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)

One Response to “Racquet Review: The Wilson Steam 99S Promises Spin But Delivers Frustration”

  • Aj kerrn says:

    I loved this frame. I love Pro Staff 85 and hate PDs. I can put the ball on a dime with a PS85. I would rather not play than use a PD. so how come I love the 99s? Maybe it is the grip on the ball that allows me to do anything I want with the ball.

    I play old school tennis, grew up with Brian Gottfried Snauwaerts,. So maybe if you don’t have extreme grips and play a classic game the 99s could be a good fit.

    Most frames I pick up don’t offer anything I can’t get from a PS 85 weighing in at 397g. Perhaps the Volkl PB Mid 10 was worth trying, but everything else is just dull and boring. The 99s just makes me smile.

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