SINGAPORE - Table tennis is no longer just a black-and-white affair. In a bid to inject more colour and variety into the sport, bats used in official competitions are no longer required to be black and red, or even round for the matter.
Other than his signature Hercules victory pose and his unexpected run to the 2021 World Table Tennis Championships men's singles final, Sweden's Truls Moregard has also caught the eye with his Stiga Cybershape bat that is hexagon-shaped.
The 20-year-old, who was eliminated at the last 32 in the men's singles and last 16 in the men's doubles at the World Table Tennis (WTT) Grand Smash in Singapore, said it took him just one practice session 20 days before the world championships to be convinced that this was the bat for him.
The world No. 14 explained: "I felt that the racket was so good, I wanted to play with it directly. It just felt amazing and comfortable. The top half of the blade is 11 per cent bigger than a regular bat, which increases the sweet spot. I felt like I got even more power from the blade. It's fast, but there's a lot of control in it still.
"For some people, it looks very weird, but I think it looks really good."
Moregard is not the only player to stand out with his equipment in Singapore.
Romania's Bernadette Szocs displayed her definition of "pretty in pink" as she played with pink rubber on one side of her bat.
She was knocked out of the women's singles in the round of 64 by Austria's Sofia Polcanova, with whom she reached the women's doubles semi-finals.
The world No. 23 said: "My favourite colour is pink and I was very happy with this idea of using another colour of rubber. I'm very happy some small things can be changed and I hope I can play with the pink rubber all my life.
"I first tried it at a T2 event in 2019 and it was unbelievably good, that's why I continued to play with it. It is a bit harder than the rubber I used before, but I feel it's good quality and faster.
"Many people have asked me for feedback and I think they like it. Already many fans send me pictures of them using pink or other-coloured bats, so I think this will help grow interest in the sport."
The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) approved the use of blue, green, pink and purple on one side of the bats, while the other side remains black so players can identify the pimples or anti-spin elements.
Other players who have jumped on the bandwagon with green rubber in Singapore are Germany's world No. 64 Sabine Winter and Nigeria's 11th-ranked Quadri Aruna, who displayed the colours of his national flag on his bat.
Claudia Herweg, the ITTF's head of equipment, explained that even as it tries to modernise table tennis equipment, "the aim was to define new colours and shades that were clearly distinguishable from ball colours and black surfaces".
After various experiments and seeking feedback from professionals, the response was largely positive.
She said: "We are of the opinion that table tennis is colourful because it is such a diverse sport. We also have the impression that many players find it important to customise their material and coloured rubbers will offer another opportunity to do so in the future."
WTT managing director Matt Pound explained that the ITTF has a state-of-the-art lab in Germany that works hand-in-hand with manufacturers to introduce innovation while ensuring fairness. But "the WTT strives to transform table tennis and let players express their own style, with new rubber colours for example. All of these changes our sport for the better".
- Additional reporting by Laura Chia