Posts Tagged ‘Racquets’

PostHeaderIcon Racquet Review: I’m SOLD on the Wilson Pro Staff 100LS

The Wilson Pro Staff 100LS

The Wilson Pro Staff 100LS

Ladies and gentlemen, meet my next racquet!

These are strong words coming from a guy who has NEVER liked a Wilson racquet of any generation, but there you have it. From the first hit to the last (before I put it back in the shipping box), I loved how this racquet complemented virtually every aspect of my game.

So let’s dive right in for some detailed thoughts on this rare Wilson unicorn.

wilson-pro-staff-100ls-benchGroundstrokes

The 100LS is a fairly light racquet. It’s 10.6 oz. strung weight is a full ounce lighter than the 11.6 oz. weight of my current HEAD Speed MP 315 (18×20). Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of light racquets because I’m a big, strong guy with a tendency to swing too fast. But rather than feeling like a toy racquet, the Pro Staff 100LS felt solid in my hand during the swing as well as on impact with the ball.

The lighter weight also gave me added maneuverability on the court, allowing me to get to balls that might normally be too difficult to reach, and actually being able to do something once I got there.

With its’ 16×15 string pattern, the 100LS has been promoted as a racquet that will give you more spin with better control. I can’t vouch for the spin part since my stroke production already promotes spin. What I can vouch for, however, is the incredible depth and power of shot I was able to create with this racquet.

The benefit to my forehand was clear on the first strike. The sound of the ball coming off the strings was like a Howitzer. My already pace-filled shot became an even more powerful weapon with this stick. At one point while receiving during doubles, I hit a passing shot that virtually left a smoke trail as it whizzed by the opposing net man. I can certainly hit shots of that caliber with my current stick, but not with the same ease or frequency.

The benefit to my two-handed backhand wasn’t nearly as dramatic, but that was okay as long as there was no performance deficit. Initially, it was tough to get “touch” and/or depth on my backhand slice shots. That was remedied by a taking a more deliberate stroke with a slightly bigger backswing. Also, a reduction in string tension would probably provide better overall feel.

(A backhand side note: Though I normally hit a two-hander, I even managed to “rip” a couple of single-handed backhands with this racquet. The 100LS definitely gets bonus credit for that achievement!)

Serves

The Howitzer effect mentioned earlier with regard to my forehand was also present on my serve. Well-struck serves were unreturnable. Decently struck serves were still winners. Overplayed serves hit the back fence, so it was necessary to make sure that I maintained the proper grip (with a relaxed arm) in order to minimize double faults.

Volleys

The two words I would use to describe my experience at the net with the 100LS are forgiving and solid. The aforementioned maneuverability of this stick allows for those with less than stellar volley technique, like myself, to make solid volleys from less than ideal positions. And generally, the ball stayed down nicely. I even made more than a few stellar stick volleys, though the racquet ‘had me’ after the first one.

Overall

Though my HEAD racquets have served me well for the better part of 5 years, there’s simply no comparison. Forehand, backhand, serve, and volley: there was absolutely no part of my game that didn’t benefit from the Pro Staff 100LS! In fact, I would buy a couple right now if I had an extra couple of hundred bucks lying around.

Stiffness is the only potential problem I can see for this racquet. Too many mishits could be a recipe for tennis elbow in a player with a tendency towards either mishits or tennis elbow. I had a few mishits on serve, and felt the impact immediately in my arm; though not enough to make me stop hitting. As mentioned earlier, however, lower string tension (or a different kind of string) could help with this. The demo I used was likely strung midrange at 59 pounds, 7 higher than my current stick. Lowering the tension to 54 would give it a softer feel, and probably help cushion the impact of mishits.

