Tennis Industry magazine

 

Survival of the Fittest

For racquet manufacturers, the strong are not only surviving, but they’re also producing some of their best frames ever.

By James Martin

Eighteenth-century economist Adam Smith didn’t play tennis, and he probably didn’t have the game in mind when he championed the advantages of a free-market economy in his book “The Wealth of Nations.” But he would have dug the effect his theory has had on the tennis business.

Competition has driven weak manufacturers off the court, and the survivors are producing some of the best tennis racquets ever — frames that incorporate high-tech materials like Liquidmetal and Isogrid and others that boast elaborate designs with cool-sounding names like Catapult and Frequency Tuning.

For consumers, the problem isn’t finding quality racquets anymore; most of what’s on your walls is worthy of their consideration, if not their money. The problem for players, besides sometimes trying to figure out how these high-tech materials and designs help their games, is selecting a racquet that compliments their strokes and skill levels.

Here’s a guide to help you help your customers.

Dunlop

Over the last year, Dunlop’s biggest coup wasn’t designing a revolutionary new racquet — though they’ve put out some gems this season — but luring back a star. John McEnroe, who grew up playing with the Dunlop Maxply, has returned to the Dunlop fold to not only endorse its racquets, but also to help in the research and development of new ones.

Currently, Johnny Mac is using the Dunlop 200G — a solid frame that he credits with his recent resurgence on the senior tours — but there are plenty of newer frames that should pique the interest of recreational players. For starters, there’s the Dunlop 200G XL, which is a half-ounce lighter and half an inch longer than the original. Result: Although it’s still designed for serious players, the XL is a bit more user-friendly. It’s also got a slightly more open string pattern so players can get extra bite on the ball.

Tweaking another popular model, Dunlop has introduced the 300G Oversize. It’s got a 106-square-inch head, versus the original’s 98-square-inch head, and a longer length (for more reach) to make the all-court racquet a little more powerful and easier to use, without losing control.

And while many racquets are, essentially, made for a specific type of player (e.g., serve-and-volleyer, advanced baseliner, short-swinging senior, etc.), Dunlop has taken the extra step of explicitly marketing to a target audience with the Lady G. According to Dunlop, women want three things in a racquet: maneuverability, light pick-up weight, and power. You’ll find all three in the Lady G, which should be popular among the female club dubs set.

Head

After 10 years of development, Liquidmetal has arrived, with a strength-to-weight ratio 2.5 times that of titanium. Tag Heuer has created a dent-proof watch and Rawlings a Liquidmetal baseball bat. Head? It’s been using the stiff stuff in its racquet heads, at the 10, 2, 5, and 7 o’clock positions, to produce a solid, super-stable family of frames. There are three new ones this spring.

Look for the Liquidmetal Instinct to take off with competitive juniors. It delivers a little more power than a typical tour-level racquet and doesn’t skimp on control. And thanks to Liquidmetal, the stability is beyond belief.

With the Liquidmetal Prestige, the super-stiff alloy improves the frame’s stability and slightly increases the size of the sweetspot compared to the i.Prestige. Remember: “slightly increase” is a relative term. The Prestige has always been, and still is, a racquet for pro-tour wannabes.

The Liquidmetal 2, meanwhile, will have broader appeal. Weighing a little over 9 ounces, it’s light and maneuverable. It’ll appeal to players who don’t quite have a long enough swing to use a tour-level frame, such as the Instinct and Prestige, but still like to take a healthy cut at the ball. And if anyone’s worried that the Liquidmetal 2 won’t be stable because it’s so light, don’t be — for the most part, it doesn’t twist in your hands when you miss the sweetspot.

Wilson

In 2003, Wilson raised more than a few eyebrows when it introduced a slew of sticks for players of all shapes and sizes. Not a whole lot has changed this year: The Big W is still touting the virtues of quantity with eight new racquets.

But the quality is there, too. The Triad 4 110 and Triad 3 Mid, for example, combine, for the first time, the company’s two flagship technologies, Triad and Isogrid. The three-piece design (the head and the hand are separated by a shock-absorbing polymer) reduces bad vibes, while Isogrid (an ultra-light weave of Aramid and graphite that’s used for the frame’s innermost layer) delivers outstanding stability. The Triad 4 110 has a crisper feel than the original Triad 4, and should be popular with mid-level men and women. The Triad 3 Mid? Compared to the oversize, which was a hit with intermediate women, it’s targeted more for aggressive male players with somewhat compact strokes.

