What is Speed Gluing?First of all, let's look at what table tennis players mean when we talk about speed gluing. In simple terms, speed gluing is the process of attaching the rubber to the blade by putting a new layer (or layers) of glue on the rubber sponge (and usually the blade as well). This fresh glue then increases the speed and spin that the rubber is capable of producing for a short period of time, usually a few hours. After this time the effect wears off and the rubbers will return to close to normal. The rubbers can then be removed from the blade and reglued to achieve the same speed glue effect again.
Advantages of Speed GluingThis process of removing the rubbers and regluing them every few hours sounds like a lot of trouble, doesn't it? Why would anybody bother? Surely the effect of speed glue can't be all that important?
Well, speed glue is probably one of the most important innovations in table tennis in the last 20 years or so. Almost every male professional player uses speed glue in competition these days. The increase in spin and speed that speed glue produces allows modern players to hit the ball harder, while at the same time producing more topspin to allow the ball to dip and still hit the table.
How can this be? Imagine this scenario. The ball is at the level of the playing surface. If the player wants to hit the ball with no spin but still have it land on the table at the other side of the net, he has to use gravity to make the ball fall on the table. So the player cannot hit the ball very hard if he does not want the ball to go over the end of the table completely. If he puts on a little bit of topspin of the ball, he can hit the ball a bit harder and the topspin will actually pull the ball down onto the other side of the table. If he puts on a lot of topspin, he can hit the ball very hard and still have the ball strike the other side as the topspin pulls the ball down.
Using speed glue has been estimated to increase the spin on the modern 40mm ball by up to 30%. This may not be entirely accurate, but the fact remains that a player can put more spin on the ball with a speed glued rubber, allowing him to hit harder than normal and still have the ball land on the other side of the table.
This is only one side of the coin. The other half is that the speed glue also increases the speed of the rubber, allowing the player to hit harder as well. So the player can actually hit the ball harder with speed glue, and also have more spin to still bring the ball down onto the table. This is a very big advantage, and this is why almost all advanced players who attack use speed glue.
The increased speed and spin also allows those players who are not as strong as others to still hit the ball with ferocious power and spin. I can personally attest to playing 13 year olds of short height and small frame who can hit very nearly as hard as adults playing in the professional leagues. The use of speed glue has narrowed the gap between those players who are physically strong and those who are not, especially in the upper body.
Improved Control - Sometimes
Another advantage of speed glue is that it actually tends to improve a player's control of the ball in most strokes that involve spinning the ball. The speed glue allows the player to put more of his own spin on the ball, making it easier to ignore the effect of his opponent's spin. This can often be seen in the modern looping rallies, where both players are reversing their opponent's spin by topspinning at each other. Another good example is in the return of serve, where aggressive loop returns are made easier since the speed glued rubber makes it easier to ignore the opponent's spin when looping the ball.
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