New -- and improved!
Racquet manufacturers are both building on the successes of past models and adding hot new frames to their lines.
By James Martin
babolat.com • 877-316-9435
The big push at Babolat this season will be in oversize racquets, a category where the company has yet to have the same smashing success as it’s had in advanced-level sticks (see the Pure Drive and Aero Drive). One new model is the Aero 112, an oversized version of Rafael Nadal’s racquet with an ergonomically shaped grip to provide maximum contact between the entire palm and the handle. It’s also the lightest Aero racquet, and it has the vibration-dampening Cortex technology.
The new Babolat Drive Z 110 is designed for club players with short swings who covet a powerful and ultra-light racquet. The Drive Z also has the egronomic grip as well as Zylon fibers in the head and throat to give the frame extra stability without weighing it down. The Drive Z comes in a super oversize 118-square-inch head as well.
Babolat Aero 112 and Drive Z 110
princetennis.com • 800-283-6647
No surprise at Prince — the company is going to continue to expand its successful O3 racquets with the launch of the Speedport White and the Ozone Tour, both of which are designed with advanced players in mind.
The Ozone Tour has a 100-square-inch head and weighs 10.9 ounces, while the Ozone Pro Tour version is heavier (11.6 ounces) and has a denser string pattern (18 × 20 vs. 16 × 18) for more control. The O3 Speedport White also comes in two models, a head-heavy, 10.6-ounce frame that will appeal to baseliners and one with a string pattern designed to give the user maximum bite on the ball.
Prince is also introducing two game-improvement frames, the O3 Speedport Platinum and the O3 Speedport Gold. These racquets will definitely catch players’ attention. They feature the new Strung-Thru-Stringing System, which extends the main strings through the open yoke above the handle. The purpose of this eye-catching design, Prince says, it to significantly expand the sweetspot.
The O3 Speedport Platinum is geared toward players with short strokes who want a huge head size — this sucker is 125 square inches. The Gold, on the other hand, is for those with moderate stroke speeds who demand a balance between power and control.
Prince, O3 Speedport White, O3 OZone Tour, O3 Speedport Platinum, and O3 Speedport Gold
head.com • 800-289-7366
Fans of Head racquets will notice that the company is updating three of its signature models — the Prestige, Radical, and Instinct — with MicroGel, which helps distribute the impact of the ball for, as Head puts it, a rock-solid feel.
The MicroGel Prestige will be available in three models: the 11.6-ounce Prestige Mid, which has a 93-square-inch head and dense string pattern; the Prestige Pro, with a 98-square-inch head and more open string pattern, for spin production; and the Prestige Midplus, which has a tighter string pattern for extra control and, at 11.3 ounces, weighs slightly less than the 11.5-ounce Pro. The Instinct? It’s just 10.4 ounces, and given the flashy cosmetics it appears to be the racquet Head will aggressively market to strong juniors.
Some new, unfamiliar racquet names in the Head line this spring include the MicroGel Mojo. It’s light (10.1 ounces) and head light, so you know it’ll be maneuverable. It also has the popular Head Anti-Torsion stability bar in the throat. The MicroGel Monster also has the stability bar, and delivers a little more pop than the Mojo.
Finally, there’s the MicroGel Raptor in an oversize 110-square-inch frame and 102-square-inch midplus option. Think of the Raptor as a traditional frame for players going from a beginner stick to something a little more demanding.
Head MicroGel Prestige Pro, MicroGel Instinct, MicroGel Mojo, MicroGel Monster, and MicroGel Raptor
borisbecker.com • 866-554-7872
While there were rumors last year that the Völkl brand might take a backseat, or altogether disappear, behind the newly launched Boris Becker line, both brands will have a prominent place on retail walls this spring.
Becker, the six-time Grand Slam champion who has been a co-owner of Völkl since 1999, will put his imprimatur on two frames, the Becker Pro mid-plus and the Becker 11 Mid. With a 100-square-inch head and medium weight of 10.4 ounces, the Becker Pro is geared toward “tweeners” — players between the intermediate and advanced levels — who need something a little easier to swing than tour-level frames. But if you want something that would fit right into the hands of Becker himself, the Becker 11 Mid is worth a look. It’s 11.6 ounces and has a small 93-square-inch head, which makes it ideal for tournament-tough NTRP 5.0 and higher players.
Over at Völkl, you’ve got the C10 Pro, another advanced players’ racquet. But compared to the Becker 11 Mid, this one has a slightly larger head (98 square inches) for a bit more power and margin of error. The Völkl 5 Scorcher, by contrast, is geared toward beginners and intermediates who want an ultra-light, head-light racquet that’s a snap to swing from all corners of the court.
Völkl C10 Pro, 5 Scorcher, Boris Becker 11 Mid and Pro MP
wilsonsports.com • 773-714-6400
Clearly, Wilson believes there is power in numbers. The Big W is offering 11 new [K] Factor racquets in ‘08.
On the game improvement front, there’s the [K] Zero, a behemoth that has a 118-square-inch head but weighs a mere 9.2 ounces (the lightest in the [K] Factor line). Players with short swings who need maximum power should like this racquet. Meanwhile the lightweight [K] Five, which comes in an oversize and midplus, combines the comfort-oriented Triad technology and the [K]onnector system for a forgiving feel.
Serious players will have plenty to like from Wilson, such as the [K] Blade. It’s designed for aggressive players who want an old-school flexible frame with lots of feel. What’s more, Wilson offers the Blade in three different head sizes: 93, 98, and a not-quite-oversize 104 square inches. The mid is the most demanding of the lot, of course, tipping the scales at 12 ounces. The mid-plus is also hefty, at 11.3 ounces, but more user-friendly, while the 104-square-inch version, called the [K] Blade Team, will be the racquet of choice for Venus and Serena Williams in 2008.
Other player frames from Wilson include the [K] Pro Tour, [K] Pro Open, and [K] Tour, plus all-around “tweener” frames such as the [K] Six Two and the [K] Sting.
Wilson [K] Zero, [K] Five, [K] Blade Team, [K] Pro Tour, [K] Pro Open, [K] Tour, [K] Six Two, and [K] Sting
yonex.com • 310-793-3800
While at press time Yonex was light on details, the company did share some tidbits about its 2008 plans. For starters, the company will give facelifts (that is, new paint jobs) to the RDS-001 mid and mid-plus, as well as the RDS-003 and RQS-22.
Yonex plans to launch two game-improvement racquets that will feature a new technology in the shaft. The new RQis 5 Power will replace the current RQS-55 and the RQis 3 Power will replace the RQS-33.
Yonex RQS-22, RDS-003 and RDS-001
See all articles by James Martin
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