This is a GREAT racquet, and will likely be my next racquet purchase. However, if anyone out there is a Wilson rep (or knows a Wilson rep) with 100LS racquets to spare, contact me and I’ll send you my shipping address. 🙂

Note: If you’re interested in this (or any) 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 Specifications

Head Size: 100 sq. in. / 645.16 sq. cm.
Length: 27.25in / 68.58cm
Strung Weight: 10.6oz / 300.5g
Balance: 13in / 33.02cm / 4 pts HL
Stiffness: 63
Composition: Graphite/Kevlar/BLX
Power Level: Low-Medium
Stroke Style: Medium-Full
Swing Speed: Fast
String Pattern: 16 Mains / 15 Crosses
String Tension: 54-64 pounds

PostHeaderIcon Racquet Review: Two Frustrating Days with the HEAD Graphene Speed Rev

head_youtek_graphene_speed_rev2

Recently, I had a chance to hit with some of my co-workers. Since I hadn’t packed a racquet for the trip, I had to borrow one. That racquet was his spare HEAD Speed Rev.

Though I went into the hit knowing fully that this racquet was lighter and stiffer than my current Speed MP 315, with an open string pattern, I figured that it probably wouldn’t be too dissimilar from my own for a decent hit. I was wrong.

To be fair, this was a shotgun wedding of sorts. I needed a racquet, and this was the only one available, open string pattern and all. (Note: open string patterns and I don’t get along.) Still, it was a frustrating two days of tennis, with singles on the first day and doubles on the second.

Read why in my thoughts on the HEAD Graphene Speed Rev.

head_youtek_graphene_speed_rev1Groundstrokes

This racquet is light and stiff. When you combine those attributes with an open string pattern (16 x 19), you get a solid choice for a player with a slow to medium swing, and one that allows for someone with a flatter stroke production to create more spin.

I am NOT that player. The Rev’s light weight made it feel like a toy in my hands. Slowing my swing with such a light stick was nearly impossible. Additionally, the stiffness of the frame never allowed the ball to stay on the strings long enough for good ball control. And as I’ve mentioned in previous reviews of “open string pattern” racquets, I struggled to find any semblance of control with my normal topspin-heavy stroke production.

After an hour of (singles) hitting, I managed a trace amount of control, but no more. That went away, however, when I played doubles and swung as I typically would during competitive play. It’s no exaggeration to say that I never knew if my shots would land in, or hit the back fence. Even when shots did stay in, they had no depth as they landed near the service line.

Volleys

Volleys were “hit or miss”… mostly “miss”. Without sufficient punch volleys died into the net. Even with decent volley technique, I struggled for placement and deliberate depth of shot.

Serve

My serve is probably the strongest part of my game. With that knowledge, I will admit that I double-faulted (long) whole games away in doubles. There were occasional aces and mishits that landed in. But for the most part, it was simply embarrassing to witness such basic lack of control from my best weapon.

Overall Impressions
The fellow official I borrowed this racquet from is a teaching pro who hits a ton of balls every day over several hours. By his own admission, this racquet makes it easier for him because of its’ light weight. And because it’s made his job easier, he’s readily adapted his game to the racquet’s capabilities.

I’m not quite that adaptable. But even if I were, this racquet wouldn’t make my game better. In fact, it might make it a whole heckuva lot worse! The loss of serve, shot depth, and general lack of ball control would remove this racquet from any serious consideration for purchase.

So there you have it. My friend the teaching pro likes it very much, but I would never consider it for my game, or recommend it to anyone who craves better ball control. So what’s my advice on this frame? If you’re looking for a light racquet to give you easy pop, spin, and maneuverability, give it a shot. It’s a solid racquet from a solid company. For all others, I’d suggest looking at the Speed Pro or MP.

