If I were to toss aside my beloved HEAD Speed MP 315’s, the Tour Pro 98 would be at the top on my short list of replacements. Though it initially felt a little heavy to me, I immediately started hitting balls deep into the corners with ease on both my forehand and backhand wings.
I liked this racquet from the very first ball strike. Simply put, the ball goes exactly where you want it to go if hit cleanly. One of my first shots was a blazing backhand down-the-line return that got everyone’s attention. The same was true of a forehand return that left a smoke trail as it split the defenders on the other side.
Feeling cocky, I tried to add extra “oomph” on later returns and quickly realized this racquet’s limitations. It’s great for easy power, clean ball strikes, and shot accuracy. But unlike its’ sibling the Prince Tour 98 ESP, it’s not so great for topspin. Net clearance wasn’t as high as I’m used to with my current Speed MP 315, or as high as needed for the best depth of shot.
This led to problems (i.e. sending the ball to the back fence) when I tried to attack shots with added pace. It wasn’t insurmountable, but definitely took away from the racquet’s comfort factor as the set got tight. But those problems with pace/topspin aside, I still felt confident enough with my ground strokes to impose my game; even when facing break points. And that says a lot!
Serving with the Tour Pro 98 was solid, but not spectacular. (For the record, I look for spectacular since my serve is one of the best parts of my game.) My current racquet allows me to go for big bombs or slices out wide/up the T with relative ease. The Tour 98 wasn’t quite as versatile. Serves also suffered from the same “how much is too much” problem as my groundstrokes, with all attempts to inject extra pace resulting in bad misses.
I’m not saying that I served badly, because I didn’t. I served competently and was only broken once in the very first service game with it. But in tight situations when I need to lay down my best serve, it would be best not having to worry about hitting the baseline instead of the service line.
Volleys were the tough with this racquet. I had “no feel” at the net. Maybe if I had better hands or better volley technique, it would have been okay. But I only have “okay” hands and not the best technique. This resulted in bricked volleys, or volleys that sailed beyond the baseline. That’s okay for singles where you can make a choice to stay back. But it’s not so great for high-level doubles play which requires good volleys.
The Tour Pro 98 is a great racquet that allowed me to hit the strong, deep ground strokes that I love. However, it didn’t allow me to hit with as much topspin as I would have liked (which limited the amount of pace I could put on my shots). Its’ effect on my serve was okay, but I’d need some time to figure out how best to make it as versatile as I’d like. Lastly, volleys weren’t great, but that’s not a huge deal-breaker since I’m primarily a baseliner!
Could I make this racquet workable? Absolutely! The positives aspects of this racquet on my ground strokes are plenty, and the not-so-positives (serves and volleys) are workable. It’s not a perfect fit, but few racquets are. This stick gave me solid strokes and great control. Overall, I can’t think of a better foundation to start with for any racquet.
Note: If you’re interested in this racquet, take it out for a hit and judge for yourself. Racquet specs and marketing-speak are no substitute for knowing the strengths/weaknesses of your game, and how a racquet might help or hurt your goals.
(Racquet provided by City Racquet Shop of San Francisco.)
Power Level – 750
Headsize – 98 in2 / 632 cm2
Weight (g) – Unstrung 305 g
Weight (oz) – Unstrung 10.8 oz
Balance Unstrung – 7 Points Head Light
Swing Weight – 295
String Pattern – 18 x 20
Composition – 100% Graphite
Recommended Tension – 55 +/- 5lbs