Outlook 2013: Over the Edge
Every year, it seems that racquet technology manages to take at least one more leap forward.
By Kent Oswald
How much more technologically advanced can racquets get? Is it still possible for individual sticks to have their vibration dampened more? Sweetspot enlarged more? Have their “feel” improved more? Generate more power? Produce more spin?
With each passing year and innovation, it seems as if manufacturers have taken technology to the edge and that all that can be left is a cosmetic tweak or two.
But every year, doubters are quieted as racquet technology takes at least one more leap forward. With each season another swing style has a racquet that fits its particular idiosyncrasies.
When reviewing what’s coming up, it appears that once again the biggest challenge for most players is not having to take lessons so they can change their strokes to “what works,” but choosing the racquet refined to produce the optimum result from what they are already doing.
babolat.com • 877-316-9435
The Aeropro Drive, in its fifth generation, continues as the racquet line of choice for bold-faced tennis names like Rafael Nadal, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Sam Querry and Agnieszka Radwanska. It is expected to be picked up, too, by the host of players who want to hit with the same power and spin. Cosmetic tweaks involve splashes of bright yellow and matte black. Technological highlights include an evolving aerodynamic shape, an improved system for letting frame and strings interact more freely, and use of a graphite and tungsten composition within the frame to reduce torque. Specific models include the Aeropro Drive and Drive+, the Aeropro Lite and Aeropro Team.
gammasports.com • 800-333-0337
Continuing the development of its RZR line of racquets introduced last year, Gamma will add the RZR 95, a 95-square-inch frame for the advanced player looking for additional control; the RZR 105, a 105-square-inch frame for big hitters looking to display power; and the RZR Junior 25 for young but serious players. Additionally, as the company’s literature proudly announces, ‘The Bubba is back” — a 29-inch-long, 137-square-inch head racquet offering a mega-sweetspot. Each of the sticks features enhanced graphite frames that minimize drag and aid head acceleration, says Gamma.
dunlop.com • 800-768-4727
Continuing to push the extremes of biomimetic technology, Dunlop had redesigned and re-engineered its line for different players at all levels of game. There are rounded, more elliptical heads to enlarge sweetspots, attention to the grip to aid control, and textured adaptations to improve swing speed. The naming system has been tweaked to make it more intuitive as to which racquet is best for which player based on swing style/speed. Key endorsers are Fernando Verdasco, Nicolas Almagro, Jurgen Melzer, Tommy Robredo, Dominika Cibulkova, and Heather Watson and the marketing will include outreaches through video/TV, print, web, and social media in order to expand the customer base beyond its traditional core. New, revised and tweaked racquets include the F3.0 Tour, M3.0, S3.0 Lite, M6.0, S6.0 Lite, S8.0 Lite, M3.0 (25 and 26 inch), Biomimetic 400 (and 400 Tour and Lite), Biomimetic 600 Tour and Biomimetic 700.
head.com • 800-289-7366
Head has introduced Graphene — which the company refers to as the world’s strongest and lightest material — into its new racquets. The debut of the material began at the highest levels of the game, with the unveiling of Novak Djokovic’s new Speed racquet in Melbourne, while Maria Sharapova, Tomas Berdych and Marin Cilic will be tied into promotion of Graphene’s introduction into the Instinct line beginning in March. Benefits include the “optimal redistribution of weight” in the swing and additional racquet speed and maneuverability with every shot, says Head. Racquets receiving the update include the YouTek Graphene Speed MP, YouTek Graphene Speed Rev, YouTek Graphene Speed Jr., YouTek Graphene Instinct MP, YouTek Graphene Instinct Rev, and YouTek Graphene Instinct. Jr.
wilson.com • 773-714-6400
Hoping to continue building on the successful Blade and Steam launches, Wilson has adapted improved technology and will also add new racquets to both lines. In addition to adding sleek black and silver touches to the look of the Blade, the company has enhanced the handle technology and strengthened the graphite construction, to add feel and control. Additionally, there’s now a 16x19 string pattern for the Blade 98 as an option for even more robust spin. Blade endorsers include Gael Monfils, Milos Raonic, and Laura Robson. The company has also adopted technology for the new Steam 99S and Steam 105 in order to ratchet up spin players can achieve. The enhanced handle technology has also been added to the line, which will feature endorsements by Feliciano Lopez, Philipp Kohlschreiber, and Melanie Oudin, among others.
vb-tennis.com • 858-626-2720
Continuing to promote Organix technology, with its improved dampening, response and stability, in 2013 Volkl will expand its line into more swing segments. An improved handle system and greater responsiveness when ball meets strings will also be a notable feature of new racquets, including the Organix 1, Organix 7 295g, Organix 7 310g, and Organix 10 Mid, says Volkl. The company has also updated its Classic V1 and will be offering its transition Team Speed in neon orange.
yonexusa.com • 800-44-YONEX
The Japanese firm will add to its VCore line, which features frame heads injected with higher density foaming urethane to diminish vibration and add power. All featuring expanded sweetspots, additions will include the head-light VCore Xi 100 and VCore Xi 98, as well as the head-heavy VCore Xi Lite. The endorsement lineup includes Ana Ivanovic, Bernard Tomic, Stan Wawrinka and Caroline Wozniacki.
pacific.com • 941-795-1789
While refining the cosmetics on some racquets for 2013, the next big step for the family-owned German company’s racquet line will come in mid- to late 2013. The introduction of the BasaltX2TM will showcase the benefits of a technological breakthrough allowing the addition of 30 percent more basalt to the frame with fibers lighter, stronger and offering greater dampening, according to the company.
See all articles by Kent Oswald
About the Author
Kent Oswald is a contributor to TennisNow.com, producer at the JockBookReview.com and a former editor of Tennis Week magazine.