Many people have asked me, “What’s the difference between red and black rubbers?” A common answer is “nothing”, but that’s not exactly the case. There are both physical and strategic differences in choosing the color of your rubber.
Did you know that black rubbers are often slightly tackier than red rubbers of the same model? The difference isn’t significant, but if you want that slight extra tackiness then you should pick the black one. This is due to the pigment that is used in black rubbers. If you look at the top Chinese players, they all use a black tacky rubber on the forehand. But don’t sweat it too much, this should only be a small factor in deciding rubber color.
What’s your Shirt Color?
There is a distinct serving advantage if you wear a shirt or jersey that’s the same color as your rubber, and you serve close to the body. In my case, I use a black rubber on my forehand which I serve with most often, and the contact between the ball and my rubber occurs very close to my body. Now to stay legal, that contact must be visible to the receiver. This is an advantage because the receiver will have more difficulty seeing your serve swing before contact. If you add the tactic of changing your follow-through after contact, then this combination makes it much more difficult to read the spin on your serves and should result in more balls being popped up for a third-ball attack or being plopped into the net.
Matching the Ball Color
One other visual strategy is factoring in the ball color. Whether the ball is orange or white, they both show less contrast against a red rubber. A white ball on a black rubber is like night and day, but on red it’s less noticeable. If you really want to maximize on hiding your spin, wear a red jersey and use your red rubber to serve (if you don’t mind the reduced tackiness).
All in all, these aren’t huge factors that should keep you up at night. Keep them in mind, but don’t think that choosing the wrong color will ruin your game, or take you to superstardom.