(by Steve Hopkins)
I recently had opportunity to try the new Butterfly Lin Yun-Ju Super ZLC Blade.
I’ve been playing with an ALC blade for some time (currently with Dignics 09c on my forehand and Dignics 05 on my backhand). I put the same rubber on the new blade and switched back and forth to help with the comparison.
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.
Noting my level of play is important for this review, because the Super ZLC blades are the newest technology and have been carefully developed for world class players (and I am not a world class player). That said, this is a really fun racket and it has some solid advantages for players across many skill levels.
I began by comparing the sound and feel of the blade. With an ALC blade there is a difference in sound along the edges of the blade and a higher pitch and denser feel in the center of the blade – the ZLC blade has a similar feel, but the difference between the outer edges and the center is greater. The ZLC has a very dense center with less vibration than the ALC – while the edges seem. The result is good touch for softer shots where you start the contact closer to the edge of the blade, and a lot of power in the center.
Let’s talk how that power affects play. This is the best blocking blade I’ve ever used. Hard shots from your opponent are easy to control and come off firm and straight. This is also true a few steps away from the table where I found it possible to flat hit or firmly block balls back low instead of the rolls that I normally use when I am out of position and balancing between offense and defense. Over the table attacks are great – with the extra power of the blade making those tough-to-execute skill shots easier. The same is true for out of position shots where the goal is to execute some semblance of a swing while off balance or turned – if you can make contact with the ball, you can direct it back towards the table. The best part of using this blade is the power one can apply when trading counter-loops. It is easy to impart great power and the blade still holds that ball to help maximize spin – its a combination of power and spin that enables you to land big loops. That is, this blade excels in the fun stuff that many of us do to show off as a part of our warm-ups (and that at higher levels are a big part of the best rallies in our matches).
Because of the extra power, executing touch shots is tougher. I had effective serves, but they traveled further and were difficult to place short. There was a soft touch on service returns and slow loops, but again – these shots generally flew further than similar strokes from other blades.
Overall – players should recognize there’s a tradeoff with extra power and rotation in exchange for less feel in the short game. This is the sort of tradeoff we all work through as we pick the right combination for our game. In this case, the positives include very strong blocks, and more power on loops and attacks. There’s also that other thing to consider – the big shots make this blade is really fun to swing.
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