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Tip of the week: Learning to Win

Advanced Sponge but No-So-Fast Blades

By Larry Hodges

Most players at the beginning/intermediate level use blades that are too fast. This not only hurts their control, but it also develops bad habits where the player uses the speed of the racket to rebound the ball back instead of stroking it, leading to poor strokes that won’t work very well at intermediate/advanced levels. It’s also harder to create great spin with a faster blade, since the ball rebounds off so fast.

What I generally recommend, for beginners to intermediate levels (up to about 1800-2000 range), is to get at most a medium speed blade until you are somewhat advanced. You do want one that’s flexible enough to allow easy looping, and that feels right in your hand. Try out different ones until you find just the right one.

However, along with the medium-speed blade, I recommend players go to advanced sponges relatively early. Why? First, it allows you to develop advanced shots, especially looping, much earlier and better in your development, which means you are way ahead of those who use less advanced sponges and so don’t regularly do these advanced shots. Second, the ball comes off these surfaces differently, so it’s best to get used to that as early in your development as possible. Players with advances sponges naturally loop (and counterloop) even in fast rallies, while those handicapped by a less-advanced sponge tend to block. You absolutely need to learn to block – extremely well if you want to be good! – but at the higher levels, looping is the most important shot – and, for most, the sooner you become a looper, the sooner you can become a top player.

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