While most racquets, Wilson’s included, are getting heavier these days, there are a few notable exceptions. The Wilson H Cosmo 115, for example. Billed as the “lighter side of Wilson,” it weighs a mere 8.6 ounces, features Isogrid, for stability and a solid feel, and should find an audience with women and older men with short to medium swings. Then there’s the Wilson Outer Edge, so named because it pushes the boundaries: the 28-1/2-inch length is shy of the 29-inch legal limit, and the 135-square-inch head is the maximum size, according to the rules of tennis. The Outer Edge will appeal to short-swinging seniors who want a super-powerful racquet that does virtually all of the work for them.

Advanced players, of course, need heavier frames, and Wilson’s got plenty of options. Serve-and-volleyers will like the thin-beam, head-light Pro Staff 95 (a lighter version of Roger Federer’s Pro Staff 90), while power baseliners looking for a head-heavy stick will have their choice of the oversize H Tour 105 and mid-plus H Blaze 95, among others.

Prince

Big doings at Prince: The company has consolidated its tennis operations in the U.S., from Italy, and it’s re-directing its emphasis. For the last few years, Prince has concentrated on the game-improvement market, but this year it’s going back to its roots with player-esque frames. Remember the original Graphite? The Michael Chang Graphite? Well, you get the idea of the direction Prince is heading.

Perhaps the most exciting new frame is the Tour NXG Graphite, Juan Carlos Ferrero’s weapon of choice, which is loaded with high-tech bells and whistles. The “Next Generation” frame has the More no-grommet design, for enhanced feel, “S” channels to allow for more string movement against the frame, reducing vibration, and Triple Threat weighting to increase stability and expand the sweetspot toward the 10 and 2 o’clock positions of the head. And talk about one-stop shopping: The NXG Graphite is available in an oversize (for good players), a mid-plus (for very good players), and a mid (for tour-level players).

Jennifer Capriati endorses the Tour Diablo. Compared to the NXG Graphite, this sinister-sounding stick has a more flexible, old-school feel, without the throat stabilizer. There are no bells and whistles — it’s just a solid-feeling graphite racquet for hard-hitting advanced players.

While Prince is servicing the more experienced player, it’s not forgetting about the masses. On the contrary. This season, you’ll also find the game-improvement Thunder Rip, an update of the 1999 Rip, with two significant improvements — high-modulus graphite has been added to the head, at the 10 and 2 o’clock positions, for extra stability, and an Air Handle has been added to reduce shock. The Turbo Outlaw, meanwhile, is an update of the Scream and is being targeted to juniors stepping up to their first adult-size frame.

Volkl

It’s anniversary time at Volkl. To celebrate the 10th year of the V1 Classic, Volkl is releasing the V1 Classic 10 Year. It’s exactly the same racquet — no technological updates here, and why would there be? This is the racquet, after all, that Tennis magazine once called a “virtual extension of the arm” that was like “playing with a cushion.” So rest assured, the soft feel is still there. What’s new? A snazzy new paint job to get the Classic caught up with the times.

Volkl also has something new, the Catapult 6, a light and maneuverable “tweener” frame for players between intermediate and advanced levels, to help round out its Catapult line of sticks.

Fischer

Fischer will have another addition to the Frequency Tuning family, the GDS Spice FT, for mid-level players with medium swings. The hook? It’s all in the name — FT, metal powder that’s placed all over the frame to optimize its weight and “tune” the vibration frequencies, for good feedback without the bad vibes.

New Racquets for Spring 2004

To contact these and other manufacturers, see our links pages.

