What is the effect of sponge hardness/density?
Answer by: Samson Dubina, Rated 2461, 2009 US Men’s National Finalist
The hardness/density effects how deep the ball sinks into the sponge. Softer sponge will have more dwell time and allow the ball to sink deep giving the ball a higher arch. Most loopers and those focusing on spinny shots and more arch prefer soft sponge. Softer sponge is lighter in weight and makes it easier to perform more spin on the slow shots: loop against backspin, chop, and push. Harder sponge has less dwell time and does not allow the ball to sink deep into the sponge. Many aggressive counter looping players prefer harder sponge because there is more potential for power and spin from mid-distance. Although harder sponge is heavier, one must also consider the sponge thickness when gauging the weight.
Most rubbers have two versions, a soft one and a hard one; for example Narucross EX Hard and Narucross EX Soft. This doesn’t mean that the hard is extremely hard or the soft is extremely soft. It just means that one is softer than the other. Before purchasing a rubber, consult the Paddle Palace Catalogue review on each rubber.
* Softer sponge has more dwell time
* Softer sponge has more spin on the slow shots
* Softer sponge has the same or slightly less spin on the power shots
* Softer sponge is lighter
Answer by: Massimo Constantini, ICC Head Coach, ITTF High Performance Coach
The use of a hard, dense sponge follows the same rules as sponge thickness. If you play with a hard, dense sponge you won’t have a good quality of spin and control but you’ll have a good quality of speed. The ball bounces on the rubber and quickly leaves the surface to travel away. If you use a soft sponge you may have a better control because the ball, when bouncing on the rubber, stays for awhile longer and gives a fraction of second to the player to manage it.
Answer by: Sara Fu, Texas Wesleyan University Team, 2011 NCTTA Women’s Singles Champion and Mixed Doubles Champion, Rated 2437.
It depends on what kind of blade you use. If you play with a faster blade, then you would like to choose softer sponges. If you use slower blades, then you would like to choose harder sponges.
Answer by: Tahl Liebovitz, USATT National Coach and Paralympic Gold Medalist
The harder the sponge, the more spin you will be able to generate. If you have very sound strokes you should probably use harder sponge. The two best sponges I played with from STIGA were the Boost TC and the Boost TX.
For me the Boost TX is the best rubber I have ever used. The sponge is medium hard and I am able to produce great spin when I serve and also when I attack.
I would try to use a medium hard sponge if you can. Most players like to use softer sponge. However in my experience using a harder sponge produces a better quality ball. I would always recommend trying to use the hardest sponge you are comfortable with.
Most players are not comfortable using Chinese sponge. It is best to use a rubber with Japanese sponge. Try and find a medium hard rubber. For me Boost TX is the best rubber I have used. I use 2.3 mm sponge thickness.
Answer by: Stellan Bengtsson, Only player to have won singles, doubles and teams at both the Worlds and Europe Championships. 67 International singles, doubles and team titles. Coached Jorgen Persson, JO Waldner, Peter Karlsson and Erik Lindh, all World and Europe Champions.
A hard dense sponge gives less control and a faster ball. The ball has less time on the racquet, i.e. shorter blade to ball contact. The overall affect also depends on
the friction of the rubber.
Answer by: Scott Lurty, Rating 2328, SPIN New York Coach
Softer sponge allows for more dwell time on the racket, and hence make shots such as looping easier. However they are also more reactive to incoming spin than harder sponge. Harder sponge is less forgiving but actually has better directional control.