Frames of Reference
For recreational players, the newest racquets offer something for everyone.
By James Martin
Boris Becker is making a comeback. Well, sort of. Becker, who’s been a co-owner of Völkl since he hung up his racquet in 1999, has been mostly behind the scenes at the racquet company. This season, however, Becker is putting his weight — and his name — behind a new brand, “Boris Becker.” Each racquet will have the signature “Serveman” logo, which bears an unmistakable resemblance to Becker’s trademark deep knee bend when he delivered his massive serve.
The Becker brand has its clear pros and cons. On the one hand, Becker remains a popular figure in the game, and surely his name and likeness will help move product. On the other hand, you wonder whether the new emphasis on Becker will undermine Völkl, and the longtime brand loyalty the company has established, particularly among serious players. Is this the last time we’ll see the name “Völkl” on a stick?
While we wait for the answer to that question, players can enjoy the Boris Becker 11. Similar to the Völkl DNX 10, this is a heavy, 12.2-ounce, head-light racquet for advanced players. It also comes in a lighter version with a more open string pattern for easier spin production.
Fans of the Völkl DNX V1, a well-received comfort-oriented racquet, will want to check out the Boris Becker V1. Like its predecessor, the BB version is a medium-weight racquet with shock-absorbing materials in the shaft and handle to reduce bad vibes. Available in a mid-plus and an extra-long oversize, the Boris Becker V1 is tailored to players who crave a forgiving response, even on off-center hits, and will also appeal to those with arm issues.
Dunlop made headlines this summer when it announced the re-signing of James Blake — you know, the New York Times best-selling author who also dabbles in tennis. He was with Dunlop for years, then made a switch to Prince (a company on a roll recently when it comes to inking endorsement deals). But Blake ultimately decided to return to Dunlop.
The company has two new sticks that, while good, are for the game-improvement set: the Aerogel 7Hundred and the Aerogel 9Hundred. The 7Hundred is 9.7 ounces and 27.25 inches long, with an ample 108-square-inch head and head-heavy balance. The 9Hundred is even bigger, with a 113-square-inch face, a half-inch extra length, and an extremely stiff construction. Translation: Both racquets will juice up the strokes of players with short and medium-length swings.
There’s no doubt who Fischer is targeting with its new M Comp 95. With a 95-square-inch head, head-light balance, and flexible frame, and tipping the scales at 12.3 ounces, the racquet is designed for advanced players. Fischer is also introducing “No Tolerance Technology,” which eliminates variances in specs and guarantees that every M Comp 95 will have the exact same weight and balance. Serious players, who can pick up on the slightest differences, will appreciate this feature.
The big news at Head is the introduction of the MicroGel Radical, the latest installment in the line made popular by Andre Agassi. With this Radical, Head has added MicroGel, a silicone-based material, to help absorb and distribute vibrations. This Radical comes in three versions: the 98-square-inch mid-plus, the 100-square-inch (and heavier) Pro, and the 107-square-inch oversize. The Pro also has a more open string pattern, for more spin production. Intermediates and advanced players, and perhaps beginners, will find something to like among the new Radicals.
You can customize the weight and feel of your golf clubs, and now Prince is bringing a similar level of customization to its racquets with the new O3 Speedport Black and Speedport Tour.
Here’s the deal: Each racquet has the large, grommetless string holes, or Speedports, which deliver a dampened feel and bigger sweetspot. These holes also allow the user to generate greater racquet-head speed, for more power. But the thing is, some players prefer a more traditional response in their racquets, so it’s clear when they nail (and miss) the sweetspot. It helps with their ability to control their shots. No worries here, as Prince includes grommet strips that you can snap into the racquet head, effectively eliminating the Speedports and giving you a traditional response. In other words, you’re getting two racquets in one.
The Black features a 100-square-inch head, is 27 inches long, and is head light. The Tour is about 12 ounces (11.8 ounces with the Ports, 12 with the grommet strip), and is very head light.
Aside from the cool name, the Wilson [K] Zen has a 103-square-inch head, is 27.25 inches long, weighs 11.2 ounces, and is head light. The construction is also quite stiff. These are the kind of specs that will appeal most to weekend warriors searching for a racquet with a little more power and easier to swing. You can bank on young juniors, who are trying their first serious player’s frame, to try the [K] Zen, too.
Like other companies this season, Yonex is offering one of its new racquets in different versions to find the biggest audience. The RDS-002, which has a 98-square-inch head, comes in a standard version and a Tour model. The standard is 11 ounces and has a firm construction, while the Tour is, predictably, heavier (12.1 ounces) and more flexible for players who can generate a lot of power on their own.
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