(by Steve Hopkins)
I recently had opportunity to try Challenger Attack, Butterfly’s pips out rubber designed for high tempo attacking with heavy spin possible.
I’ve been playing with Butterfly Dignics 09C, so the change was a big one. I had never used short pips before, so I found some very interesting differences with this rubber and I am going to try to relay those differences here as I see them.
As a 2000-level player, my analysis and comparison of equipment has limits. I don’t have the arm speed of the pros, and I don’t rely on powerful loops or try to drive the ball through my opponent – so my review is on how this equipment works for me in a competitive setting. I’m an all-around or control player that uses precise shots to set up high-percentage points. I vary spin and speed, and my attacking shots generally occur when the other player has made a mistake or as a counter-attack using my opponent’s power against them.
I found Challenger Attack effective on my backhand. Flat hits and flat blocks had amazing control and making my opponent move around in topspin rallies was easy. An aggressive flat strike from a position close to the table created the possibility of a winner, even when the opponent was playing spinny loops. There was great variation between a block from my forehand (with Dignics) and a block from my backhand (with Challenger Attack) to the point where many of the misses from my opponents were due to misjudging the spin.
Serve return was easy. There is very good control and heavy spin from the opponent is minimized. Dropping short balls to the middle of the table is easy. I found service, on the other hand, more difficult. While it is possible to place significant spin on the ball – that spin is maybe half of most inverted rubbers. For players that rely on tricky spins as a part of their service game, this could negatively affect that strength.
This particular pips out sheet is known for embarking spin, so I tried a variety of these types of shots. Sidespin service returns had noticeable curve. Defensive balls from mid range could be used to curve balls in either direction. Heavy underspin, especially chopping from away from the table was effective. And a backhand loop is possible – with deep flat balls reacting very much like a soft inverted rubber and a slow-moving control loop caused lots of problems with opponents unable to judge the spin variation.
In my current game, I return lots of loops with a covering block – allowing the ball to drive into the rubber and then brushing over the top of the ball as the spin carries it back. That stroke did not translate well for the pips. The equivalent stroke is flatter and more of a drive with power moving straight forward and through the ball instead of rolling over the ball. From that flat block position, one can strike the ball softly with the result minimizing spin (or even “no spin”), one can strike the ball with medium effort sending a standard block back with great control, or one can strike the ball very hard not just countering your opponent’s loop but actually attacking it.
Depending on your game, this could be a great weapon, or a way to neutralize a hard-looping adversary.
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