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Racquet Review: Yonex VCore Tour (89, 97) 07/26/2012 - 9:10 PM

VCORE_89MSRP: $240
AVAILABLE: Now
HEAD SIZE: 89 sq. in. (89); 97 sq. in. (97)
LENGTH: 27 in.
WEIGHT: 12.1 oz. (89); 12.3 oz. (97)
BALANCE: 7 pts. HL
SWINGWEIGHT: 311 (89); 306 (97)
FLEXIBILITY: Firm
BEAM WIDTH: 20-19mm
STRING PATTERN: 16 x 20
IDEAL SWING: Long
NTRP: 4.5+ (89); 4.0+ (97)

*NOTE: Values represent strung frames.

The Pitch
Racquet of choice for Sabine Lisicki and Stanislas Wawrinka, the Yonex VCore Tour is replete with technology and innovation. For starters, both 89 and 97 versions feature MicroCore, a high-density urethane foam that’s injected into the hoop of the frame. According to Yonex, MicroCore dampens vibrations and increases the stability of the racquet’s face, especially on off-center hits, resulting in greater power and control. The VCore Tour also includes Yonex’s trademark Isometric construction: A square head shape that cuts down on the space found outside the sweet spot in more conventional, round hoops. Yonex claims this design reduces frame vibration, expands the sweet spot, and increases maneuverability.

How It Tested
Weighing in right above 12 ounces, the VCore Tour 89 and 97 performed surprisingly friendly for flexible, thin-beamed players’ sticks. Playtesters with long, fluid swings were especially intrigued at how forgiving the Tour 89 performed relative to other similar mid-sized racquets. Said one 5.0 playtester with a semi-Western forehand and two-handed backhand, “There was more power than expected with the 89, particularly on ground strokes. It had a solid feel, and I felt the sweet spot was fairly large considering the head size.” On the other hand, younger playtesters accustomed to a larger head size relished the Tour 97’s extra eight square inches, which they said allowed them a little more room for error.

Otherwise, playtesters expressed approval at the racquets’ versatility. While the 89 may be slightly more agile—and inversely, slightly less powerful—than the 97, both versions showed their chops knifing balls at the net as well as ripping shots from behind the baseline; the sticks have enough heft for pop, but are balanced such that they remain maneuverable. Such a versatile construction suits the VCore sticks to all-court players, and perhaps even some serve-and-volleyers and doubles specialists. Baseline grinders, however, would do best to look elsewhere. Some playtesters who relied on heavy spin, in particular, found the VCore’s 16 x 20 string pattern to be a bit dense for their tastes.
 
How It Looks
Like a Canadian flag, honestly. I wonder how many Mounties play tennis.

Bottom Line
The Yonex VCore 89 and 97 should feel comfortable in the hands of nimble, full-swinging players with accomplished, all-court games.

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Question of the Day: Wilson Grips on Head Sticks 07/26/2012 - 7:17 AM

3

TENNIS.com gear editor Justin diFeliciantonio and his technical advisers answer your equipment questions each day. Click here to send in a question of your own.

*****

I’ve played the past 8 years or so with Wilson Pro Staff nCode nSix.One 95 racquets, the 18 x 20 version. I really like the sticks, but after so many years they’ve gone dead. So I’ve been looking for replacements. I hit with the new Head Prestige, and I really liked the weight/balance and how the ball responded off the stringbed. I would switch over…if only for the grip. I can’t get over how different the Head handle is. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about my Wilsons that just feel more comfortable in my hand.
    So my question is: Is it possible to put a Wilson handle on a Head racquet? If so, do you have any idea of how this works?Gerald R.

*****

I know how you feel, Gerald. Many times I’ve wished that a certain racquet had another’s handle. Handles—or, more accurately, palettes—come in a variety of shapes, depending on the manufacturer. And every player has her preference. For instance, some enjoy the sensation of a Volkl palette, which has a more rectangular shape, while others covet Babolat’s rounder, fuller feel. So it’s perfectly understandable that you’re having difficulties playing with a foreign grip.

