17 Mar 2017

Since Tuesday 1st July 2014, the ITTF made the use of plastic balls instead of the traditional celluloid balls mandatory for all ITTF sanctioned and World Title events. Many players around the world have expressed their concern regarding the difference in characteristics of a ball sold by different manufacturers and brands. ITTF President Thomas Weikert opens up on his plans to tackle this issue.

By Neha Aggarwal

Since the change, the main issue that has been put forth is that a ball from different manufactures acts differently, thus making it difficult for the players to adjust to the change. The ITTF understands this issue, and has been relentlessly working to minimize such differences in order to provide the best equipment to the players.

Current situation

“The ITTF understands that the transition between the celluloid ball and the plastic ball has not been as smooth as we would have liked! However, we have been working very closely with our ball manufacturers,” admitted Thomas Weikert. “For example our World Tour ball sponsor DHS has been working hard to improve the quality of the balls and has been recently distributing new and improved balls to the top players, apparently the new balls are more resilient and the best thing is the price can be decreased.”

Currently there are 93 different brands of table tennis balls approved by the ITTF, including 35 celluloid balls, which gives the opportunity to a lot of different brands to have a presence in their respective geographical markets and ensures the availability of balls to be sold all over the world. However, different brands may have slightly different characteristics, making it a point of dissatisfaction from players.

“This is perhaps due to the wide range of materials currently allowed in ITTF’s rules, which is at the same time positive as it gives the opportunity to manufacturers to work with all sorts of plastic but at the same time difficult to ensure that all different types of balls have otherwise same or similar playing properties,” said Weikert.

Measures to improve quality

Thomas Weikert understands this issue, and thus, along with his entire team, he has been making efforts to reduce these differences.

“We know that our manufacturers, based on our strong encouragement, have been researching, testing and looking for new production technologies to improve the quality of the ball. At the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour Korea Open, ITTF’s partner DHS will start supplying new DHS D40+ balls, which according to our feedback is preferred by a lot of the players compared to the DHS 40+ balls. Hopefully it will ensure more spectacular rallies and more durable balls for all table tennis players.” – Thomas Weikert

He further added, “We are currently investigating ways to evaluate the tolerances to ensure that all ITTF approved balls are of similar quality and characteristics, regardless of the type of plastic they are made or what manufacturer they are coming from.

Assurance

During the recent EC meeting in Dubai, the Japanese representative Mr. Maehara Masihiro expressed the dissatisfaction from manufacturers on the rule that allowed a larger tolerance in bounce of the balls.

“As ITTF President and to support my colleague, I have decided to look closely at this decision and to investigate whether we maybe need to go back to the original tolerance. We will look closely whether necessary and if yes at how to do that within the rule structure in the next weeks,” assured Thomas Weikert.

Explaining Tolerance Range

As mentioned in the chart below, seven properties are tested for a ball to be approved by the ITTF. Currently, the range of each property is high, which is sometimes responsible for a difference in the characteristics of a ball produced by different manufacturers.

The ITTF is currently looking to resolve this issue to reduce these differences to promote similar characteristics in balls produced by different manufacturers.

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