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Rubber Blind Test Part 3 of 3: Neottec Katana

20 July 2017  | Posted in: Table Tennis Reviews

About the Reviewer

Patrick HrdlickaPatrick Hrdlicka is a table tennis enthusiast, who was introduced to the sport by his parents at the age of six. Patrick progressed to play in the highest national cadet and junior team leagues in his native Denmark and was among the top 40 players in his age group, which fostered several long-standing members of the Danish National Team. With college looming, Patrick quit the sport for almost twenty years. During this hiatus, he obtained a Ph.D.-degree in chemistry and accepted a position as professor of chemistry at the University of Idaho.

At the beginning of 2014, the mid-life crisis and yearning for table tennis grew too strong for Patrick and he decided to pick up the sport again. Bitten again by the table tennis bug, he plays 4-6 times per week. 

Since his comeback to table tennis, he has enjoyed combining his analytical and experimental skills with his love for table tennis, testing and reviewing a wide range of table tennis equipment.

Introduction
A couple of weeks ago, the guys from Tabletennis11.com asked me if I was interested in conducting a blind-test of four rubbers. I was not given any information or hints regarding the nature of these rubbers but I assumed that they would be new or upcoming offerings.Intrigued by the challenge, I accepted. This post is the last of the three to be released in this series. You can read about my testing procedure details in Part 1.

Test rubber 2 – a super-soft rubber for hitting-based attacking game

Physical appearance: The topsheet is non-tacky, slightly glossy, and grippy, and curls slightly upwards. The sponge is salmon-colored, very soft (~40 degrees), with tiny pores. The rubber has a faint sweet booster smell. The test rubber weighed 42 g when cut to a 154x150 mm size (test sheet was smaller than usual, leaving a gap above the handle).

Playing impressions: Right from the first rally, you immediately sense that this is a rather slow rubber with a squishy feel (~38-40 degrees). It is easily the slowest of the four rubbers in this test. FH drives are reasonably solid but fairly slow. When playing these types of rubbers, I intuitively take a couple of steps back from the table and starting making hard flat hits to enjoy the pronounced sound that is produced. TR2 was no exception, and it proved to be the rubber’s best quality. FH loops – especially faster ones – were problematic for me as I had considerable difficulty getting the bat angle right, as I found myself hitting through the sponge in an unpredictable fashion to the point where I lost confidence on these shots. Instead, I reverted to softer and more compact “chicken-wing” style loops, as this resulted in reliable loops with a medium-high trajectory. However, the FH loops were lacking spin rendering it too easy for my opponents to attack the relatively weak loop. Flat hits are one of the strengths of this rubber. The virtually non-existent spin sensitivity allowed me to hit on almost any ball that bounced higher than the height of the net, a style that I often used back in the days of speed-glued Donic Vario’s or Yasaka Mark V’s. For the same reason, aggressive FH serve returns were fairly easy to execute, although the emphasis is on placement and control, rather than raw speed. Blocking with TR2 was also fairly easy, although it occasionally felt as if the soft sponge could not absorb enough of the incoming kinetic energy, resulting in some blocks going long. Passive serve returns and pushes were aided by the rubber’s low innate speed but complicated by its very soft nature. These opposing characteristics sometimes made it difficult to get the power on short pushes right. Initially, I was frustrated by the lack of spin on my serves as my practice partners had a much easier time returning and attacking my serves than usual. In fact, I quickly abandoned attempting to impart high spin levels on my serves and instead focused on tactical placement of low/no spin serves, either making them either very short or very long. This proved to be a more fruitful strategy, especially when followed up with fast kill shots on any serve returns that popped up to high.

Conclusion: This is a very soft rubber that is best suited for all-round players who do not place too much significance on high spin levels. It allows for an open and clean game style when used as a FH rubber and would be suitable as such for intermediate players. The rubber might have more potential as a BH rubber due to its softer and bouncier nature and medium-high throw. However, the lack of tack might render execution of modern strokes such as the BH Chiquita challenging. Neottec Katana

Patrick’s guess: I am not particularly familiar with very soft rubbers. It feels like a softer version of the Nittaku Fastarc S-1. Perhaps a super-soft Nittaku?
Rubber identity: Neottec Katana

Serves: 7.5/10  
Serve receives and short game: 8.5/10
Looping: 7.5/10
Flat hitting: 9/10
Blocking: 8/10

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OTHER ARTICLES OF THE SERIES:

Rubber Blind Test Part 1 of 3: Tibhar Aurus Prime and Aurus Select
Rubber Blind Test Part 2 of 3: Nittaku Hammond Power