually only released in MAX thickness supports this. It is my opinion that these rubbers are really only suitable for the higher levels of table tennis, starting around the top club levels and upwards. Iím sure players below this level can enjoy playing with these rubbers, and if youíre playing mainly for enjoyment then perhaps you might like these, but otherwise you likely donít have the skills to control these rubbers, nor can you take advantage of their full potential.

Budget: Although all the current factory tuned rubbers are Chinese made, they are not exactly cheap, and prices approach some of the Euro/Japanese made glue effect rubbers. Yes they are still cheaper, but the tuning effect typically only lasts 2-4 weeks, at which point you need to change them over as the effect has worn off, and re-tuning is illegal. Inbuilt glue effect rubbers would typically last 4-6 weeks, which makes them comparable, although a few more recent ones (eg Butterfly Tenergy and JUIC Air Condle) last significantly longer than this. When these factory tuned rubbers are in their tuned state, they will most likely out-perform the glue effect rubbers, so for the top players, itís most likely worthwhile. For those players that count performance as much more important then price (and you can afford it) then itís most likely worthwhile as well. For the rest of players, I think itís probably not worth itÖ

Availability: Up to now, these factory tuned rubbers have had limited availability, as most dealers seem to only carry small numbers. Only a few dealers carry them, who would normally get them from a distributor or manufacturer within China. I believe the pre-tuned rubbers have a limited shelf life, which is far shorter than a regular rubber, so dealers need to ensure they can sell the rubbers before they expire. Iíve read a few reports from players who tried these rubbers, and found the performance was not thereÖ this may point to the rubber being past its shelf life, although itís not proof.

Re-tuning: Perhaps youíre considering buying these pre-tuned rubbers, and include the re-tuning liquid as well to be used when the effect wears off? Although tuning is illegal under IITF rules, it is often undetectable and itís become well known that itís become very common at the elite levels. So if you donít play competition or events that come under ITTF rules, or you simply choose to ignore this rule, then re-tuning is a definite option. Of course if youíre going to tune, you can tune ANY rubber with ANY of the tuners/boosters that are still available on the market, so youíre no longer restricted to using the factory tuned rubbers.

So would I recommend against buying these factory tuned rubbers? Not at all, I have nothing against them and think itís a great innovation by the manufacturer, to come up with something that is legal and offer the high performance that speed glue used to offer. What I would say though, is that you carefully consider the issues discussed above, to see if they are worthwhile for YOU!

If you decide these rubbers are right for you, you need to carefully consider where you buy them as well. Shopping around for the best price is no longer the most important, as dealers may have these rubbers on special because they are close or past their expiry date. Ideally you want a rubber thatís fresh from the factory, so make sure you pick a dealer you can trust, even if their price is higher. It costs the dealer money to keep a constant supply of only fresh rubbers, so a higher price is justified.

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