Luckily for you, it is possible to attach a Wilson handle to a Head racquet. But doing so requires special palettes and, for most, professional help. One of the few professional who performs such work is Roman Prokes, owner of RPNY Tennis, in New York City.

“At the core of the racquet,” Prokes explains, “before you put any handle on, every company has a different size and shape. So I cannot take, for example, a Wilson palette and put it on a Head racquet, because it wouldn’t fit on the core of the Head racquet. So if you have a Head racquet, and you say, ‘I want a Wilson handle,’ the easiest thing to do is to send you an RPNY palette. I started making my own, and I make a couple different shapes. So for example, I have a Wilson-shaped palette that can attach to a Head racquet. For $30 I can ship you the whole thing for you to put on yourself, or for $40 I’ll do all the work.”

For more information about RPNY Tennis grip services, visit their website at www.RPNYTennis.com.

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Gear Talk: Denis Kudla 07/25/2012 - 9:11 AM

201202152246819861094-p2@stats_comA few months back, I chatted with Denis Kudla from his home in Arlington, VA. The 19-year-old American, now ranked No. 209 in the world, spoke about his early racquet habits, his current Tecnifibre racquet, and what feels good overall.

*****

Kudla’s Racquet Specs (Unstrung + leather grip)

RACQUET: Tecnifibre T-FIGHT 325 VO2Max
WEIGHT: 339g / ~12 oz.
SWINGWEIGHT: 298
BALANCE: 30.8 cm / ~8 pts. HL

*****

Justin diFeliciantonio: You know, there are so many guys on tour playing at such a high level. But their equipment is totally different. What do you think accounts for this? Why do you use what you use?

Denis Kudla: I think that’s the beauty about tennis: There’s no, like, one secret formula to win. You can win in so many different ways. There’s hundreds of racquets you can choose from, combinations of strings, everything.

For me, my racquet really fits my game at the moment. Maybe there’s something out there that’s better. But for me, right now, it’s working. I use Tecnifibre. It just feels good. Every time. It’s something you get used to and have confidence in, and that’s what I have with my equipment. And then, with clothes, shoes and stuff, that really doesn’t matter to me. That’s just, whatever. I can wear anything.

JD: What exactly are you swinging?

DK: The Tecnifibre 325 Max, that’s what I’ve been using. Not too many guys use Tecnifibre right now. I’m one of the few guys for sure.

JD: How long have you been using it?

DK: Three years. So it’s been a good three years.

JD: And before that you were using—

DK: I used Wilson for my whole life—almost my whole life. I started with Head. And then I went to Wilson when I was like 11. Honestly, I think I used like every single Wilson racquet, at some period. Every year, I switched.

JD: Every year you switched? Really, growing up?

DK: Almost, yeah. It was pretty crazy. I stayed in the brand, but I switched all the time. I always thought I needed something different.

JD: Why? It just didn’t feel right?

DK: No, it always felt right. But I felt like it could feel better. Sometimes it was not so good, and I’d kinda go back. For the most part, I always thought I needed more. Obviously, when I got older, I stopped changing. But when I was younger, I changed a lot. I kind of cared how my racquet looked and stuff. I had A.D.D. with racquets [laughing]. I would get bored and get something else.

JD: So there were so many racquets out there, and you felt just using one you’d be missing out?

DK: I would say, I mean—for me, I stayed with Wilson, because I was sponsored all the time. I used nCode for awhile. I got into KFactor as well. And then I switched after that. I never had BLX or anything. But my favorite racquet with them was the Wilson Pro Staff 95. It was good. I liked that.

JD: And then you went to Tecnifibre.

