Posts Tagged ‘Wilson’

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 Wednesday with the Wilson Steam 99 & 99S (VIDEO)

The Wilson Steam 99 and Steam 99S

The Wilson Steam 99 and Steam 99S

steam-sideI’ve never been a huge Wilson racquet fan, but wanted to spend a couple of days with the Steam 99 and Steam 99S to see if they could change my mind. No dice! Still not the sticks for me. But I did find lots to like about the Steam 99; less so with the 99S.

Check out my preview video above, then check out the full reviews by clicking the links below:

The Wilson Steam 99: A Solid Choice For Power, Spin, and Control

The Wilson Steam 99S: Promises Spin But Delivers Frustration

Racquets provided by City Racquet Shop of San Francisco.

Racquet Review Overview Video

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 Racquet Review Preview: Two Days with the Wilson Steam 99 & 99S (VIDEO)

 

steam-thumb I’ve never been a huge Wilson racquet fan, but wanted to spend a couple of days with the Steam 99 and Steam 99S to see if they could change my mind. No dice! Still not the sticks for me. But I did find lots to like about the Steam 99; less so with the 99S.

Check out my preview video above, then check out the full review when it goes love on 5/21/14 for Racquet Review Wednesday.

Racquets provided by City Racquet Shop of San Francisco.

PostHeaderIcon Tennis String Talk: String Modifications, Or Why NXT Black Strings and Emery Boards Don’t Mix

wilson-nxt-17-black-10sworld-tennis-string.bigsplash

The broken “modified” strings

(Unpublished accompaniment to my earlier string review on the Wilson NXT “black” strings. 3/11/2012)

In a previous piece, I gave my impressions of the new Wilson NXT 17g “black” strings after having two racquets re-strung with this variant. If you’re a fan of the animated series “Family Guy”, you will appreciate my next reference. In the words of Peter Griffin, “I don’t very much care for these strings. I say good day to you sir”.

I’d find it difficult to recommend these strings for anyone with a game like mine. Whatever gains you might make in terms of longer string life, you pay for with a dramatic offset in loss in topspin, control and feel.

Since I was unwilling to pay for new strings so soon after stringing, I tried some string modification by using an emery board to wear down the black coating. The hope was that I regain the lost feel and control by wearing down the slick coating. I lightly rubbed, so as not to damage the strings. The rubbing was too light, however, and didn’t make much of a difference in the string’s playability.

My second attempt was more robust. My strings got a full mani/pedi this time, as I made sure that every applicable ball-facing surface around the sweet spot was rubbed by the emery board. My next hit ended quickly in disappointment, as both sets of strings broke within the first 15 minutes.

This experiment turned out to be a total bust! Each modified set lasted less than two weeks (3 hits).  I take full responsibility for the shortened string life, since the second attempt clearly damaged/weakened the strings. But it was a risk I was willing to take with racquets that felt unplayable.

I got both restrung: one with the regular “natural” Wilson NXT 17g at 58 pounds, and the other with Wilson Stamina 17g at 60. As I was paying, another patron came in for a re-stringing; coincidentally, because of broken Wilson NXT black strings (16g).

Surprisingly, his strings lasted only two weeks – and with no mods. His game was a lot like mine i.e. baseliner with heavy topspin who also found the black coating difficult in terms of feel and ball control.  Before meeting him, I was certain that mine would have lasted at least 5 more weeks without the emery board intervention. Afterward, I realized that maybe they would have broken anyway.

Wilson, you have a great string with the “natural” NXT. Please don’t change it!

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