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.
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.
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?