DK: Yeah, I kind of had a trial period. I went pro, just tried different racquets to see what I liked the best. Took it really seriously ‘cause I knew it was something I was going to play with for a while. The juniors doesn’t really matter; you kind of figure out things. But becoming a pro, I felt Tecnifibre fit my game best. It was a racquet I’d never, ever heard of or seen. Hit with it, and I really, really liked it. So I switched.

JD: So was it systematic, when you were picking out a racquet to turn pro with?

DK: Yeah, a little bit. ‘Cause you look at your options, see what you like, and then narrow ‘em down. And then, it kinda comes down to contracts, you know, who you can get money from, out of the racquets you like. So I was pretty fortunate that I got a good contract with Tecnifibre, and I liked their racquet the best.

JD: Why’d you like it? What’d you feel it gave you that others didn’t?

DK: I like pretty stiff racquets. And it was a stiff racquet for me and suited my game really well. It was really similar to Wilson, too. I liked how they’re built: The racquets are a little bit more solid, and it’s just what I liked.

JD: Oh, ok. So it doesn’t really wobble or flex when you hit the ball.

DK: No, not really. Not at all.

JD: And as for string?

DK: I used Luxilon my whole life. But I’m changing now. I’m just waiting for the right time. I’m changing to a Tecnifibre string, which is almost identical to Luxilon. Anything that feels like that is what I like. I don’t really know, you know, how to talk about string. I mean, it’s just whatever feels good. I can’t really explain what it feels to me. Just feels good.

JD: Yeah, it is difficult to describe the feel in words, because it’s not really a linguistic thing.

DK: Yeah, so whatever feels good on your groundstrokes, makes every groundstroke feel good. That’s Luxilon for me.

JD: So you pretty much always used Luxilon growing up. Was there a phase when you used something else?

DK: Yeah, when I was younger, I used some crap string [laughing]. But I don’t remember. It was just—whatever was lying around the house, I’d just pick it up and string it.

JD: But when you switched to Luxilon, did you see a difference?

DK: Yeah, yeah. When I got to playing 14s, people were using Luxilon, and I wanted to try it, and I liked it. I kind of just went with the flow at first, ‘cause everyone else was using it. But I learned to like it a lot.

JD: So you learned to like it.

DK: Yeah, I learned to like it. But now that I’m older, I’ve tried other things. But I [still] really like Luxilon.

JD: But at the time, when you first used it, you didn’t necessarily like it?

DK: No, I did. I liked it. I just didn’t really find anything negative about it. I wanted to use it so bad, as well. I liked it at first, but in a way I was kind of tricking myself to like it, too. But over time, I’ve learned that it’s a great string. So, I guess I did just like it. It’s hard to explain.

JD: What about the spin potential?

DK: I’ve never really hit with spin. I mean, every ball has spin. But I’ve always played a little flatter than everybody else. So, I just felt like it gave me a little bit of pop. I was able to hit the ball as hard as I wanted, and it’d [still] stay in the court. That’s kind of all I saw from it.

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Question of the Day: Dreaming Up the Godwand 07/25/2012 - 8:56 AM

KirilenkoTENNIS.com gear editor Justin diFeliciantonio and his technical advisers answer your equipment questions each day. Click here to send in a question of your own.

*****

If you were to design the perfect tennis racquet, unconstrained by modern technology, what would it be like? Feel free to let your imagination run wild.—Albert E.

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Interesting thought experiment, Albert. I’ve always imagined that the perfect racquet would be able to, mid-flight, alter its properties depending on the shot it was about to hit. Such fluid properties would include weight, balance, and swingweight, but also perhaps length and beam rigidity. I haven’t the slightest idea how it would function, but the stick would be of amorphous construction—“alive,” in a sense, and able to adapt its parameters to a player’s court positioning, shot selection, and stroke idiosyncrasies.

Imagine. You’re holding the Godwand, we’ll call it. Backed up behind the baseline, you’re waiting to return a moonball with a deep, defensive shot of your own. In preparation for this shot, the racquet becomes more rigid for extra stability and power. Mass in the throat and handle also shifts toward the head, increasing the racquet’s swingweight and, again, its power. Proper tool in hand, you rip a deep, heavy ball.

