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Review: Donic Ovtcharov Carbospeed

02 August 2018  | 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.

Regular followers of this blog will know that I prefer all-wood blades and rarely become smitten by composite blades. One exception hereto is the Donic Waldner Legend Carbon (DWLC) blade, which produces an addictively crisp feeling upon ball impact. One of my concerns about using the DWLC is its large playing surface, which results in heavy setups. Herein, I was given the opportunity to evaluate the updated version of the DWLC, i.e., the Donic Ovtcharov Carbospeed (DOC), which has a smaller playing surface.

Donic characterizes the 3+2 ply Ovtcharov Carbospeed as a stiff OFF/OFF+ rated blade with a rating of “10++” in speed and “6” in control, as compared to 10/6+ and 10/7+ for the Ovtcharov Senso V1 and Ovtcharov True Carbon, respectively. The construction of the DOC is similar to that of the DWLC, with a thick kiri core that is surrounded by a thick carbon layer and an outer ply of high-quality Japanese Kiso Hinoki wood.

The blade comes in Donic’s standard black box, which is simple but functional. Photographs and descriptions of Donic-sponsored players are listed on the back of the box, along with characteristics of various Donic blades. Interestingly, the DOC is at the top of the list, suggesting it is the fastest blade in Donic’s range. Indeed, Donic recommends this blade for all-out attackers who use hard topspins and counter-attacks as their primary strategy. The DOC has a larger-than-average playing surface (159x151 mm), is quite thick (~6.7 mm), but remains remarkably light at ~85 g.

The blade’s name and characteristics are featured on the FH side in black and red font, whereas the BH side is devoid of text. The handle (black with two thick red vertical stripes) and the oval lens on the FH side are kept in a similar color scheme. There are no other lenses or tags. The FL handle has the following dimensions: length ~99 mm, width ~27.3-34.3 mm, and height ~23.4-23.9 mm. Despite the shorter-than-usual handle and the minimally sanded wings, I found the blade comfortable to hold. The blade and playing surfaces feel smooth, and the build quality is very good. A simple bounce test produced an extremely high-pitched sound (~1765 Hz) suggesting that the DOC, indeed, is a very stiff and fast blade.

Testing procedure: I attached fairly worn sheets of DHS Hurricane 3 Neo (2.15mm, black, National version, 40 degree hardness) and SpinLord Waran II (2.0mm, red) short pips on my FH and BH, respectively, using one layer of Revolution 3 normal viscosity glue. I tested the setup over ~5 sessions, playing a mix of simple drills, practice matches, and league matches, using DHS 3 Star D40+ plastic balls.

Donic ovtcharov Carbospeed

Playing impressions: Right from the first FH drive, I enjoyed the feeling of the DOC. The contact point is very crisp, and the ball impact generates an exceptionally high-pitched sound. The blade is very fast and stiff, yet retains a surprisingly high amount of control, rendering it very fun to play FH drives with. The feeling on BH drives with the Waran II short pips is phenomenal. Ultra-crisp, fast, deadly, and yet controllable, with an almost speed-glue like feeling like back in the good old days. The blade has a HUGE sweet spot, which allows even slightly mistimed and mishit shots to be played with great power and authority. FH loops have a longer and flatter trajectory than with most other blades, which renders them rather dangerous.

The dwell time is average - but longer than I expected – resulting in respectable spin levels on FH loops, although less rotation is produced than with slower and softer blades. The DOC works very well with the tacky and moderately slow Hurricane 3 Neo, as the blade provides the speed and penetrating power, whereas the tacky rubber provides the necessary arc over the net. FH loop drives are a pleasure to play with the DOC, as they are facilitated by the blade’s fast and stiff nature and the huge sweet spot. The blade also has sufficient power to enable BH mini-loops with the short pips from a couple of meters behind the table. Although the blade is OFF+, I found it to be quite controllable, probably because the ball impact is felt so clearly, which provides a lot of feedback to the player, enabling micro-adjustments in the bat angle. Blocking with the DOC is awesome.

The blade’s 6.7 mm thickness absorbs and distributes the incoming kinetic energy, yet allows you to make a short and very sharp contact that propels the ball back to the opponent with a blistering pace and excellent control provided your forearm and wrist stay relaxed. If, however, your forearm becomes tense, it becomes easy to overshoot the table. Nonetheless, of the 20+ blades that I have reviewed in past 12-24 months, the DOC offers the best feeling in the blocking game both on the FH and BH side (with tacky Chinese rubbers and short pips, respectively).

Flat hits and smashes – especially with the BH short pips – are fast and deadly. Given the impressions thus far, I was expecting the DOC to be difficult to control in the short game, but to my surprise, the DOC was well-behaved in this aspect as long as I was able to use ‘soft hands’. Short and flat pushes, as well as, drop shots are easy to make and can be mixed up with deep and spinny pushes. The carbon kick does not seem to engage on these low-impact shots. However, under match pressure with a tenser forearm and wrist, pushes had a greater tendency to go too long. Aggressive serve returns are facilitated by the blade’s direct, stiff and crisp nature and a pleasure to play.

One type of strokes that is more difficult to execute with the DOC are defensive BH chops from mid- or long-distance as they initially tended to float too long. Serving with DOC is pretty good although the shorter-than-usual dwell seems to generate slightly less spin than with slower/softer blades but the difference was not very pronounced. Fast and long top/side-spin serves were particularly effective.

In summary, the DOC is a very fast and stiff blade that offers a surprisingly high level of control. In my opinion, the DOC pairs very well with slower and tacky Chinese rubber and short pips. The DOC is best suited to highly advanced players who remain relaxed under pressure as the OFF+ rated blade requires good feeling in the hands for controlled blocking, counter-looping, and short play. Players using hard loop drives and flat hits as their main strategy are the primary target group of this blade, but traditional two-winged loopers can also consider the DOC if they want to produce more penetrating shots following the switch to the 40+ ball. Combining the DOC with fast inverted European/Japanese rubbers would result in setups that are beyond my ability to control adequately. Lastly, I am impressed by the DOC’s excellent price-performance ratio.  

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