HEAD Graphene Speed Rev Specs

Head Size: 100 sq. in. / 645.16 sq. cm.
Length: 27in / 68.58cm
Strung Weight: 9.2oz / 260.82g
Swingweight: 300
Stiffness: 63
Power Level: Medium
Stroke Style: Medium
Swing Speed: Medium
String Pattern: 16 Mains / 19 Crosses
String Tension: 48-57 pounds

PostHeaderIcon Racquet Review: The Wilson Steam 99 Is A Solid Choice For Power, Spin, and Control

The Wilson Steam 99

The Wilson Steam 99

Unlike its’ counterpart the spin-oriented Steam 99S, the Steam 99 is an all-around solid racquet. Notably used by Kei Nishikori and Petra Kvitova, and immortalized in their infamous “cheating” ad campaign, the Steam 99 provides decent spin and power without the loss of control seen in the 99S. It’s not perfect, but there’s certainly a lot to like about this racquet.

steam99-side

Groundstrokes

The difference between the 99 and 99S was palpable from the first ball. Though not necessarily designed for spin, the 16×18 string pattern of the Steam 99 allows for a nice combination of spin and control. It felt solid on my forehand shots, and gave me the depth and placement that was lacking in the 99S. I could have used more spin in general, but was very pleased that I could go for my shots with a lot less worry about missing than with the 99S.

My backhand didn’t feel quite as solid because this racquet is slightly lighter than my current stick. Lighter racquets generally cause me to swing too fast and mistime my shots, and that was pretty much the struggle with the 99. Fortunately, I was able to work it out after a bit and even managed some winning serve returns.

The only real issue I had with this racquet was an inability to hit aggressive forehand service returns. That may not seem like much, but it’s one of my biggest weapons. I struggled to keep shots from flying long with the Steam 99, and also felt an uncomfortable amount of vibration. I figured it out eventually, but still not at the level to which I’m accustomed.

Players with flatter shots will likely see more benefit from this racquet in their ground game. But aggressive forehand returns notwithstanding, it’s still a decent stick from the baseline.

Serves

This racquet excelled from the service line, allowing me to easily hit slices out wide (both ad and deuce court), flat shots up the T, and strong body serves. In fact, the second doubles set that I played was ended with an ace down the T on match point. Not too shabby!

The only problem with this racquet on my serves came when I tried to inject pace. The struggles began, and all of my earlier control suddenly went flying out the window. Even after about 30 minutes of work, I never figured out how to hit my biggest serves. But that’s okay. My biggest weren’t needed to still have a positive impact on my service game.

Volleys

The Steam 99 gave me decent control on my volleys, and a surprising amount of feel. Even though I don’t have the greatest hands, I still managed to pull off some nice touch volleys. Open string patterns usually make it tough to keep volleys from popping up, but not the Steam. Volleys stayed nice and low. And any racquet that doesn’t hurt my cause at the net is alright by me!

Overall

Though I probably wouldn’t buy this racquet, I still felt strongly enough about its’ performance that I would recommend it to someone who’s interested in decent spin and control WITH accuracy.

It would be great if the Steam 99 took more of my natural spin. It’s also not as versatile of a stick as my current racquet, and is also a little light for my tastes. It didn’t give me quite the solid feel I would have liked, especially on my weaker backhand side.

Seemingly small items such as that are important to note when trying out a new racquet. It’s easy to get excited about a racquet that plays to our strengths. However, it’s much better to be excited about a racquet that plays to our weaknesses, and helps to lift our overall game.

This racquet didn’t quite do that for me. But if you’re a flat-stroke player who’s on the lookout for a racquet that can up the ante of your game in terms of spin and power, take it out for a hit and see for yourself.

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.)

Racquet Specifications

Head Size: 99 sq. in. / 638.71 sq. cm.
Length: 27in / 68.58cm
Strung Weight: 11.3oz / 320.35g
Balance: 3 pts HL
Swingweight: 328
Stiffness: 70
Power Level: Low-Medium
String Pattern: 16 Mains / 18 Crosses
String Tension: 50-60 pounds (demo strung at midrange)

PostHeaderIcon Racquet Review: The Wilson Steam 99S Promises Spin But Delivers Frustration

The Wilson Steam 99S

The Wilson Steam 99S

“Spin” is the current fad in tennis, with nearly every major racquet manufacturer touting racquets that promise Nadal-like ball rotation. The reality is that a racquet can only do so much to add spin, usually with consequences for other aspects of your game. Such is the case with the Steam 99S.