Obviously, with such a racquet, the question arises: Would it be legal? After taking a gander at the International Tennis Federation’s Rules of Tennis, it appears clear that the Godwand would go the way of the spaghetti racquet. According to Appendix II: The Racket:

“The frame, including the handle, and the strings, shall be free of any device which makes it possible to change materially the shape of the racket, or to change materially the weight distribution in the direction of the longitudinal axis of the racket which would alter the swing moment of inertia, or to change deliberately any physical property which may affect the performance of the racket during the playing of a point. No energy source that in any way changes or affects the playing characteristics of a racket may be built into or attached to a racket.”

Thoughts, dear readers? Dreams of your Godwand?

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Tennis Radar: Babolat's Guts 07/24/2012 - 6:11 PM

In this edition of Tennis Radar, we parse out Babolat’s iconic line of natural gut products: Tonic+, VS Team, and VS Touch. We also consider the line’s newest addition—VS Touch in black. (Fuzzy on natural gut? Read about its benefits and drawbacks in the Question of the Day.)

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Babolat TONIC + RG_resized2Tonic+
MSRP: $32.95
Gauges: 15L (>135mm), 16g (<135mm)
Colors: Natural

Facts: Babolat’s lowest-priced gut, Tonic+ features Thermogut technology, a type of finishing that increases the gut’s durability and resistance to humidity, according to the company. Tonic+ also includes BT7 layering, a construction that Babolat claims makes Tonic+ last 15 percent longer than its predecessor.

Thoughts: If you’ve never used gut before and are considering a trial run of Babolat's products, Tonic+ may be a good place to start. It includes all the same technologies and materials as the VS strings, but at a more affordable price. Players, however, who are extremely particular about their stringbed’s consistency would probably do best to steer away from Tonic+; the string’s quality control is high but not paramount, resulting in some gauge (i.e., diameter) variance from set to set.

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Babolat VS TOUCH RG_resizedVS Touch
MSRP: $42.95
Colors/Gauges: Natural 15L (135mm), 16 (130mm); Black 16 (130mm)

Facts: Like Tonic+, VS Touch includes Thermogut technology for greater durability and weather protection, as well as BT7 layering for reduced fraying, according to Babolat. On tour, VS 16 is the cross string of choice for Andy Roddick, Ryan Harrison, and Agnieszka Radwanska. VS Touch now also comes in trend-setting black, in the 16 gauge iteration.

Thoughts: Unlike Tonic+, VS Touch undergoes more stringent quality tolerances during its manufacturing. As a result, final gauge outcomes are standardized, suiting the string to players who place a premium on stringbed consistency. For those wanting gut with greater-than-usual durability, 15L is best. On the other hand, a 16 gauge is more appropriate for those looking for a slightly softer feel (at the expense of durability).

*****

Babolat VS TEAM RG_resizedVS Team
MSRP: $42.95
Gauges: 17 (125mm)
Colors: Natural

Facts: Like all of Babolat’s natural gut offerings, VS Team is packaged with Thermogut technology and BT7 layering for moisture protection and additional durability.

Thoughts: In keeping with the prestige attached to Babolat’s VS moniker, VS Team is manufactured under close watch to ensure that each set of string meets the 17 gauge grade. The thinnest of all the company’s guts, what VS Team sacrifices in durability, it gains in pliability and feel. It’s ideal for players looking for the ultimate in placement and power, as well as those whose joints and tendons need a reprieve from shock and wear.

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Question of the Day: Natural Gut, Relic or Material? 07/24/2012 - 11:25 AM

Mcenroe

TENNIS.com gear editor Justin diFeliciantonio and his technical advisers answer your equipment questions each day. Click here to send in a question of your own.

