Table tennis rackets are made up of 3 main components: The blade, the forehand rubber, and the backhand rubber.
Most table tennis rackets have a red side and a black side, though, in 2021, a rule change enabled colored rubbers other than red to make their comeback to the sport.
Is there a difference between black and red rubbers? Should you use black rubbers on the forehand side? Why does a table tennis racket need to be red and black?
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Why do table tennis rackets have two colors?
Table tennis rackets need to have different colors on either side because there are many different types of table tennis rubbers.
The most common type of table tennis rubbers are inverted rubbers, but there are also short pips, long pips, and antispin rubbers.
Up until 1986, players could have rubbers of the same color on both sides of their rackets.
This made it so that players could turn their racket around and their opponents had no way of knowing which side they hit the ball with since both sides were the same color.
Lots of these players had an inverted rubber on the forehand side and long pips or antispin on the backhand side, so they would turn their racket around and create lots of unpredictable effects.
Both rubbers looked the same so it was impossible to know which side they hit the ball with unless you were paying attention to what your opponent was doing, which would require you to focus on your opponent rather than the ball.
The ITTF thought this phenomenon wasn’t healthy for the sport so they introduced the two-color rule in 1986, and for 35 years, the only two legal rubber colors were red and black.
The introduction of colored rubbers
Since 2021, table tennis rackets don’t need to be red and black anymore.
Table tennis rackets now need to have a black rubber on one side and a colored rubber on the other.
This color is usually red, but in 2021, 4 new colors were added: blue, pink, violet, and green.
After extensive lighting testing, the ITTF concluded that these 4 colors could be added to the sport.
The reasoning for the decision was that both sides are still easily recognizable if black rubbers are kept on one side. These new colors make table tennis more fun since we have more options to customize our rackets.
I have to say I really like this change since I feel it adds a lot of color to the sport.
Nigerian legend Quadri Aruna has been using green rubbers since this new rule is in effect and they match him perfectly.
When he represents his country, Nigeria, I think it’s quite cool that he gets to use rubbers the color of his flag.
His blade is also green so his backhand rubber matches the color of the handle. This effect makes his racket look a whole lot better.
Another player who has been loving the new colored rubbers is Koki Niwa.
Koki has been using blue rubbers on his forehand side and we can see this color perfectly matches his Japan shirt and his shoes.
Lastly, another player who has been enjoying the new colors is Bernadette Szocs.
Bernadette has been winning in style with her pink rubber on her backhand side.
As you can see, these new rules allow us to express our personality at the table and have fun customizing our rackets with our favorite colors.
The majority of players still use red and black rubbers since they’re accustomed to those colors or they like to keep it simple.
For those of us who like to have a unique racket, we now have more options to choose from, so everyone’s happy.
Another factor contributing to the low proportion of colored rubbers is that most rubber models aren’t yet available in the new colors.
I’m sure we’ll be seeing different colors more often in the future as more manufacturers start to incorporate them in their catalogs.
Is there a difference between red and black table tennis rubbers?
Another question that’s asked quite often is whether there’s a difference between colored rubbers and black rubbers.
There is a difference in the manufacturing process of colored and black rubbers.
Rubber, in its natural state, is black. To turn rubbers red, or any other color, certain dyes, and pigments have to be used.
There is a theory that states that red rubbers are faster, while black rubbers are spinnier and tackier, and that this is especially true with Chinese rubbers.
Proponents of this theory maintain that it is preferable to use black rubbers on the forehand side and red rubbers on the backhand since black forehand rubbers would be tackier and spinnier.
It is also true that all Chinese professional players utilize black rubbers on the forehand side. Ma Long, Fan Zhendong, Lin Gaoyuan, Wang Chuqin, the list goes on.
Not one of them uses red rubbers on the forehand side.
To further add credibility to this theory, most high-end Chinese rubbers aren’t offered in red, they’re only sold in black.
The DHS Hurricane 3 NEO national edition isn’t available in red, for example.
The vast majority of non-Chinese professional players also use black rubbers on their forehand side, though some use colored rubbers on the forehand.
If some top-tier non-Chinese professional players utilize colored rubbers on their forehand side, then there probably isn’t a difference between colored rubbers and black rubbers in regards to European/Japanese rubbers.
There probably is a difference between black and red Chinese rubbers but there isn’t a big difference between black and red (or colored) European and Japanese rubbers.
If you plan on using Chinese rubbers, then I’d use black rubbers on the forehand. Even then, you might not notice a difference.
If you plan on using European or Japanese rubbers, then it doesn’t really matter what color you choose for either side.
Alvaro’s been playing Table Tennis since he was 15 and is now ranked within the top 200 in his native Argentina. He loves to compete in provincial tournaments and is always looking for ways to improve. Alvaro made his favourite memories with a racket in hand, and he joined the RacketInsight team to share his passion with other players!