Tennis Industry magazine

 

Outlook 2005: Racquets

With new construction and new materials, frames can now improve both control and power.

The tennis world’s equivalent of the search for the grand unified theory has been the never-ending quest to deliver more power without sacrificing control, or vice versa. For years, things haven’t worked out so well. If a racquet delivered extra zip, the control was compromised. Produce a frame with outstanding control, and you have to swing as hard as the pros to generate juice.

All That’s Changing

This season, racquet manufacturers have gone back to the drawing board, altering the way frames are constructed and adding new materials to improve control and power. The zero-sum game that’s bedeviled companies for years is no longer in play. With the latest technology, racquets give you greater command of your shots and allow you to him them harder, too.

Now advanced-player racquets combine the control you expect with the extra power you’ve always wanted. Frames for “tweeners” — players between intermediate and advanced levels — have a refined balance of control and clout. And you’ll be surprised at the increasing number of game-improvement racquets with oversize and super-oversize heads that aren’t only appropriate for players with abbreviated strokes, but also for players who want to take slightly longer, faster cuts who no longer have to worry about sending their shots into the next county. Today’s oversize racquets allow them to harness the power.

“The rules are changing,” says Bruce Levine, racquet advisor for Tennis magazine. “More and more racquets can be used by more and more players. It’s an exciting time.”

The season’s new racquets represent a big step forward, as you’ll see below. And you can expect yet another manufacturer to announce a major development in its frames in the coming months. With new constructions and materials, all these sticks will play better than those of even a few years ago. Net result? They’ll improve your customers’ games, and increase your bottom line.

Dunlop

While Babolat is changing the shape of the frame, Dunlop is adding softer materials to theirs for a more forgiving feel. Its new M-Fil 200, an update of the advanced player’s 200G, has fiberglass and magnesium in the head, at the 3 and 9 o’clock positions, to give the racquet a flexible, soft feel reminiscent of a wood racquet. Dunlop’s adding similar materials to the M-Fil 30, which has a slightly bigger head, and the game-improvement M-Fil 700.

“We want to make our racquets more comfortable on the arm,” says Martin Aldridge, group product manager, tennis, for Dunlop. “It’s been one area where we’ve wanted to improve our racquets, and we’ve done that with our new multi-filament technology.”

Babolat

Babolat is redefining how the racquet’s throat should be built. The Aeropro Drive has (you guessed it) an aerodynamic beam that resembles the wing of an airplane (and the unique beam also is in Babolat’s new Aeropro Control racquet, too). Its purpose is to allow tournament-caliber players to swing faster and therefore generate more racquet-head speed, for power. The frame combines the new throat with the wide-body head of the Pure Drive Team (Andy Roddick’s racquet). The head features the Woofer grommet system, which increases both power and control by enhancing the trampoline effect.

Wilson

Whereas Prince is changing the construction of its racquets in a visible way, Wilson is altering the racquet’s make-up from the inside with its nCode technology. With nCode frames, Wilson uses silicone dioxide crystals to fill the microscopic spaces between the thousands of graphite fibers — the basic building block of a racquet — for a more solid feel and greater stability on off-center hits.

Fans of nCode can look forward to the new nVision, a head-heavy tweener racquet that’ll pump up your shots, particularly off the ground and on serves. The popular H Tour, which has been used by the likes of Lindsay Davenport, is now the nTour. Like its predecessor, it’s a solid frame that’ll appeal to baseliners who can drive the ball. If you’re an advanced serve-and-volleyer, doubles player, or all-courter, Wilson’s got you covered with the head-light nPro.

Prince

Your customers will probably be excited when they get a look at Prince’s latest racquets. The company is introducing O3 technology: huge grommet-less holes, dubbed O Ports, on the sides of the head that are designed to significantly increase the sweetspot and improve maneuverability. How does it work? The holes allow the strings maximum freedom of movement, which means the stringbed has more “give” on impact. This, in turn, expands the sweetspot. And the friction from the strings rubbing against the frame dampens vibration. The huge holes enable the frame to cut through the air faster, making it easier to swing. Prince also says that the O Ports, by forming arches along the side of the head, increase the frame’s stability on off-center hits.

This spring, Prince will release at least two O3 racquets. The O3 Red is for improving intermediates, while the O3 Silver, a super-oversize, will appeal to players with short to medium-length strokes. Because of the dampening properties of the O3 technology, you should tell your customers that if they typically use a vibration dampener, they’d enjoy the racquets’ muted sensation, whereas those who prefer not to use a vibration dampener may be turned off.

