PostHeaderIcon Sharing My “Racquet Demo Hell”

I typically suffer in silence when going through the process of demo’ing racquets (wherein as you are trying to find your next racquet your game slowly starts to deteriorate because of all the changes until you can’t even hit a decent shot with your old racquet). But one of my hitting buddies persuaded me to share my experiences here on my blog so that it might help someone else who is also suffering through this process (thanks Patrick). 😉

I’ve used a Volkl Tour 10 V-Engine since it first came out several years ago. Back then I needed a racquet that would force me improve my stroke production and technique. It was perfect. Well-balanced and good power/control with proper stroke production. It was the racquet for becoming the better player I wanted to be. But as I have gotten older (almost 48) with shoulder/knee surgeries in the past 4 years (both on my dominant hitting side) plus other various injuries, I need a racquet that suits my current game and body. I find myself struggling with both power and control as soon as I lose even a single pound of tension in the strings. After a rough USTA season I decided to suck it up and start the process of finding my new “The One”.

First up was the Wilson Blade 98 BLX. It’s the racquet seen in the commercials with Federer, Venus, and Serena. They push a couch onto court to help counsel a struggling player, telling them this racquet will help them get more feel. It’s great advertising! I especially like the Roger commercial. Who doesn’t like a commercial with two cute guys, right? Anyway… it was a no-go for me and my game. The racquet gives a solid feel on groundstrokes, but is much more head-heavy than my current Volkl. So I felt a distinct lack of control on all shots when I was pressured, especially coming in for short balls. Serving was difficult as well. Too much vibration, and no control on serve placement. If the serve landed in it was usually a good one with lots of weight behind it, but I couldn’t tell you how I did it. Not the feeling you want in a racquet. NEXT!!!

Next demo test racquet was the Wilson BLX Pro Tour. I was told it is the racquet used by Juan Martin del Potro. A quick trip to Wikipedia showed that he switched to The Wilson K Factor 6.2 after coming back from his wrist injury. I won’t give any commentary on the reasons why he may have switched from this racquet, but after hitting with it for 5 minutes I hated it on all fronts. Bad for my backhand, forehand AND serve. NEXT!!!

I’ve never owned a Babolat racquet, but after hitting with a friend’s last week I decided to demo one. I picked up the Babolat GT Pure Storm, and I hated it. Racquet felt pretty lackluster on the backhand, and every forehand hit the back fence behind my hitting partner. I didn’t even bother attempting other strokes. NEXT!!!

After round 1 of demos, I went back to the pro shop to get some more demos based on my feedback from the first batch.

I came out with two Volkls and a Head. The Volkls were updated versions of the racquet I have been using. They were the PB9 and PB10 racquets. I had high hopes for these. The pro at the shop mentioned that most people who play Volkl don’t really find satisfaction with other brands. So I thought these two sticks would follow in the same tradition and work perfectly on first contact. Result: not so much. The PB10 felt heavy from the first ball strike…much more than my current racquet. And stiff.

My hitting partner could only focus on how bad the vibrations felt from this racquet more than any other aspect. Also, if my goal was to find a maneuverable and forgiving racquet, this was not going to cut it. Didn’t even wait to try serves before switching to the PB9. It was better than the PB10, but still didn’t feel right. Forehands were tough to control, backhands had no feel. The weight didn’t feel good in my hand. It went back into the bag. NEXT!!!

Having suffered a major Volkl letdown (my last 3 racquets have been Volkls), I tried the last of the demos: the Head Youtek IG Speed MP 315. Novak Djokovic uses Head racquets. I wouldn’t pretend to think that my game is anywhere near comparable to his game. And I have never owned a Head racquet. So my expectations were pretty low for this racquet.

However, on first strike it felt surprisingly good. Really good. I have a long but quick stroke (too quick at times). This racquet allows for that kind of wind-up and still keeps the ball on the court. It feels good off both sides, and gave me good feel and depth on both wings. Serves were a dream. I felt like I could maneuver the ball all over the box with a ton of added slice. Volleys felt solid with good control, short balls felt good too. It didn’t take long to make up my mind on this Head racquet… I pretty much had what I was looking for.

Of course rallying is a very different experience from set or match play. The weight difference between my current Volkl and the Head is significant. The light weight caused some problems. Playing a set was a challenge in slowing down a swing speed that’s been programmed over 7 years. When the adrenaline starts pumping during match play, it’s easy to swing too fast putting the contact point way far in front of you (which sends the ball straight to the bottom of the net). That’s okay though. I should be able to adapt with time, right? 😉 Bottom line: I’m still stoked by the potential of this stick!

I will demo a few more models and report on those within the week. But the Head Youtek IG Speed MP 315 is definitely the frontrunner!
(SPECIAL THANKS to Lynnette and Keri at the San Francisco Tennis Club pro shop for their help in finding a racquet that suits my game.)

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