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Spintech 9th Wonder Blade Review


Spintech 9th Wonder Review - By JJ

INTRODUCTIONS AND CONFESSIONS. I write to comment on two amazing phenomena: (1) Michael Lahlvani’s unique Spintech table tennis company; and (2) my new best friend at the table, the Spintech 9th Wonder carbon blade. My name is JJ, and I confess to being a table tennis addict. Nothing personal, but if you do not suffer from a similar affliction, you might as well put down this paper, turn on the tube, and watch that flower arranging show you been hearing about…

But back to me, already… I’m desperately trying to become that two-winged looper most of us aspire to be, all the while fighting 35 years of bad habits, no coaching, no robot, and twenty pounds I need to lose. I’m no 2000 rated player, but I welcome every opportunity to hit with the “big kids.” I employ max thickness sponge on both forehand and backhand, and I speed-glue regularly. Favorite rubber is currently Spintech Spinpower, but I still have a weakness for Sriver FX, Tibhar MAKSS soft, and – when I draw one of those pesky long-pips types – Globe 999 (Japanese sponge, of course) and Panda Quickspin mounted on my trusty Donic Waldner Senso V2. For those of you unfamiliar with the Globe and Panda rubber sheets, believe me… they are sticky enough to pick up small children!

LESS THAN LEGAL DISCLAIMER. Before I begin pontificating, I should say that I have not received anything from Michael or Spintech for writing this piece. He doesn’t live next door. Matter of fact, I wouldn’t recognize him if he passed me in the airport. I simply love the game of TT and am happy to share information about great products with fellow TT aficionados.

THANK GOODNESS FOR GOOGLE.COM. About a year ago, I was searching the Internet for the now defunct Butterfly Keyshot, when a search engine referred me to the Spintech website and their Carbo Touch blade, since it is advertised as being “reminiscent” of the Keyshot. When I called to discuss that blade, Michael and I chatted for many minutes, during which Michael made clear his belief that his equipment is the finest in the world. He acknowledged that while his prices are not cheap, neither is top quality. Anyway… we decided that his Carbo Elite carbon blade would best suit my game.

THE CARBO ELITE BLADE. When I received the Carbo Elite, the quality of materials and craftsmanship was clear. The high grade wood and the attention to detail – hand made, you know – combine to make a well-balanced and light bat. Further, when I glued up the Carbo Elite, it turned into a veritable “magic wand,” blending carbon-based power and soft Gabon wood to produce uncanny control and amazingly soft touch in an Offensive rated blade. Remember I use max thickness sponge… Thinner sponge will, of course, increase control and touch. Suffice it to say, during the next year, that Carbo Elite helped me raise my game to a new level… adding some 150 rating points in just three tournaments. I could not endorse that blade any more emphatically, even if Michael were paying me to do so… and I already told you he is not.

THE 9TH WONDER BLADE TRIAL. My buddy Dave attended the latest Spintech-sponsored tournament in Atlanta and tested a 9th Wonder blade. By this time, we both owned a Carbo Elite, but had been hesitant to try the 9th Wonder, since it sounded like too much blade for anyone not playing at the highest levels (and hey, I already hinted it costs more than a month’s worth of good whiskey). After all, Dave and I had played with many high-powered blades like the carbon Gergely’s and hard wood Mazunov’s, looking for that extra speed, big hitting power, and laser-like loop. Unfortunately, every one felt like you were hitting with a sheet of slate rock – plenty of power, but no touch, with communication between you and the stiff, uncaring hammer as soft as a whisper from the other side of an auditorium. The 9th Wonder changes all that… especially if you wait until after practice to enjoy that whiskey!

