New frames for Fall
From new racquets for women, to “team” frames, to head-heavy sticks and low-priced product, players will find a lot to choose from.
By James Martin
When HEAD introduced its Airflow racquets in July 2006, the cynic could be forgiven for thinking it was a marketing ploy. But Head proved its new frames were about performance, and Airflow has remained a force at retail for over two years — an extraordinarily long time that typically sees models come and go like the day’s fashions.
The longevity of Airflow can be traced to Head’s savvy marketing built around the line’s spokeswoman, Steffi Graf, and three key performance benefits: lightweight power; a small, ergonomic handle to better fit a woman’s hand; and easy handling. All those elements continue in this season’s Airflow updates.
What’s new is Head’s introduction of CrossBow, a suspended bridge at the bottom of the head that moves independently from the rest of the frame. Imagine a diving board and you’ll get the idea. When the ball hits the strings, energy is stored in the bridge and then transferred back into the shot. Net result, according to HEAD, is more power.
This fall, HEAD has three new additions to the Airflow family. The Airflow 3 with CrossBow is designed for intermediate and advanced women players. It’s still light (9.9 ounces), so handling isn’t an issue. The Airflow 7 with CrossBow ratchets up the power with a bigger, 115-square-inch head, while the Airflow 10 with CrossBow, a behemoth with a 124-square-inch head, promises to juice up even the shortest of swings.
These new Airflow racquets also feature InteGrip, a rubbery material in the shaft designed to reduce bad vibes. So in addition to delivering lightweight power, easy handling, and an ergonomic grip, HEAD also aims to provide Airflow users with plenty of comfort.
head.com · 800-289-7366
Airflow 3 CB
Airflow 7 CB
Airflow 10 CB
The thinking behind the Aerogel Titan, Dunlop’s main entry this fall, appears to be, “Keep it simple.” This isn’t a bad thing. Aside from Aerogel, an ultralight but strong material, placed in the frame to give it stability and pop, this is a no-frills frame. No fancy wings, bridges, boards, slingshots, or holes. With a 101-square-inch head, head-heavy balance, and light weight (9.5 ounces), the Titan is made to give beginners and intermediates an easy-to-use racquet that’ll help them get the ball past the service line with a little zip. Another reason newbies will gravitate toward this stick: it’s low price tag. The Titan’s suggested retail is $119.
dunlopsports.com · 800-768-4727
There are two new racquets of note from Babolat this season. The first is the Aero Storm. If the name sounds familiar, it is. Babolat had an Aero Storm on the market last year, but it was renamed the Aero Storm Tour (and, FYI, is being used by Roland Garros finalist Dinara Safina). At 11.2 ounces, the new Aero Storm is lighter and more maneuverable than the original Aero Storm. Its familiar flattened-out beam — it resembles the wings of a plane — make the racquet easier to swing. The head-light balance also adds to the racquet’s easy handling. It’s a good option for players not ready for the bulk of a true player’s frame.
The other interesting Babolat racquet is the Pure Storm Limited. If you have customers with a love for all things ‘80s — denim shorts, day-glow shirts, and classic, flexible graphite racquets — the Pure Storm Limited will have tremendous appeal. In an era of stiff and ultra-stiff racquets, this one offers that old-school feel, with a small 95-square-inch head, hefty 12-ounce weight, firm (not stiff) construction, head-light balance, and leather grip. In other words, this racquet is all about feel and control, but requires you to bring virtually all of the power.
babolat.com · 877-316-9435
Pure Storm Limited
One of the most coveted niches in racquets these days is the “team” category. First popularized by Babolat with its Pure Drive Team, the name has come to signify a slightly lighter version of an advanced player’s frame, with more power but still enough control to rip the ball where you want it to go. Because they are user-friendly, “team” racquets are particularly popular with strong juniors with lots of upside or older players on the downside of their games who need a little more juice to keep up with the competition.
Prince’s latest attempt to court this market is the O3 Speedport Black Team. Compared to the O3 Black, the 10.3-ounce Team is about an ounce lighter. It has a 100-square-inch head and is standard length. To make sure it still has some oomph behind it, Prince made the balance head heavy. The large, rectangular string holes, called Speedports, deliver a damp (or dead, depending on your perspective) feel, and they also make the racquet more aerodynamic, so you can generate more racquet-head speed, and therefore power and spin. The coolest part? If you want a crisper, more traditional response, you can insert Speedport Tuning System grommets. It’s like having two racquets in one.
princetennis.com · 800-2TENNIS
O3 Speedport Black Team
Fans of Wilson’s classic Hammer racquets will have reason to be excited over the Big W’s main introduction this fall. The [K] Five 108 is extra-long, at 27.25 inches, with a 108-square-inch head and a very head-heavy balance. All that adds up to producing the Hammer feel, with lots of weight toward the racquet’s tip. The benefit, as any Hammer aficionado will tell you, is extra pop on ground strokes, though you may feel as if you lose some maneuverability at net. This isn’t a Hammer retread, though. The [K] Five 108 features Wilson’s [K]onnector technology — wings on the racquet face at the 10 and 2 o’clock positions — to create a pocketing effect. What better way to harness the power of the head-heavy balance
wilson.com · 800-272-6060
[K] Five 108
Check Out These New Frames, Too:
- Völkl Powerbridge 8 and 10 (voelkl-tennis.com · 866-554-7872)
- HEAD CrossBow 6
- Prince O3 Speedport Black Longbody
See all articles by James Martin
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