If you are a player who uses a fast, aggressive rubber with thick sponge, try putting a sheet of 1.5mm thick sponge slow rubber on your bat instead, and you could discover a number of interesting things about how you play - I certainly did!
Case in Point: After my recent experiences at the 2012 Australian Open, I decided to do another trial with a chopping rubber (1.5mm Dr. Neubauer Domination) instead of the fast, aggressive, max thickness rubber I was using (Killerspin BLAST).
Obviously the Domination is much slower than the BLAST (although it still generates quite good spin), so I expected that my attacks would be slower, but otherwise much the same.
This was not the case.
In fact, when making an attack with a full, aggressive swing, my attacks were still spinny but with less power, as expected - not too bad really. But when I attacked with only average technique or a half-hearted swing, I got a very poor result, since the Domination was not powerful enough to compensate for my weaker shot. The ball would die in the net, or barely land mid-table without any speed, just begging for my opponent to hit it away for a winner.
As I continued to play, it quickly became obvious that I while I thought I had improved my attacking ability considerably in recent years, I have not made all the improvements I thought I had.
I have definitely improved my basic technique when attacking strongly with a full-blooded swing. But I now realize that I have not improved my ability to move to the ball, or pivot away from a ball placed at my playing elbow, and still make that full blooded swing. Instead, I have been making a half swing and relying on my max thickness BLAST to do the rest of the work. Without the BLAST to boost my stroke, all those half shots became miserably weak attacks which got put away by my opponents.
What was particularly worrying was just how often this occurred during the rally. Around half my attacks were relatively weak, highlighting just how often I had been using poor footwork and a half swing.
I have not yet decided whether I'll stick with the Domination or go back to the BLAST, I'm still in the middle of testing a few things out. But either way, it's clear that I have some significant work to do in improving my footwork when attacking difficult balls. I need to be able to move and make more strong attacks, instead of making half swings and relying on my rubber to make a weak attack acceptable.
So if you are willing to be humbled, try sticking a much less powerful rubber on your racket for a few games, and see just how often you are making a good strong attack with a full swing, in comparison to how often you are only able to make a half swing and being aided by your rubber. You'll soon see whether you could benefit from some attacking footwork practice.
A couple of quick warnings:
- Don't spend too long playing with the less powerful rubber, or you might start changing your swing angle and racket angle to suit the new rubber.
- Remember that the point of the exercise is to see how often you are making a full blooded attack versus a half hearted attack. Don't worry if you make a full attack and miss the shot because the less powerful rubber plays differently.