In the world of Table Tennis, there are 2 very distinct types of rubbers: European grippy rubbers and Chinese tacky rubbers. Each of these have their unique advantages and disadvantages.
The Yasaka Rakza Z aims to bring out the best of both worlds by adopting a sticky topsheet and a high-tech, factory boosted sponge. In our opinion, this makes the rubber an excellent option for offensive players looking for high spin attacking shots.
In practice, the Rakza Z is easily controllable in the short game and loops are loaded with spin, all while retaining more than sufficient speed to hit very fast shots if your technique is strong.
We have playtested the rubber for more than 30 hours and found that its unparalleled spin and its performance on serve and receive make it the ideal choice for active loopers who like to attack their opponent first with powerful loops.
Perfect for: Forehand loopers of all levels who want to pressure their opponents with heavy spins and fast shots. 1-10+ years of playing.
Alvaro brings 7+ years of playing experience. He’s tested 20+ rubbers for Racket Insight and his style is The Controller.
Blade Used: Stratus Power Wood
Rubber Thickness: MAX
Hours Tested: 10+
We recommend the Yasaka Rakza Z to players who want to play a controlled offensive game based on spin and consistency.
Design of the Yasaka Rakza Z
Yasaka is a Japanese Table Tennis brand, although their blades are produced in Tranås, Sweden, and their rubbers are currently outsourced from the German factory ESN like many other manufacturers.
The brand is known for launching the “Rakza” family of rubbers, and this Rakza Z is the first in the series to have hybrid characteristics.
The Yasaka Rakza Z is classified as a hybrid rubber since, as we said before, it has a sticky topsheet and a European sponge.
The Chinese National Team players use sticky rubbers, and they win almost every competition in table tennis. Chinese players pay special attention to their equipment, and over the years they have always chosen sticky rubbers.
The main advantage of Chinese rubbers is that their tackiness means it is much easier to ignore the opponent’s effect and put your own spin on the ball.
Also, when playing short around the net, these rubbers have unparalleled control, as the stickiness takes energy away from the ball. This effect makes it much easier to serve and play out the short game, where Chinese players always have an edge over their opponents.
They are excellent for topspin attacks, but their disadvantage is that they do not have as much speed as European rubbers, unless the player using them has very strong strokes. To increase their speed, many Chinese players boost their rubbers.
European rubbers, on the other hand, have a much higher bounce, they are usually much more explosive than Chinese rubbers.
The problem with European rubbers is that they can be difficult to control in the short game, and they do not ignore spin like Chinese rubbers. They are also worse in countertopspin rallies.
The design of the Rakza Z seeks to incorporate the best of both worlds.
The Rakza Z is made up of a sticky topsheet, but it is also highly grippy. It is not as tacky as the Hurricane 3 NEO, its tackiness level is comparable to the Friendship 729 Super FX. It can pick up the ball from the table but just for a moment.
Unlike the latter, the Rakza Z is grippy as well as tacky. This is a plus since the Rakza Z will continue to have a spin even when it loses its tackiness (my Rakza Z has lost some tackiness, but it still has the same spin as it did in the beginning due to the grip).
Most sticky rubbers play a lot worse when humidity is high. When the rubber and the ball get moist, the tackiness can no longer grab the ball. I didn’t find this effect in the Rakza Z, because of its grip.
Like most tacky rubbers, the Rakza Z attracts a lot of dust particles, so we recommend cleaning your rubbers periodically so they don’t lose their grip.
After more than 30 hours of intensive play, the Rakza Z is as spinny as the first day, showing signs of good durability.
The sponge is medium-hard, I’d say it’s barely harder than the Rakza 7 (Our Rakza 7 review). On the ESN scale, around 48-50 degrees. The ideal hardness for the forehand side, if you ask me.
At first glance, the sponge surprised me with its heavy factory tuning. When I opened the package, the rubber was curled up, a sign of extremely high tension. In addition, the sponge is porous, in contrast to traditional Chinese sponges, which are dense.
These characteristics carry over to the game with a more powerful slingshot effect, but in return also make the rubber higher throwing.
This means that the ball is going to fly higher than most other rubbers. This can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on the situation. Higher throwing rubbers make open-ups a lot easier to perform, but there’s a higher risk of overshooting the table on topspin shots.
Another thing that caught my eye was the shiny look of the topsheet, and the dilated pimples underneath.
This rubber looks a lot like boosted Hurricane 3. It plays somewhat like that, too!
The Rakza Z, cut for my Tibhar Stratus Power Wood, weighs 53 grams in max thickness. It is a really heavy rubber, so we do not recommend it if you want to have a light setup, at least not at maximum thickness.
A bounce test reveals that the rubber has tackiness, but the bouncy sponge prevails, that is, it has a medium bounce, not like the Hurricane 3 NEO or other similar rubbers in which the tackiness makes the ball practically not bounce.
Playtesting the Rakza Z
I glued the Rakza Z on the forehand side of my Tibhar Stratus Power Wood, as it’s a medium-hard tacky rubber.
I also tried it briefly on my backhand side, but I didn’t like it for my style of play. It is not very strong on blocks, drives, and punches, so I would not recommend it unless you are a looper with a very strong backhand.
This review is based on more than 20 hours of playing matches and drilling with players ranging from early intermediate to advanced levels.
The videos in this review were taken from a training session with an advanced offensive player.