WHAT MY WIFE DOESN’T KNOW WON’T HURT ME… Power and speed are to be expected in a quality carbon blade (I should know, having spent more money on them than my wife would believe… if she knew). What is unique about the 9W is what I’ll call its “harness-able” power, surprising touch, relatively soft feel, and – most important – the wonderful control it provides around the table at any speed. With just a half hour of hitting, you discover that the 9W does not make you guess what it is doing; instead, its softer (but not soft) wood tells you what the ball is doing, where the ball is going, and what pace you just applied. I’ll try to break out some phases…

COUNTERS AND FLAT HITS AND BLOCKS, OH MY! Just as advertised, blocks with the 9W are sent whizzing over the net with surreal quickness, catching your opponent off-guard time and again. Fast counters seem almost effortless – if one can simply remember to employ reasonable technique AND to “direct the ball.” And flat hits – even shy of the wood – on those nice, juicy pop ups are… well, gone! FWIW, the sound is also very cool, especially with Spinpower rubber…

WHAT ABOUT LOOPING, YOU ASK… Oh, yeah! With the 9th Wonder, you need not attempt to imitate Barry Bonds from mid-distance to get the ball across with sufficient pace and spin… no, no. At six feet back or more, this blade really provides power you can control – assuming you use smooth and proper technique (you know, technique: that stuff we’ve all read about and heard in clinics). The results are loops that make you giddy… fast and low or high and slow, each stuffed with more spin that I’ve ever produced. Moreover, the fringe benefit of not swinging for a home run every shot means less energy expended, which really makes a difference at the end of that two-day giant round-robin!

THE SHORT GAME SURPRISE. Interestingly, one’s attempts to push in the short game with the 9W are initially rewarded with balls that end up “in the net,” instead of popping up or floating long (what you would expect from a powerful, relatively stiff blade). You soon discover that, like quality rubber, the 9th Wonder seems to have “gears”. In other words, when working close to the net, you quickly learn to use more aggressive strokes, like those afforded by a much slower OFF- blade, such as the venerable Donic Senso II mentioned above. What a welcome surprise!

“WHISPERS” AND “SHOUTS”. However, while the 9th Wonder is well versed at pushing, it seems to whisper to you, “that’s not my bag.” With each timid push, the blade reminds you, “I could have flipped that short serve past him before he pulled his racket back.” Chops and backspin strokes are also easy to keep in check and, in fact, can be made so spinney that variation at serve instantly becomes a part of one’s game. But again, when you chop back an opponent’s shot, the 9th Wonder shouts, “Why did you do that, when I could have looped that down his back hand line for an easy winner?” For what it’s worth, I’ve been heeding those whispers and shouts more and more these days, much to the chagrin of opponents!

STEP UP AND STEP BACK! Consider that Spintech’s website description of the 9th Wonder includes the phrase, “not for the faint hearted.” My personal thought is that while this truly OFF+ weapon is not suited for the young player just developing basic strokes, neither is it only for the 2000+ rated big hitter. I believe the 9W would be embraced by every intermediate player looking to “step up” the pace of his/her game and ready to “step back” to the mid-distance power looping that dominates higher levels of table tennis today!

OLD DOGS, BIG DOGS… In short, the 9th Wonder is the most amazing piece of table tennis equipment this old dog has used in 35 years of hittin’ the ball. Make no mistake… it is a “big dog” at the table, with power to spare and happy to prove it. What differentiates the 9W from other OFF+ carbon blades is what I’ll call its honesty, predictability, and “friendly” feeling at all distances, at all speeds. Paired with your favorite quality rubber, I am sure any intermediate or advanced player will fall in love with it, as I have.

NOT AN OFF+ TYPE, HUH? OK, if you are certain your game is not ready for the power of the 9W, please consider the Carbo Elite (rated OFF), which I’ll arbitrarily rate around 20% slower and less powerful than the 9th Wonder, with or without speed glue. The Carbo Elite is still a very powerful scepter, especially in the right hands, but with the most refined manners and forgiving comportment I’ve found in any quality carbon blade. Sorry, but I can’t offer you mine… it still gets plenty of work as my warm-up bat and tournament back up!

STILL NOT SURE? Call Michael. I’ll bet he can guide you to a quality Spintech blade that will match up with – and improve – your personal style and game. He certainly did for me… twice!

Keep Swingin’!