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Review: Nittaku Moristo SP AX

28 August 2019  | Posted in: Table Tennis Reviews

Nittaku Moristo SP AX – A rather unusual short pimpled rubber. 

     This time I was given the opportunity to try out the newest short pips offering from Nittaku, i.e.Moristo SP AX. I have previously reviewed Nittaku Moristo SP, which supposedly was used by the young Japanese super-star, Mima Ito, and was, therefore, looking forward to trying out this new member of the Moristo short pips family. 

     Nittaku describes Moristo SP AX as a very fast tensioned soft rubber with advanced spin performance, which is particularly well-suited for players who utilize spin to their advantage when pushing and executing banana flips (Chiquitas), while still wishing to initiate offensive opportunities with drives. This is a fairly unusual description for a short pips rubber. Normally, qualities such as direct hitting, blocking, and disruption are highlighted.            

     German-made Nittaku Moristo SP AX comes in a multicolored cardboard package that has blue, golden and silver color themes, with key rubber characteristics listed on the back. Unlike the Moristo SP, which has a vertical pip alignment, Moristo SP AX has a horizontal pip alignment, which, as described in our previous blog post, would be expected to increase the amount of spin that can be imparted. Moristo SP AX has a strong sweet booster smell and is relatively floppy without, however, curling excessively. The topsheet has a high quality feel to it, with an extremely grippy surface, and a darker red color vis-à-vis Moristo SP, indicating that different chemistries are used for the topsheets of the two rubbers. Another difference is the shape of the pips. While the pips on Moristo SP have a conical base and cylindrical top, the pips on Moristo SP AX are low and have the shape of truncated cones with hashed pip tops, which again is something that will maximize spin production. The cream-white sponge feels soft, but not super soft, and has no visible pores. Moristo SP AX weighs 51 g uncut and 38 g cut to the 158 x 151 mm test blade, which places it in the heavier range of short pimpled rubbers (Moristo SP weighs 46 g and 34 g, uncut and cut, respectively).

     Testing procedure: I retested the original Nittaku Moristo SP (largely agreeing with my original observations) and evaluated the new Moristo SP AX short pips (red, 1.8 mm) on a Stiga Rosewood NCT VII blade with a variety of different rubbers in my forehand, including the original Tibhar Evolution MX-P, the new 50-degree version of the MX-P, and my regular FH rubber, i.e., the DHS Hurricane 3. As always, I attached the rubbers using 2-3 layers of Revolution 3 normal viscosity glue without boosting them. I tested the short pips over several sessions, playing a mix of simple drills and practice/league matches against my regular clubmates, using DHS 3-star D40+ and Nittaku J-Top 40+ plastic balls in the process.      

     Playing impressions: I have tested ~20 short pimpled rubbers and played with Spinlord’s Waran and the harder-sponged Waran 2 for the past 2-3 years and can honestly say that Moristo SP AX feels quite different than these rubbers. At first, I could hardly land a single BH drive, as most shots went long, almost as if I was playing with a regular inverted rubber. However, once I closed the bat angle a little more, I started to enjoy the feeling on BH drives. The contact point is crisp, which is probably due to the thin topsheet, medium-soft 1.8 mm sponge, and harder outer plies of Stiga Rosewood NCT VII. A distinct cracking sound is produced on every BH drive, especially if hitting the ball towards the top of the paddle. The ball trajectory is on the higher side among short pimpled rubbers with limited dipping and disruptive effect. In my opinion, Moristo SP AX is a medium-fast short pip rubber, which is slower than Spinlord Waran series. The most single most intriguing characteristic of Moristo SP AX is that it enables BH “looping” from all ranges, including from far distance in loop-to-loop rallies. Obviously, I am not talking about regular BH loops like with inverted rubbers, but instead rolling shots that still have an arching trajectory, providing surprising safety over the net. The moderately fast combination of Moristo SP AX and Rosewood NCT VII gave me hitherto unrivaled confidence to fully engage in aggressive BH loop-drives both close to and away from the table. This is a useful ability to have for short pips players if they find themselves caught away from the table, as this normally results in a point lost. Not necessarily so with this rubber/blade combination. I attribute this unusual looping ability to the grippy topsheet. Interestingly, the grippiness did not cause any discernible problems for hitting through backspin and actually was an advantage except that I needed to use a more wristy stroke than normal (i.e., more similar to an inverted BH loop). Blocking felt solid and controlled against my mid-level practice partners and I did not detect any major sensitivity to incoming spin. However, I suspect that the sponge might be too soft to consistently block loops from very high-level players. Aggressive serve returns, including banana flicks, can be executed confidently with these short pips, as the grippiness of the pips allows for lift over the net. These flicks caused my opponents considerable confusion since there was a surprising amount of spin on the shots. One area in which I found Moristo SP AX lacking relative to other short pimpled rubbers with horizontal pip alignment was spin on long pushes, as the rubber felt bouncy, rending it difficult to impart high levels of spin. Along similar lines, I found it difficult to chop from afar with many of my shots going long, and those that landed being less spinny than with Waran 2. Short pushes and drop shots can be played reasonably short and low, but there is some bounce to the rubber even at low arm swing speeds, which requires soft hands.     

     If you compare the present review of Moristo SP AX and my review of the original Moristo SP, you will the two rubbers share commonalities including a low level of deception, relative ease in hitting through spin, an interesting ability to facilitate BH topspins, and some weaknesses in long pushes. However, they are really two different rubbers, with the regular SP behaving more like a prototypical soft short pip rubber, whereas SP AX almost feels like an inverted rubber while retaining short pip qualities. In my opinion, new Moristo SP AX – following adjustments in bat angle – is easier to use for aggressive play, be it driving, hitting through spin, or BH looping from all distances. 

     Conclusion: Nittaku Moristo SP AX is a fairly unique short pimpled rubber inasmuch it – by short pip standards – allows for high-quality BH flicks, loop-drives, and counter-loops, all while being fully competent in typical strengths of short pip rubbers, i.e., drives, blocking, and flat hitting. There are other short pips rubbers that work better in the short game and for chopping away from the table, but they are not nearly as good as Moristo SP AX for aggressive play, especially from mid-distance. In my opinion, Moristo SP AX will work particularly well for players transitioning from inverted to short pimpled rubbers, and for short pips players, who aren’t strong enough to an impenetrable wall on their BH and sometimes are forced out into mid-distance in their BH.  

Speed: 8/10

Spin: 7.5/10

Control: 8.5/10

Deception: 3/10

Hitting through backspin: 9/10

BH “loops” from mid-distance: 9.5/10 

Blocking: 8/10 

Short game: 9/10

Chopping: 8/10


About the Reviewer

     Patrick Hrdlicka is a table tennis enthusiast with a Ph.D. in chemistry who combines his analytical and experimental skills with his love of table tennis in order to test and review a wide range of table tennis equipment.