Prince also plans to introduce the O3 Tour, though it’s waiting until one of its pro players uses the racquet on tour before it hits retail. As of this writing, Guillermo Coria was testing the racquet.

Racquet Head size
(sq. in.)
Length
(in.)
Wt
(gm)
Bal.
(cm)
Bal.
(in.)
Flex
(RDC)
Swgwt
(RDC)
Pattern
(M×C)
Power
level
SRP
Babolat
Aeropro Control 98 27.00 343 32.25 12.70 71 341 16x19 2373 $179
Aeropro Drive 100 27.00 324 33.75 13.29 69 337 16x19 2325 $179
Drive Z Lite 100 27.00 274 36.00 14.17 68 306 16x19 2081 $169
Drive Z Max 107 27.20 272 37.00 14.57 68 321 16x19 2382 $169
Drive Z Tour 100 27.00 298 34.75 13.68 74 316 16x19 2338 $169
Pure Storm MP Team 103 27.00 298 34.50 13.58 68 313 16x20 2192 $179
Pure Storm Team 98 27.00 311 33.75 13.29 64 320 16x20 2007 $179
Dunlop
M-Fil 200 95 27.00 346 32.75 12.89 58 337 18x20 1857 $169
M-Fil 300 98 27.00 309 35.00 13.78 63 308 16x19 1902 $179
M-Fil 500 105 27.25 279 34.75 13.68 68 293 16x19 2144 $199
M-Fil 700 110 27.50 268 35.50 13.98 67 294 16x19 2275 $209
Maxply McEnroe (70 Holes) 98 27.00 320 34.00 13.39 67 333 16x19 2186 $159
Fischer
Twin Tec 1250 FTi 118 27.75 272 36.00 14.17 63 297 16x20 2373 $240
Head
Liquidmetal 1 110 27.38 258 37.50 14.76 65 306 16x19 2270 $120
Liquidmetal Heat 102 27.00 295 34.25 13.48 66 297 18x19 1999 $140
Prince
AirDB Midplus 100 27.00 295 34.25 13.48 70 302 16x20 2114 $170
AirDB Oversize 110 27.50 288 35.00 13.78 68 312 16x19 2450 $170
Diablo XP MP 96 27.50 326 33.00 12.99 69 325 16x20 2260 $190
Diablo XP OS 110 28.00 299 35.25 13.88 69 326 16x19 2722 $190
O3 Red MP 105 27.25 294 34.50 13.58 73 312 16x19 2451 $250
O3 Silver OS 118 27.75 270 37.50 14.76 78 320 16x19 3166 $300
Tecnifibre
T Feel 275 XL 107 27.50 294 36.00 14.17 65 323 16x19 2359 $190
T Feel 290 XL 102 27.50 297 35.00 13.78 72 325 14x18 2506 $190
T Feel 305 98 27.00 321 33.25 13.09 68 315 16x19 2099 $170
T Feel 305 XL 98 27.50 316 35.00 13.78 70 342 16x19 2463 $170
T Fight 315 98 27.00 334 33.00 12.99 65 318 18x20 2026 $170
T Fight 325 98 27.40 345 32.50 12.80 60 327 18x20 2000 $170
Volkl
Catapult 4 Gen II 105 27.50 289 34.25 13.48 69 304 16x19 2313 $190
Catapult 8 V-Engine 100 27.25 307 33.50 13.19 64 301 16x18 1975 $190
Tour 10 MP Gen II 98 27.00 339 32.25 12.70 64 322 16x19 2020 $180
Tour 5 105 27.00 274 34.25 13.48 64 283 16x19 1902 $130
Tour 6 Gen II 100 27.00 289 33.50 13.19 61 293 16x18 1787 $150
Wilson
H Cyclone 115 27.90 251 38.75 15.26 75 315 16x19 2961 $160
H Rival 112 112 27.50 256 38.50 15.16 70 317 16x20 2610 $150
H Rival 96 96 27.50 285 36.25 14.27 72 323 16x20 2344 $150
nPro 98 27.00 311 33.25 13.09 70 304 18x18 2085 $200
nPS 95 95 27.00 298 34.25 13.48 59 315 18x20 1766 $170
nPro Surge 100 27.00 313 33.25 13.09 59 305 16x19 1800 $200
nTour 105 105 27.25 297 35.50 13.98 67 334 16x20 2408 $220
nTour 95 95 27.25 305 35.50 13.98 63 340 16x20 2086 $220
nVision 103 27.25 277 36.50 14.37 63 316 16x20 2102 $180
Pro Staff Blitz 100 27.00 280 35.50 13.98 58 304 16x19 1763 $120

 

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