Having been watching the tennis a bit recently, I wondered whether it would be possible for table tennis to, like tennis, have three different playing surfaces, all with different characteristics?
- A ‘clay’ style table (highest spin, lowest speed, highest bounce), coloured browny red
- A ‘hard court’ style table (middle speed, middle spin, middle bounce) aka regular tables
- A ‘grass’ style table (highest speed, lowest spin, lowest bounce), colored green
*the names ‘grass’ and ‘clay’ represent the performance of the table, not the material the table surfaces would actually be made of
This could mean that players of dying styles could remain at the high levels of table tennis, through being specialists at specific tables…
- Choppers would benefit from the low bounce of ‘grass’ tables (it is possible that heavily chopped balls may literally slide on ‘grass’ tables similarly to how heavily sliced balls slide on grass tennis courts). Eg Joo Se Hyuk, Koji Matsushita etc
- Classic ‘European’ style loopers, who play at mid distance, attack using high arcing loops and lob when forced to defend, would benefit from the higher spin, higher bounce and lower speed of ‘clay’ tables. This style has been replaced by closer to the table counter-attacking at the top European level, but could have a come back. (Eg young Timo Boll, Michael Maze, Mizutani, Kreanga etc)
- Blockers would be strong on ‘grass’ tables, which would keep their blocks low and fast. (Eg Oh Sang-Eun, Kenta Matsudaira, Koki Niwa)
- Short pip hitters would benefit from either the awkward low bounce and high speed of ‘grass’ tables, keeping their hits/blocks/smashes low, fast and difficult to reach. (Eg. He Zhi Wen, Liu Guoliang, Mima Ito). However…
- Tall smashers who play with a forehand short pips/backhand inverted combination (eg Mattias Falck) may benefit perhaps from the high bounce and slow speed of clay tables, making their opponent’s shots bounce higher, therefore becoming easier to smash.
- Penholders could benefit from either ‘clay’ tables. A penholder like Xu Xin, who attacks with heavy spin, plays often at mid distance/far from the table and regularly lobs could benefit from the high spin and high bounce of a ‘clay’ table. (Eg Xu Xin, Kaii Yoshida, Wang Hao).
- Meanwhile a Japanese penholder who plays closer to the table, blocks often and relies on finishing the point quickly with fast drives may like the fast speed and low bounce of a ‘grass’ table. (Eg Ryu Seung Min, Kim Taek Soo)
- Third ball attacker penholders may like the ‘grass’ tables for finishing points quickly or ‘clay’ tables for spinnier serves followed by topspin. (Eg Ma Lin)
- Meanwhile, the current meta style (close to the table counter driving, flicking and punching) would remain effective on the ‘hard court’ tables we use now. (Eg Harimoto, Fan Zhendong, Truls Moregardh, Ovtcharov etc)
Since winning a grand slam in tt requires you to win…
a) The Olympics
b) The World Cup
c) The World Championships
…then perhaps the World Cup and WTTC (alongside other events) could be switched to the new surfaces, meaning a grand slam winner has to be strong on all surfaces.
Equally, the difficulty of dominating three surfaces at once may at last end the chinese tactic of just creating industrial table tennis meta-bots that adapt to the latest style of table tennis then dominate it.
However having to provide and play well on three different types of table would be a nightmare for small clubs and regular players. It would probably only be a thing for professional players.
Could this be a possibility for future table tennis?