*****

What’s your take on natural gut? I’m a 3.0 player who recently started playing and have heard mixed things about it. I’ve read in some places that gut is a relic of the past and a poor fit for the modern game—which is why you see players on tour using co-polyesters instead of natural gut—while others claim that it still can provide benefits for recreational and professional players alike. Which is it? Could you give a case-by-case breakdown?—Tom Renault

*****

Thanks for your question, Tom. There’s no question that natural gut has deep roots in the sport’s past. By one count, gut’s been around since 1875, when Pierre Babolat reportedly manufactured his first tennis string. While the manufacturing process has been tweaked over the years—including such features as moisture-resistant coatings and more durable layups—natural gut is still made as it was in 19th century France: From cow intestines, specifically a thin membrane called the serosa.

But while gut has a long history, there’s no doubt that its performance benefits are very modern. Incredibly, despite advances in artificial polymer and string technologies, the serosa membrane still yields strings that are softer and more elastic than any other man-made synthetic. According to Joe Heydt, who owns Racquet Corner, in Omaha, Nebraska, these qualities make gut superior in several categories. “Every year when strings are tested and played,” Heydt says, “natural gut ranks at the top in tension maintenance, comfort, and power. Man has yet to accurately make an artificial string to replace gut.”

The question is: If natural gut confers all these benefits, why is it showing up in fewer and fewer pro racquets on tour? Indeed, while gut is superior in tension retention and energy return upon impact, it isn’t nearly as spin-friendly or resistant to breakage as polyester. For pro players, this translates into less-than-ideal RPMs—a death knell in today’s power-baseline game. Accordingly, most professionals string polyester in full sets, though there are still a minority of players, Roger Federer among them, who hybridize gut with polyester.

So what does this mean for you? It’s pretty clear, Tom, that most of us aren’t ready for pro tennis—i.e., what works for professionals won’t work for the majority of recreational players. To this end, I still believe that a large swath of players—especially those with shorter, slower swings, who hit flat and break strings no more than a couple times a year—would benefit from the extra power of natural gut. Players with nagging arm injuries are also good candidates, due to gut’s unmatched natural resiliency.

Of course, natural gut is expensive. It can run upwards of $50 a set, depending on the brand and quality of the string. But considering the extent to which gut can heighten a stick’s power and feel, it seems to me that most recreational players would do well to shell out a few extra bucks. Shop around, and take a look at the USRSA’s (United States Racquet Stringers Association’s) 2012 String Selector, which includes a category listing every gut product on the market according to stiffness.

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Question of the Day: Sticks for Two Hands 07/23/2012 - 11:45 AM

Bartoli

TENNIS.com gear editor Justin diFeliciantonio and his technical advisers answer your equipment questions each day. Click here to send in a question of your own.

*****

I'm looking to replace my old Babolat AeroPro Drive Cortex racquet with something a little more specific to my style. I hit with a double-handed forehand and backhand. I generally hug the baseline and prefer to hit flat groundstrokes. Any suggestions as to what stick I should look at for my rather unorthodox forehand?Sun

*****

There really isn’t a hard-fast rule, Sun, as to what a player of your talents should use. Of course, as a baseliner, you should probably stick with a racquet similar to the AeroPro Drive, i.e., a stick with medium weight, a thick beam, and a close-to-even balance. (You may even want to stick with the AeroPro Drive itself.)

That said, if you're eager to test-drive something new, playtest racquets with longer-than-usual handle lengths, which should more comfortably accommodate your two-handed style. In this vein, consider the Prince EXO3 Warrior 100. During playtesting for this year’s gear guide, we found the Warrior to have a longer handle than most frames. And, appropriately enough, the playing characteristics of that stick are close to those of your Babolat.

On the other hand, if you’re feeling especially adventurous, think about trying out a few of the two-handled racquets from Natural Tennis, specifically the Battistone Freestyle and the Diamond, both of which utilize a grip configuration specially tailored for double-fisted play. While many players with more traditional games have balked at the idea of the two-handled racquet—of course, it’d be rather difficult to hit a Federer-esque one-handeder with such a tool—I imagine that a player of your abilities may flourish with it.

