DON IGUANA'S STIGA MENDO / YASAKA MARK V TEST
February 19th, 1999
Leave it to that rascal Don Iguana! Holding court and sharing his broad (as broad as his barely organized ganglia can be) knowledge of the game with the Western Maryland Table Tennis Club.
As Don explained to us, when one looks closely enough, Yasaka is more than the "other" Japanese table tennis manufacturer. They have significant interests (ownership) in Stiga and control the Swedish facility where Stiga, Banda, (and other blades) are made.
Stiga blades and their kin have been among the world's most popular since the 1960's. The same can be said for Yasaka Mark V. It was among the first rubbers to use a blend of synthetic and natural materials in the search for speed and spin. The Stiga/Mark V combination captured a World Championship in 1971 in the hands of Stellan Bengsston. It was the rubber of choice at one time for your About.com Guide Sean O'Neill. Mark V survives today and is endorsed and used by French '93 World Champion Gatien.
Stiga also sells rubber under its brand name, made in Japan. Thanks to the Swedish manufacturers latest sponsorship deal, Stiga Mendo is currently glued to the World Number One's blade. Liu Guoliang chose this rubber for his unique "wrong side" penhold backhand loop.
When they heard that international table tennis celebrity Don Iguana was interested in testing Mendo, Maro and the guys at Table Tennis Pioneers were kind enough to forward some Mendo and Yasaka Mark V for a new Don Iguana test!
Both Mendo and Mark V come in soft sponge versions (Energy and GPS) but yesterday's test compared the two originals side by side on the same blade and alternated with a companion blade surfaced with Sriver FX and Bryce...to "bracket" our test sheets between softer and faster Japanese products.
Here's the test rig:
Rubber: Red Stiga Mendo 2.0 (44 grams trimmed) primed and glued for the first time, Red Yasaka Mark V 2.0 (42 grams trimmed) primed and glued for the first time, Red Sriver FX 2.1 speed glued for six or seven sessions (42 grams), black Bryce 2.1 (43 grams), speed glued for five sessions.
Attachment: Speed glued ASTI EX and Booster to medium dome and try tack mounted to an EX coated blade thirty minutes before session.
Blades: Kreanga ST, soft 5 Ply, 85 grams without rubber
There are visible differences between Mark V and Mendo, despite the fact that they may be manufactured by the same interests.
Mark V is a darker, richer red and has a dense pale sponge that feels very compliant to the touch even though it must be coaxed to take glue. Mendo is a more translucent red and its bright color sponge feels stiffer to the touch but soaks up glue more readily and domes more dramatically.
Out on the table, Mendo is a crisp, consistent performer. It offers straight line response to input...not a lot of throw at low speeds, but very precise. It keeps getting stronger throughout the range of block and counters and cracks with authority at high impacts. It was especially good hitting counters from mid range. You can get "down to the wood" in hard counter exchanges and fling the ball to far corners with accuracy. If the rubber "gave up" a little on hard impacts, the upside of that event was great high speed control.
In contrast, there is rich texture to Mark V, sort of muffling of the contact at all speeds. For all round players who like to play points at medium speed and who depend on the opponent's pace, it is a dream come true. The sponge/top sheet combination is compliant to the incoming ball and has long at-the-table dwell time. It counter drives well at the top of the bounce at the table.
But as your own strokes accelerate (especially from longer distance) this feel is less comfortable, especially on loops against the block, loop kills and mid distance counters. At higher impacts, Mark V feels neither soft nor crisp compared to it's perhaps more modern Mendo kin. The speed and spin were there, but the most common outcome of energized stroking was l-o-n-g.
Here are Don's relative rankings for the four tested surfaces from the subjective "best" on down.
(Based on perceived amount of spin and ease of placement)
DWELL TIME - MEDIUM SPEED AT THE TABLE
(Based on control of speed and placement during at the table counter drill)
DWELL TIME - HIGH SPEED MEDIUM DEPTH
(Based on control of speed and placement during harder medium depth counter drill)
LOOPING AGAINST BACKSPIN
(Based on amount of spin and consistency in three ball drill against push)
(Based on spin, speed and consistency at medium depth)
(Based on speed and placement blocking against loop and killing lobs)
Being familiar with both the intimidating speed of Bryce and comfortable corky FX, Don was quite impressed with the performance possibilities of Stiga Mendo as a modern rubber that was both quick and controllable in a wide range of offensive drills.
Don felt that the Energy version of Mendo would be a "plug and play" equivalent of FX, and that our tested original Mendo would be quite useable by anyone now playing with Bryce, Sriver, Coppa, Waldner (or FX for that matter) with good results.
Although a little stiff at low speeds compared to Mark V and FX, it shines as the pace picks up (and maybe after several gluings). Mendo settles comfortably between Sriver and Bryce in speed and perhaps just a little under FX in spin...but all the same shots would land. It was an exciting change for mid distance countering and counterlooping, rewarding a good stroke with a clean, crisp crack and excellent directional control. It is frankly easy to imagine it in the hands of World Class players.
If forced to fill this mold, Mark V disappoints. The GPS and M2 versions, one softer and one stiffer may be better choices for loopers and attackers. But there is a very real, sweet touch to this venerable surface at the table. It was the best service/push surface tested and countered at the table with confidence and zip. For controlled at-the-table players this rubber would be spinny, smooth as velvet and very effective.
At higher impacts it is somewhat difficult to control. The speed and spin are there but something seems to disconnect your stroking input from the shot's outcome. Don surmised that this version may not feature the best sponge for strong offense...and that the legendary Mark V top sheet probably does its work better with the other GPS and M2 sponges in the line.
Thanks again to the folks at Table Tennis Pioneers. These Canadian folks have been great sports about the newsgroup, the Don Iguana Labs concept and they certainly approach the game with enthusiasm. They offer a very complete line of equipment and their colorful catalog features a wider line of blades and rubber than any of our South Of The Border suppliers, including the latest blades and rubber from Banda, Nittaku, and Yasaka, as well as Butterfly and Stiga.
Last Update : 06 November, 2002
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