I'm no EJ by any means; cured of that years back. Even so, in admiration of "the spice of life" Xu Xin and his attempt towards a post-pro life in bringing Xuperman-branded rubbers to market made me curious.
Usually, Fastarc G-1 is my go-to; it has been for years. So that's my main frame of reference. My level: upper Dutch regional leagues.
So I ordered a few slabs of the Powerplay X rubber, in black, at 41º. I've been training with it for a few weeks now, and have played some tournaments with it.
It took some adapting to get full stability. That took me a few sessions.
This rubber is solid, reliable, and it's not boring. Here are a few takeaways, based upon my impressions.
Spin it. This is not a rubber for a flat hitter, blocker, counterer.
Gears. This rubber is both very slow (even dead) upon low-impact shots, but offers a lot high-end power.
Effort is required to produce quality, both in terms of power and spin.
Serves and short game are fun, and when taking care to engage the sponge (to make deep contact) high spin levels can be produced. Opponents are often surprised by the level of spin on short pushes.
Kill- and counterloops are deadly. If you're in position, and able to put in the effort.
In terms of results, I've been having good wins, no unexpected losses. I engaged a few national league players in tournaments, took a few games and forced them to refocus (and then destroy me). I don't credit the rubber, but even so, it certainly didn't hamper my play.
I'll be playing it for a while. However, as I'm aging I do realize the amount of effort required is rather high, especially in countertopspin rallies. I'm going to see how that pans out; I've not yet decided.
One impediment that amplifies my doubts is availability. I had to scoure Ali Express to find it, and one of the things I value deeply in the end is also to have a dependable, reliable supply. Buys shouldn't be gambits, and I'll allow no room for doubts on material quality in the mental part of the TT game.
Interesting rubber with unique qualities. Sidespin monster!
I got my hands on a sheet of Xuperman Powerplay-X and tried it for a 3-hour playing session tonight. I thought it had some really unique qualities, and wanted to share my thoughts about it.
A bit about me:
I'm around 1500 USATT rating and I typically play 1-sided penhold (with occasional RPB, which I am still learning). Xu Xin is one of my favorite players and I really try to imitate his playing style, so when I heard that he developed a new rubber, I had to try it. Like Xu Xin, I am tall, quick, and strong, and my backhand attack is inconsistent, so I typically try to cover most of the table with my forehand. I also like to hit powerful sidespin loops from far behind (and below) the table -- this is my main strategy for winning points in games.
Most of my playing experience is with tacky Chinese rubbers (Hurricane and Skyline series) and a bit with hybrid rubbers (D09c, K3, Rakza Z) so this is generally what I am comparing to Xuperman when I say it is fast or spinny or whatever. My main reference is Skyline 2, which is what I have been using for the past year.
Skyline 2 is a rubber that was developed for Ma Lin, and used by Xu Xin in his professional career. It's slower and spinnier than the popular Hurricane 3 and it excels at
- short game control and blocking
- loop-kill (somewhere between a loop and a smash, one of Ma Lin's signature shots)
- spinny arcing loops when you take the ball from far behind/below the table (Xu Xin's signature shot)
Usually my racket is Nittaku Miyabi (a 1-ply hinoki blade) with DHS Skyline 2, unboosted, on both sides. Today, I put Xuperman rubber on the forehand of my blade, and left Skyline 2 on the backhand. Unfortunately, the Xuperman rubber only comes in black so I only put it on one side. I did not boost the Xuperman rubber.
Physical properties of the rubber:
Xuperman Powerplay-X is slightly tacky -- not nearly as tacky as DHS Hurricane or Skyline rubbers, but it will briefly hold the ball on the paddle upside down. The sponge feels slightly softer than DHS rubbers. The topsheet and sponge are both quite stretchy.
The first thing I noticed was the ease of the loop. Even forehand drives will come off with a substantial amount of spin. I can absolutely see why Xu Xin wanted to develop this rubber and why he likes it. The closest thing I can compare this rubber to was a lightly boosted blue-sponge Hurricane 3. It also felt similar to Andro Rasanter C53.
Sidespin: More than anything, I think this rubber helps to add sidespin -- my sidespin was absolutely deadly today. Even though my loops usually include a lot of sidespin, my playing partner missed a lot of my loops today because they drifted too far to the side. Sidespin serves were very spinny and curvy. I'm not sure what kind of material properties create this sidespin capability, but it was really interesting to play with.
Out-of-position hits: The other main thing I liked about this rubber is that it really helps you when you are in a bad position. With Skyline and Hurricane rubbers, you need to hit all of your shots with perfect Chinese technique (power from your legs, light brushing, etc) in order for it to go on the table. With Xuperman, you can still hit pretty-good shots when you are off-balance, stretching for it, or otherwise in a bad position.
Topspin: The topspin was alright, not as good as Skyline 2. I think my loops are usually around 70% topspin and 30% sidespin, but with the Xuperman rubber, the ratio was reversed.
Speed: In terms of speed, the rubber was quite a bit faster than unboosted Skyline 2. It felt like it had a bit of catapult effect, almost like a tensor rubber. Contact time is less than Skyline 2, but still more than most tensor rubbers. Its speed is similar to Rakza Z in my opinion (but with a much lower throw angle).
Fishing: This rubber reminds me of Skyline 2 with its fishing capabilities. The rubber is a lot bouncier, and so the fishing shots end up being higher than they are with Skyline 2. This makes them harder to smash for the opponent.
Counterspin: This rubber really excelled at counterspin. It's not very sensitive to incoming spin, which is very nice.
Backspin: Backspin is my main complaint about this rubber, it was noticeably lacking in comparison to Skyline 2. I probably need to learn how to use the rubber better, but after 3 hours I did not manage to find a good way to create heavy backspin -- something which is usually a big part of my short game. EDIT: after trying some more, I found that you can create backspin by giving a very sharp jab under the ball -- so sharp that your wrist bounces back after. At the same time, you have to be very relaxed in the wrist and arm. Seems difficult to execute consistently.
Blocking: The blocking is faster than Skyline and Hurricane rubbers, so it is taking me some time to adjust. I thought it was a bit less controlled, but not too bad. With Xuperman rubber you need to control the angle and actively block fast onto the table.
Loop-kill & smash: One of the main reasons I like Skyline 2 is because you can make very fast topspin smashes with it. In fact, smashes with Skyline 2 require some element of topspin -- if you smash with Skyline and don't use topspin, your shot will be very unpredictable. Hurricane 2 and Hurricane 3 have this property to an extent as well.
Xuperman Powerplay-X notably does not have this property. Xuperman rubber allows for flat, no-spin smashes, but you cannot get a very good loop-kill with it.
Throw & Trajectory: The throw angle was a bit higher than Skyline 2 but still pretty low. Able to loop underspin easier than Skyline 2.
I think I will continue to use blue-sponge Skyline 2 until my next tournament, at least. After that, I think I will give Xuperman a serious try and maybe post a better review once I have learned to use it. I may also try to use it on my backhand in the future.
I really enjoyed the sidespin and security in awkward positions, but I don't think that is worth the downsides. It will be a huge disadvantage for me to lose backspin. Additionally, because Xuperman is faster than Skyline 2, it has less control than Skyline 2. I am strong enough to hit hard with Skyline 2 when I need to, so the increase in speed is not very valuable to me, but if you are not so strong you might find benefit from Xuperman Powerplay-X.
I think this is a very good rubber if your playing style is like Xu Xin's. For other playing styles I am not so sure. I may try playing handshake style with it and update my review.