The 99S features an extremely open string pattern (16×15) that, at least on paper, should allow for a ton of potential spin. However, for someone like me who already hits with a fair amount of spin, the open pattern begets an almost complete loss of ball control. This turned out to be true for nearly every part of my game. Let’s start the breakdown with the racquet’s effect on my ground game.

steam99s-side

Groundstrokes

Two words: no control!
The open string pattern on the 99S might offer more spin, but with that spin comes a huge loss of control. This was true on both the forehand and backhand wings. When combined with the racquet’s light weight/low power, I found myself hitting high and non-descript balls that landed well short in the court, and only generally in the desired location. Any extra spin on my shots was negligible/unnecessary, and not beneficial enough to offset the loss of power and lack of penetration.

The racquet’s light weight also didn’t allow for a solid feel in my hand, or on my groundstrokes. I felt like I was swatting at the ball rather than stroking it. (My two-handed backhand fared much worse than my forehand.) Even when I managed to make decent contact with the ball, it never felt solid or satisfying.

Serve

Serves suffered from the same lack of penetration as groundstrokes, often landing short in the service box. This might be passable at some of the lower levels, but can really put you at a disadvantage with better players. Additionally, the racquet offered little in the way of versatility, as I struggled to move my serve around the box. Rarely have I worked so hard for so on my serves for so little payoff.

Volleys

The racquets lightness allows for significant vibration to be transferred into the hand, wrist, and arm. Volley control wasn’t great (no surprises there), and the ability to “stick” volleys felt compromised.

Overall

I knew after 5 minutes that this racquet had serious issues. My forehand was compromised, my backhand was non-existent, and my serve was all work for no pay off.  But I continued to use it in order to see if I could find the upside. And frankly, for my game, there was none.

To be fair, there was one positive aspect of my time with this racquet. I hit some great serve returns when the serves came at me with pace. Otherwise, it was pretty much a wash.

There’s no way I could ever see myself buying this racquet, but I can see it potentially working well for someone who likes a lighter racquet, likes to hit high balls over the net, and who isn’t concerned with the inability to hit aggressive returns or aim towards the lines.

If you already have sufficient spin on your shots and like to do more than “hit and hope” for shot placement, I’d look elsewhere for a new stick.

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.)

Racquet Specifications

Head Size: 99 sq. in. / 638.71 sq. cm.
Length: 27in / 68.58cm
Strung Weight: 11.4oz / 323.18g
Balance: 3 pts HL
Swingweight: 333
Stiffness: 69
Power Level: Low-Medium
String Pattern: 16 Mains / 15 Crosses
String Tension: 54-64 pounds (demo strung at midrange)

PostHeaderIcon Roger’s (Totally Unbelievable) Racquet Weight Story

roger-racquet-600

bnpparibasopen.com / Getty

A funny thing happened yesterday at the BNP Paribas Open. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that Roger Federer, the “Greatest of All Time”, tried to pull a fast one on me yesterday.

For nearly a year we’ve watched Roger go from dipping his toe into the waters of a new racquet to finally embracing the change and, ultimately, winning a title in Dubai with strong performances over his toughest rivals.

We know a lot about this new racquet. Some might say that we almost know too much. We know that it has a larger head (98 sq. in.) to provide him a larger sweet spot and more power. We also know that with the change in size came a corresponding change in string tension. Roger went from 22 kilos to 25-26 kilos in the new frame.

But there’s one piece of information about this new racquet that’s impossible to find: its’ weight. In a sport where the plus/minus margin of even one ounce can have a major impact on your shots, I was curious as to whether his tinkering with the weight had also been part of the adjustment issues with his new stick.

Here was Roger’s response to my questions about his racquet after his 6-4 6-4 victory over Tommy Haas in the R16:

Me: I know that you have been asked a zillion questions about the racquet and the larger head size, but one of the things I have not been able to find about this racquet is the weight. What is the weight?