Racquet Head Size (sq. in.) Len. (in.) Wt (gm) Bal. (in.) Balance (cm) Flex (RDC) Swingwt (RDC) Pattern (M×C) Power level SRP
Dunlop
200G XL 95 27.50 314 32.75 12.89 61 296 16×18 1801 $169.99
300G OS 105 27.50 294 34.25 13.48 61 295 18×20 1984 $179.99
800G ICE 110 27.50 281 36.75 14.47 68 314 16×19 2466 $189.99
600G ICE 102 27.00 285 36.00 14.17 73 297 16×19 2211 $219.99
Fischer
GDS Spirit FT 107 27.00 296 35.50 13.98 66 311 16×21 2196 $139.99
GDS Spice FT 102 27.25 276 35.00 13.78 67 284 16×19 1989 $179.99
Twin Tec 750 FTi 105 27.63 291 36.25 14.27 70 326 16×20 2546 $179.99
Twin Tec 950 FTi 112 27.75 281 36.00 14.17 70 316 16×20 2663 $209.99
GDS Take Off 1250 120 28.25 259 36.25 14.27 73 295 16×20 2907 $239.99
Head
Liquidmetal Instinct 100 27.00 307 33.70 13.27 64 319 18×19 2042 $170.00
Prince
Turbo Outlaw MP 100 27.00 291 35.75 14.07 71 311 16×20 2208 $150.00
Turbo Outlaw OS 110 27.50 285 35.00 13.78 71 314 16×19 2575 $150.00
Tour Diablo Mid 93 27.00 340 32.00 12.60 67 310 16×20 1932 $170.00
Tour Diablo MP 100 27.25 314 32.00 12.60 63 298 16×18 1924 $170.00
Tour NXGraphite Mid 92 27.00 359 31.00 12.20 64 329 18×20 1937 $200.00
Tour NXGraphite MP 100 27.25 336 32.00 12.60 66 310 16×20 2097 $200.00
Tour NXGraphite OS 107 27.50 336 31.50 12.40 64 325 16×19 2337 $200.00
Thunder RIP OS 115 28.00 274 37.00 14.57 78 340 16×19 3355 $210.00
Pro Kennex
Core 1 No 06 95 27.13 339 31.75 12.50 61 317 16×18 1860 $189.99
Core 1 No 10 102 27.25 310 33.75 13.29 68 311 16×19 2211 $199.99
Slazenger
Pro X1 95 27.00 336 32.00 12.60 67 305 16×18 1941 $179.99
Volkl
Catapult 6 100 27.25 294 33.75 13.29 66 299 16×18 2023 $180.00
Tour 8 SE 100 27.00 288 33.50 13.19 64 282 16×18 1805 $180.00
Tour 9 V-Engine 98 27.13 322 33.00 12.99 64 303 18×20 1924 $180.00
V1 Classic 10 Year Anniversary 102 27.00 298 34.50 13.58 72 310 16×19 2277 $200.00
Tour 10 V-Engine 93 27.13 336 32.00 12.60 60 308 18×20 1740 $200.00
Wilson
Pro Staff Trance MP 95 27.00 277 34.50 13.58 70 290 16×19 1929 $119.99
Pro Staff Trance OS 110 27.00 281 35.00 13.78 74 302 16×20 2458 $119.99
H Blaze 95 27.13 276 37.00 14.57 59 320 16×18 1816 $129.99
Pro Staff Tour 95 95 27.00 326 32.00 12.60 62 311 16×19 1817 $159.99
H Tour MP 105 27.44 297 35.75 14.07 69 332 16×20 2511 $169.99
H Wave 100 27.50 282 36.50 14.37 78 328 16×20 2686 $189.99
H Cosmo 115 27.75 246 39.50 15.55 77 315 16×19 2999 $199.99
T4 110 27.50 266 37.00 14.57 72 296 16×20 2462 $219.99
H1 Outer Edge 135 28.50 253 39.25 15.45 75 329 18×21 3799 $219.99
T3 100 27.50 269 37.90 14.92 73 310 16×20 2376 $249.99
Yonex
Ultimum RQ Ti 200M 102 27.00 258 36.00 14.17 73 281 16×19 2092 $119.00
Ultimum RQ Ti 250M 98 27.00 264 37.00 14.57 76 298 16×18 2220 $139.00
MP Tour 5 98 27.50 323 32.00 12.60 60 304 16×19 1877 $169.00
V-Con 15 100 27.50 287 35.00 13.78 71 305 16×18 2274 $189.00

See all articles by

About the Author

James Martin is the editor-in-chief of Tennis magazine and TENNIS.com. He is the former editor of Tennis Industry magazine. You can reach him at jmartin@tennismagazine.com.

 

Babolat Play

TI magazine search

TI magazine categories


TI magazine archives


 
 

Movable Type Development by PRO IT Service