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.
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 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.
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.
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
|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|
|Maxply McEnroe (70 Holes)||98||27.00||320||34.00||13.39||67||333||16x19||2186||$159|
|Twin Tec 1250 FTi||118||27.75||272||36.00||14.17||63||297||16x20||2373||$240|
|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|
|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|
|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 6 Gen II||100||27.00||289||33.50||13.19||61||293||16x18||1787||$150|
|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|
|Pro Staff Blitz||100||27.00||280||35.50||13.98||58||304||16x19||1763||$120|