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Racquet Review: Boris Becker Delta Core NYC 07/20/2012 - 11:27 PM

Throughout this week, we're posting our reviews of this summer's new racquets. Now, to round out the week, the Boris Becker Delta Core NYC.



DC NYCMSRP: $190
AVAILABLE: Now
HEAD SIZE: 100 sq. in.
LENGTH: 27.25 in.
WEIGHT: 10.8 oz.
BALANCE: 6 pts. HL
SWINGWEIGHT: 305
FLEXIBILITY: Stiff
BEAM WIDTH: 23mm
STRING PATTERN: 16 x 18
IDEAL SWING: Medium to Long
NTRP: 4.0+

*NOTE: Values represent strung frames.

The Pitch
The Boris Becker NYC, spearheaded by Mr. “Boom-Boom” himself, features Delta Core nano technology. Delta Core, according to Boris Becker Tennis, is a special molecular construction that, when integrated into the frame, offers stability, decreased breakdown, and ultimately more return of energy onto the ball at impact. Other technologies in the B.B. DC NYC include the Energy Box, reinforced material in the 5 and 7 o’clock locations of the hoop for greater torque and stability, as well as the Energy Shaft, a design that stiffens the racquet’s throat for greater power, according to the company. And like all racquets manufactured by Völkl, with which Boris Becker is affiliated, the DC NYC includes a shock-absorbing system in the racquet’s handle.

How It Tested
The Boris Becker DC NYC is a jack-of-all-trades: It’s built not for specialty baseliners or net-artists, but rather for intermediates searching for reliability around the court. Said one 4.0 playtester with an aggressive Eastern forehand and one-handed backhand, “This an all-court stick. It’s well-balanced and stable and had an ideal, maneuverable weight. It feels and performs like a slightly more forgiving version of the Völkl Organix 9, though it still requires aggressive swings.”

Playtesters echoed this sentiment, claiming that the racquet wasn’t exemplary on any one shot, but wasn’t noticeably weak anywhere either: Net play, baseline bashing, and serving was solid, many said. What did resonate with playtesters, however, was the DC NYC’s very damp feel. Playtesters of all persuasions reported that they felt little to no vibrations hitting with the stick, even on off-center hits.

What It’s Called
Can you guess what B.B., Inc. has named their trademark symbol? The “Serveman.” This must sound cooler in German.

Bottom Line
Specialists beware, the Boris Becker DC NYC is for intermediate to advanced players who pride themselves on their flexible play and all-court sensibilities. 

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Question of the Day: Desperate for Durability 07/20/2012 - 2:55 PM

String Nails

TENNIS.com gear editor Justin diFeliciantonio and his technical advisers answer your equipment questions each day. Click here to send in a question of your own.

*****

I have a question about string durability. I just started playing again and have gotten my rhythm back, but I've also started breaking strings again at a distressing pace. It took longer to break the Luxilon. But I also tried some synthetic gut, and I literally played only twice before it snapped. I remember this happening a couple summers ago when I was playing regularly as well, and at the time I thought it might even be that the stringer was doing something wrong. I don't think I hit insanely hard, but I do play with moderate spin. I remember trying blends last time, but I felt as though the tougher string just cut into the softer one more quickly—and in any event, I didn't notice much change in durability.

Do you have any recommendations? I play with a pretty light racquet with a mid-plus frame, if that makes a difference. I think it's the Wilson K Tour Team FX.Daniel M.

*****

It depends on what you mean, Daniel, by “distressing pace.” Of course, if you’re breaking synthetic gut strings after only two playing sessions, they’re definitely not the right choice for you. However, if you’re getting eight to 12 hours of playing time out of the Luxilon, that’s actually ideal. Polyesters can lose 50 percent of their initial tension after only 20 hours of play, altering the racquet’s feel, playability, and, most likely, your game. For this reason, racquet technicians recommend that even players who don’t pop their poly should consider restringing once in double digits of playing time.

