Ideal Blade design for a
modern chopper (Combination Defender)
I am having great difficulty in having a manufacturer make a blade that is suitable for the modern chopper. In my opinion the manufacturers, for whom choppers are the lowest priority (due to low volume) have constantly neglected in the proper design for the chopper. The blades made by Butterfly such as Retriever etc are IMHO useless designs.
What is different about the modern chopper ?
While the blades are primarily designed nowadays with re-gluing in mind, the chopper simply does not have the weapons to counter the devastating spins & speeds created by these glue gods. Given that regluing is here to stay we have to look at logical alternatives. Increase in the length of long pips is not going to happen either since the politics in table-tennis will never encourage defensive play.
The design of the blade therefore should be to counter the effects created by glue & thick sponge. The only way to achieve this is to build an extremely high vibration & extremely soft blade on the chopping side (usually the long pips side). Blades like these do exist now but the major problem is speed. All these blades are too slow, way too slow. These may have worked well may be 10 years ago but the modern loopers just eat it up.
Butterfly made some faster blades (Defense 2, Retriever etc) but they are extremely stable. Yes it gives great control but it of course will give great control for the opponent as well . The opponent already has way too many material advantage such as the glue & thick sponge. Therefore the chopper needs an extremely fast yet extremely high vibration blade to compensate for this unfair advantage held by the attacker. Yes, it is equally hard for the chopper to use it but once he adjusts to this problem the problem is transferred to the attacker. His / her unfair advantage using glue & thick sponge in somewhat reduced as he now has to play in a more cautious mode. Therefore if the chopper has a blade with an attack rubber on the other side with the blade stiff & fast on that side of the blade then the chopper can attack the tentativeness of the looper. Yes slow blades with high softness had very high dwell time & gave very high spin but they are basically useless against the glued loop-kills. (I have tested this personally . By using a thick reglued sponge blade, I can absolutely crush the ball with re-loop kill type stroke against slow spinny chop from a chopper without any problems).
I am posting this with the hope that manufacturers come to the 20th century as far as defensive blades are concerned. These characteristics CANNOT be created SIGNIFICANTLY by varying the hardness and ./ or thickness of the sponge as many people have suggested to me.
To summarize, an ideal chopper's blade should be as follows
Side X :- Maximum possible speed yet with maximum possible vibration & softness
Side Y :- This is upto the individual. It can be same as Side X or it can be Maximum possible speed but with maximum possible rigidity & stability Side Y can have a carbon or arylate layer (located asymmetrically as far away as possible from side X)
if the player prefers (I don't, though this is exactly what I use now but the blade is slow)
. I personally would like two blades :- One with side Y same as side X & another with a side Y that has maximum possible speed, rigidity & stability without carbon.
Progressive Hardening :- If possible both sides must have maximum possible progressive hardening, that is when contact is tangential (as in a chop) the outer layers dominate with maximum vibration & softness (yet with maximum speed....yes this is a challenge) when the contact is orthogonal (as in a block or flat kill) you probably want the inner layer (or layers) to dominate which again is a challenge.
Weight :- I personally prefer an extremely light blade. For me this is a must I would tend to think a chopper wants to get his racket to the ball fast to retrieve as well as to flip. This also helps to maximize or vary spins using the wrist only (Heavier the blade , lesser the wrist controllability)
Thickness :- I prefer a thicker blade others may prefer thin. Again building a thick light blade with the right defensive wood yet fast is probably an impossible challenge (I am willing to give this up if I have to .... will settle for a thin blade).
Width :- I prefer large head (for me this is an absolute must even semi-large won't do)
Handle :- Probably straight . I am still struggling because I still don't know which type handle is the best for flipping. Some claim it is straight & some claim it is conic etc.
I can hear many of you laughing "Hey Matsushita, Li GunSang, Matthew Syed , Chen Xinhua work for Butterfly what does s-jan know that Matsushita doesnot" They all probably uses a custom blade & I doubt very much that they use a standard blade that they endorse. Even if he does I would tend to think they would be EVEN better with an asymmetric blade. One of the motivations for my posting this is the 92 European Video where Rosskopf beat Chen Xinhua. I have never seen Chen's blade but to me it seemed way too stable & way too fast. Fast was ok but not the stability because Rosskopf was the least tentative. This is in contrast to Ding Song, who I think uses a very unique blade which many loopers like Saive, Persson, Milan Grmman etc had great problems