Driving and Looping
This rubber is made for topspin shots, there is no doubt in my mind. Drives and flat hits, however, I didn’t like it very much.
Starting with the drives, I feel that the high throw sometimes creates strange shots. It doesn’t feel very natural. It’s not like with European rubbers that you just aim, hit the ball and it flies directly to where you aim, and with great speed.
If you flat hit the ball, the tackiness, the high throw, and the reactive sponge make it difficult to control the shot, and for that matter, it wouldn’t be very effective either, since the throw is not flat at all, it would give opponents a lot of time to react.
Looping, however, is the greatest strength of this rubber. You can perform topspins from any angle, from any height and depth (close to the table or further back). You can aim at your opponent’s end line and he will receive a powerful, high-arcing loop loaded with spin.
After the bounce, the ball has a very strong kick effect. This makes the rubber perfect for powerful 3rd ball attacks.
The Rakza Z, in my opinion, has 2 main strengths:
1) The spin it generates is unparalleled. Not once playing with this rubber did I find ball slippage, you can have pure confidence that this rubber is going to bite the ball superbly every single time.
This works great when opening up and picking up low balls, paired with this rubber’s high throw, it makes it much easier to pull off shots from difficult angles.
2) Linearity. This rubber is linear, which means that you can measure the force you put on your shots much more accurately. It does not have that pronounced trampoline effect that characterizes flagship European rubbers such as Tenergy or Tibhar MX-P.
Although the sponge is very strong, the tacky topsheet mutes it very well, only unleashing force when the player decides to engage it.
These features give us a lethal package, in which the player can hit the ball with any spin and speed they want. Counterloops are also controllable, spinny, and powerful.
While we were shooting these clips, I gave the racket to my coach for him to try the rubber out. I blocked and received deep, high-arcing topspins with a lot of spin. When he gave me back my racket, he said, it’s a little slow, isn’t it?
That’s a completely valid reaction, especially coming from him because he plays with fast tensor rubbers.
In my opinion, if you have short strokes and play close to the table, this rubber is probably not for you. If you hit the ball at 60 to 70% strength, it’s not going to launch fast topspins. They are going to have spin, yes, but not speed.
I personally think Yasaka completely nailed the speed on the Rakza Z. It’s slow and controllable for the touch game and open-ups, but when you start engaging the sponge on powerloops, the rubber keeps giving more and more.
This rubber shines when you hit the ball hard.
Serve and receive
Serve and receive is an area of strength for the Rakza Z.
Starting with the serve: You can generate a lot of spin on serves, although not as much as with rubbers like the Hurricane 3 NEO or the Fastarc G-1.
I honestly thought this rubber was going to be outstanding on serves, but I’ve tried better. It generates more than enough spin to force errors if you are good servers, but not as much as the aforementioned rubbers.
Where this rubber shines the most is on receive. It is very easy to touch the ball short due to the tackiness, and at the same time, the rubber has enough power to perform forehand flicks.
This is definitely my favorite short game rubber, even more so than the Hurricane 3 NEO. With Hurricane 3, it is a little easier to touch short, but forehand flicks require that you time the ball perfectly, and a lot of power to get the lift over the net.
With the Rakza Z, it is easy to touch short and also flick.
In this clip, I’m able to control the short game until my opponent pops the ball up, and after the point develops I can close it out with a spinny forehand loop.
Blocking and chopping
Blocking with this rubber feels strange at first. It’s a high throw, tacky rubber. Once I got used to it, I realized that this rubber blocks very well!
The main feature of this rubber in blocking, chopping, and in the short game, is that it is very easy to soak power out of the ball. Although it is quite reactive to spin, if you block passively, the tackiness will take the power out of the ball.
In this clip, I make a shot that I think I definitely couldn’t make with a Tenergy, for example.
You can see in this chop-block how easy it is for the rubber to absorb the power the ball’s carrying, and convert topspin into side-backspin without popping out the ball or sending it long.
As for chops, this rubber generates a huge amount of backspin. I tested it for about 20 minutes of forehand chops and found that against weak topspins, this rubber generates spin that I never could with other rubbers.
However, when the opponent puts force on their attack, the chop tends to pop up a lot. The high throw and offensive characteristics of this rubber are very evident when trying to chop hard-hit balls.
It is very hard to put spin on the ball and at the same time keep the chop low to the net.
Alternatives to the Yasaka Rakza Z
The perfect step up from the Rakza Z. It has a similarly high throw but more speed, spin and greater hardness.
The Tibhar Hybrid K3 is a harder, faster and spinnier version of the Rakza Z.
The Donic Baracuda is very similar to the Rakza Z in the sense that it’s very spinny, controllable and high-throwing.
In conclusion, the Rakza Z surprised me for the better, especially because it suits my playing style perfectly.
I would not recommend this rubber for those who like rubbers with a strong rebound effect. This rubber only generates strong shots when the user hits the ball hard.
It is the perfect rubber for those who like to powerloop on their forehand side. It is ideal to generate attacking opportunities and capitalize on them. You can serve and touch short with great control, 2 crucial qualities for offensive players who prefer to attack first.
In addition, this rubber excels at lifting low balls, so opening up and attacking half-long balls with a lot of spin is not a problem.
This rubber will remain on the forehand side of my main racket, no doubt about it.
Alvaro’s been playing Table Tennis since he was 15 and is now ranked within the top 100 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!