ROGER FEDERER: I don’t know.

Me: You don’t know the weight? I was wondering if you were also tinkering with that along with string tension?

ROGER FEDERER: You do. But honestly I’m not a crazy nut about these little details. I let the experts handle that. I would tell them, I need more weight, more in the head, string tensions.

But in the end, what it really is, I don’t know. I can find out and maybe let you know, but it’s pretty much based on the same weight and balance like the other racquet, I’m sure. So it’s not, you know, is something like I have never felt before, and it needs to feel comfortable, and you can always — those little things you can always then still play with. But it’s important to feel like the racquet is giving you what you’re looking for.

Me: So the weight has never been anything that’s been that important to you?

ROGER FEDERER: I mean, it is. But honestly, I didn’t change weight or balance a whole lot throughout my career. It’s stayed pretty much in a very fine line, I’d say.

I was surprised that he didn’t know, but mostly satisfied with Roger’s response. That is, until I got back into the Media Room afterward and started chatting with some of the other writers. How could this tennis legend, a man who prides himself on knowing (and controlling) the details of everything from his tour/exhibition schedule to his training regimen, not know the weight of his racquet? When I was asked if I believed his answer, I was forced to entertain the possibility that “I’d been played” by the great one! Looking at how he’s been able to manage life on tour for this long (with the addition of a growing family), his lack of knowledge on this front is not conceivable.

He has to know the weight of his racquet!

I’m not sure why he’d try to pull the wool over my eyes, but that’s okay. Fool me once…well you know the rest.  I’ll be ready for Roger’s press conference shenanigans the next time, and I’ll call him on it. That’ll probably be the same day you read about a San Francisco tennis writer being ejected from a tournament. 😉

PostHeaderIcon Racquet Review: The HEAD YouTek Graphene Speed Pro, Part 2 – Specs

HEAD-Graphene-Speed-Pro

The video in Part 1 covered my immediate impressions after hitting with the Speed Pro. Part 2 will cover a quick discussion of the racquet specs, and how that might have impacted my reactions to hitting with this racquet instead of my Speed MP 315.

head graphene pro

My on-court impressions of the Speed Pro don’t quite match up with the specs in comparison to the MP 315. The Pro is .1 oz heavier (strung), but feels lighter in the hand when playing. It cuts through the air easier, and delivers more zip on the shot even though the power level is rated as low. This was true on both my forehand and my backhand. The MP 315 is a great racquet for control, but the Pro gives you control and pop.

I’ll end with one caveat that might account for some of the differences I felt between the two racquets. The demo I used was strung at 55 with Livewire. My Speed MP 315 is strung with a hybrid of NXT 16 in the crosses, and Stamina 17 in the mains at 52. My good friend Marla (from City Racquet Shop) suggested that I put Livewire into my current racquet the next time it’s strung before coming to a conclusion on the Speed Pro after my demo.

(My apologies for inconsistencies with the spec format. It’s tough to find consistent specs on the various sites.)

HEAD YouTek Graphene Speed Pro
Head Size : 100 in.2
Length : 27 Inches
Weight : 11.2 Ounces (unstrung) / 11.7 Ounces (strung)
Balance: Head Light
Balance Point: 33.0cm. / 13in.
Power Level: Low
Swing Type: Fast & Long
Tension: 48-57 lbs.
String Pattern: 18M x 20C
Flex (RDC): 66
Swing Weight: 338

HEAD YouTek Speed MP 315 18×20
Head Size : 100 sq. in.
Length : 27 Inches
Weight : 11.1 Ounces (unstrung) / 11.6 Ounces (strung)
Balance: Head Light
Balance Point: 31cm. / 12.2in.
Power Level: Low
Swing Type: Fast & Long
Tension: 52-62 Lbs.
String Pattern: 18M x 20C
Beam Width: 20mm
Flex: 65

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