What does “control” actually mean?

Saturday, February 5th, 2011
By Arthur Lui

Control

As I was conceiving the Table Tennis Database and going through all the ratings characteristics to include, “control” always seemed like an odd one. Speed and spin seem pretty clear. If you run an experiment using two rackets with the same blade and just compare two different rubbers, and use the same stroke to hit the ball, the faster one is the one that produces a higher velocity after impact. And with spin you can measure the rotations per minute (well probably not measure, but you can get a feel for how much spin was on the ball). These characteristics could be measured in a controlled lab. But control is hard to measure or even understand.

Definition?

How do you define control? Let’s say it’s “the ability to make the ball do what you want it to do.” But that means different things to different people who play different styles at different levels. If you’re an aggressive looper, you probably want a relatively spinny rubber to generate lots of topspin so the ball arcs down and stays on the table, and maybe couple that with medium to medium-fast speed. But in the short game, control could be the ability to play the ball short and low so opponents can’t open up the attack. In this case, I find I have the most control with a medium speed racket with a non-tacky rubber which is less receptive to incoming spin. So you have to apply control to a variety of situations, not just one particular stroke.

After considering all of the situations, if I were to create a control metric, I would put the maximum control on equipment with a speed rating of 7 and a spin rating of 7. The higher the speed and spin above that, the more the ball goes flying too far, and reacts too much to the opponent’s tricky serves, etc. On the lower end, if I was using a defensive blade with a speed of 4 and an anti-spin rubber with zero spin, I’d have a hard time making the ball do exactly what I want there as well. I laugh when I see rubber packages that advertise a 10/10 on all of speed, spin and control. Anything that deserves a 10 on speed and spin would be hard to control for most players.

Conclusion

In the end, I don’t think a generic “control” rating makes sense. I think you can figure out what control means to you personally based on the other characteristics like speed and spin, which are more objective.

A side note

P.S. While we’re on the topic of control, I’d like to recommend that any player who has not reached a USATT rating level of 1900 stick to equipment around 8/10 or lower on speed (blades that are ALL or ALL+ rated). I see too many players that cannot handle their fast, OFF+ blades and as a result have half-developed small strokes because if they did full strokes the ball would go flying. Stick to an ALL+ racket and learn to develop power from your strokes, not from your equipment.

Do you think the control rating should be removed from equipment packaging?

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Comments

5 Responses to “What does “control” actually mean?”

  1. Control means doing everything you want with the ball.

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  2. random says:

    okay really, my ctta rating is 100, and i use a stiga clipper cc as my blade (offensive), a stiga neos synergy tech for my forehand and a stiga innova ultralight synergy tech for backhand(it is the lightest)。

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  3. James R says:

    To me control means being able to place the ball where I want it, when I want it and how I want it, in spite of my opponents shot/spin/placement/speed/power.
    It means the blade/rubber combination is capable of either absorbing and/or redirecting your opponents incoming shot and overriding the ball characteristics they imparted on the ball with your own characteristics.
    I hope this helps.

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  4. Nem says:

    “control” should be removed as a category for rating a table tennis racquet because control per se depends on how the player handles his paddle. He may be using the highest or the lowest “control” rated racquet but he himself doesnt know how to control his strikes, evrything is but futile, useless, nothing. Simpy put if the player knows the spin and speed of his racquet then he should take control of it by himself (by learning it). “control” is something that is within the control of the player not by the ping pong racket manufacturers.

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    • Arthur Lui says:

      Hi Nem, thanks for the comment. I definitely agree that control depends on the player. Imagine the same player now doing an experiment, where he switches between two rackets: (A) A fast carbon blade with Tenergy 05’s on both sides [low control] and (B) A medium speed blade with some medium speed/spin rubbers [high control]. Which do you think he will be able to control better?

      I imagine that this same player, who has a lot of trouble controlling his strokes, will play better with racket (B) versus racket (A). The overall result definitely depends on the player himself, but that same player in the majority of the cases should have more “overall control” with a high control racket.

      It’s definitely not as clearly dependent on the equipment the way speed/spin are, but I’m not sure I’d go as far as completely removing it as a characteristic since it still plays a significant part in the overall control.

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