Now, if you’re breaking Luxilon only after four of five hours of play—and you’re not on the pro circuit—then you might want to take a second look at your stick. I see two factors that could limit the stringbed durability of your Wilson KTour Team FX. First, its weight. The Team FX weighs in below 10.5 oz. (strung), so in order to get some pop out of it, you have to swing it very fast. (As I’ve stated in the past, force equals mass times acceleration; the less the mass, the more one has to accelerate the racquet to achieve ample force, i.e., pace.) And of course, the higher the racquet-head speed, the more abuse the strings endure. The second factor is the FX’s string pattern. Compared with a closed, 18x20 pattern, the FX’s open, 16x19 pattern places greater stress on the strings, especially for players with faster swings.

So if you’re desperate for greater durability, consider sticks with a little more weight and denser string patterns. Otherwise, you’ll just have to keep swinging—and restringing.

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Racquet Review: Völkl Organix 9 07/19/2012 - 8:25 PM

Throughout this week, we're posting our reviews of this summer's new racquets. Today we consider the Völkl Organix 9.

Volkl Organix 9_frontMSRP: $230
AVAILABLE: Now
HEAD SIZE: 98 sq. in.
LENGTH: 27 in.
WEIGHT: 11.4 oz.
BALANCE: 5 pts. HL
SWINGWEIGHT: 314
FLEXIBILITY: Stiff
BEAM WIDTH: 21mm
STRING PATTERN: 16 x 19
IDEAL SWING: Medium to Long
NTRP: 4.0+

*NOTE: Values represent strung frames.

The Pitch
In keeping with its enumerated siblings, the Völkl 9 is built with Organix—a DNA-based, high-tech cellulose material that’s surrounded with carbon nanotubes. According to Völkl, Organix offers more dampening, feel, and stability over previous frame technologies. Additionally, the new Völkl 5 features Bio Sensor, a weighted pin that’s placed at the end of the handle in order to catch errant vibrations. As the company explains, this pin enhances the frame’s feel and comfort by mimicking the mass-damper pendulums skyscrapers use to survive high-impact forces, like hurricanes or earthquakes.

How It Tested
Think of the medium-weight Völkl 9 as a tight end: It’s ripped enough to deliver a good-sized wallop, but not so much that it sacrifices maneuverability and quickness. Strong intermediate and advanced playtesters reported that the 9 allowed them to access a good range of pop and spin from the backcourt, while still being versatile enough to hold its own in quick-fire volley exchanges. Said one 4.5 playester with a semi-Western forehand and two-handed backhand, “I like the racquet’s thin beam, and it has a soft feel for a stiffer racquet. The stick provides a good mix of control and pop.” And as another 4.0 playtester remarked, “A fine all-around stick. Balanced and stable, the stick performed well in all areas of the court. It felt like a natural extension of my arm.”

Although the Völkl 9 is forgiving and friendly in the right hands—i.e., those able to produce longer, more fluid swings—the stick is not particularly congenial to beginners and lower-intermediates. (According to one 3.5 player who tried the stick, “When I hit the sweetspot, the accuracy and power is great. But overall, the head size and the sweetspot was too small for me.”) Certainly, though, strong 3.5 players who like a racquet on the heavy side for their ability level should give the 9 a whirl.

How It Looks
Flashy but not gaudy, traditional but not conservative: The 9’s orange and black makes for one of our favorite cosmetics yet.

Bottom Line
A versatile and well-balanced racquet for proficient all-courters and adventurous intermediates.

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Question of the Day: Leather Grips
Question of the Day: Blistering Hands
Question of the Day: Two Sticks for Net Rushers
Tennis Radar: App., Zap, and Co.
Question of the Day: Performance-Enhancing Grip Sizes
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