Archive for the 'Racket Reviews' Category
Dunlop Vision


Length: 27.5
in.
Weight: 9.5
oz.
Ideal Swing - Short: No

Ideal Swing - Medium: Yes

Ideal Swing - Long: No
Maneuverability: Medium
Control: Low
Power: High
Comfort: Low

You’re a solid intermediate who’s lost a step due to injury or age, and you’re looking for a value racquet that’ll put the bada-bing back into your game. If this matches your profile, the Dunlop Vision might be manna from heaven. This stick has a good-sized sweet spot, thanks to the large head and concave design on the inside of the frame at the 2, 5, 7, and 10 o’clock positions (which increases the length of the main and cross strings). "I didn’t feel I mishit any shots, even if they were well off the center of the string bed," said one tester. Hard-hit balls tended to sail, but the Vision was ideal on the shorter strokes and volleys favored in doubles. "My serves were forceful and my volleys were powerful," said a 4.0 player. Though Dunlop wraps a layer of interwoven thermoplastic under the grip to reduce vibration, testers said they still needed a string dampener.

BOTTOM LINE
Delivers plenty of bang for the buck.

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Wilson KTour Review

If you know a thing or two about racquet specs, you’d think a racquet like the Wilson KTour wouldn’t appeal to advanced players.

For one, it’s too light at only 10.6 ounces strung. Another reason is the balance is all wrong. Player’s racquets are supposed to be head light, right? Ever since the days of wood racquets, advanced players have gravitated toward racquets with a strung weight upward of 12 ounces with a head-light balance.

The Tour racquet from Wilson, now in its fifth iteration, has continually bucked this trend. From its Hammer 5.2 roots through H Tour and nTour versions, the Tour has stayed true to form and remained light-er weight with an even balance.

Since its inception, folks have been claiming it wasn’t really a Hammer racquet, as it wasn’t head heavy enough. Many won’t see the KTour as a player’s racquet, either.

So what is the KTour?

The simple answer? A very solid racquet.

We caught up with big-hitting Lindsay Davenport at the 2008 Pacific Life Open. Having used all the various Tour racquets, she explained that the Tour racquets enabled her to still find consistency — even when unloading on powerful groundstrokes. Davenport video interview.

To find out if we could find that same Davenport-like balance of power and control, we strung several KTours with Wilson NXT 17 string at 57 lbs and hit the courts.

Groundstrokes

With the assets of control, maneuverability, spin and power, our team was impressed from the baseline with the KTour. Enjoying the versatility of the racquet was Danny. "Of the last three versions of this racquet, the Wilson KTour is my favorite. I found this racquet to have a really crisp feel from the baseline. When I say crisp, I mean firm. Generally, a firmer feel is something I stay away from, but this racquet worked out well for me. There wasn’t much that I couldn’t do from the baseline with this racquet. I could play just as well with the KTour as I could with any racquet. My variety of shots was something that stood out with the KTour. I was able to not only get good topspin with this racquet, but I was able to consistently flatten the ball out without making an error. I think the lighter weight was a factor as to why I was able to vary my shots so well. Testing this racquet made me think twice about the type of racquet that is good for me. Generally, I think a 12 ounce frame is good for my game, but after testing this 10.6 ounce racquet (strung), it is making me think twice. The last comment I want to add pertains to my backhand slice. It was noticeably better with this racquet than other racquets I’ve tested."

Spencer was impressed with the depth of his groundstrokes. "I was very comfortable hitting from the baseline with this racquet. The first thing I noticed was the solid feel. I love that. Being a fan of the nTour Two, it’s no surprise I liked the KTour as well. Off both wings I was able to hit deep, penetrating shots without overswinging. I liked the stability for a lighter weight racquet, while the maneuverability was fantastic. Having hit with a couple of different string set-ups with its open 16/20 string pattern, I preferred a polyester string, as it added even more spin and control, helping keep balls from floating long."

Feeling he could swing aggressively with this racquet was Chris. "I liked the response of this racquet off the ground. I found ample power and the response was very comfortable. I was impressed with the amount of spin I was finding on my shots and felt confident swinging aggressively. While I prefer heavier, head light racquets, the lighter weight and even balance felt pretty good. This racquet definitely felt stable; considerably so considering its weight. I’ve hit with all versions of the Tour, including the Hammer 5.2, and this one definitely felt the most solid to me."

Tiffani liked the amount of spin she was finding. "This racquet produced some nice spin for me, but it didn’t necessarily help me hit a ‘heavy’ ball. Because it’s light, I was able to swing quickly through the ball and get plenty of topspin. I play fairly flat, but I’ve been working on using more spin in my game. The KTour made that easy. I also enjoyed slicing with this one. However, I found this frame difficult to control depth wise with the multifilament string we usually use for playtests. It was just too lively. I felt like I had to hold back to keep the ball in play. Put in a poly and it’s a different story. I was much happier with the performance from the baseline because the poly gave me the control I seek." Ryan RS was enamored with the control from the baseline. "Right away I noticed that control was exceptional. This is the standout feature of the racquet. I was able to direct the ball on forehands and backhands with ease. A dampener in the stringbed kept the feedback very minimal, and it was quite a comfortable racquet even without one. Despite having almost identical specs, it felt a little more comfortable than its predecessor, the nTour Two. Even though it is definitely a control-oriented racquet, when I had time to set up properly the KTour delivered plenty of power. Slices came off the stringbed well and were extremely effective with the amount of backspin the racquet produced. The sweetspot felt about average size for a 95 square inch head."
Volleys

An easy racquet to wield because of its weight, our team was pleased with the KTour when volleying. Tiffani felt much more confident at net. "I usually prefer a racquet from the baseline, but I found myself liking this one at net. I was pleased with the punch available from the stringbed and found the racquet plenty maneuverable. I wasn’t bothered at all by the extra quarter inch. I used to play with a 27.5 inch racquet, and one of the reasons I moved on from it was its lack of maneuverability. I didn’t find that with the KTour." Impressed by the weight and balance was Chris. "I was finding lots of pop at net with this stick. It felt easy to get around, and I enjoyed the maneuverability when forced to flick a pick-up volley or make a quick stab. The racquet never felt unstable, and I was again impressed by how the weight and balance of this stick came together." Spencer was more aggressive than normal when at net. "I really enjoyed my success and prowess at net with the KTour. Once again, the mobility of the racquet was outstanding, and with the pop this stick offered, put-a-ways were a cinch. With the confidence this racquet provided, I found myself being very aggressive at net, which is not the norm for me."

Ryan RS felt the mobility of the racquet made it shine at net. "The racquet is very maneuverable at net despite its slightly extended length. However, I felt that volleys lacked ‘pop’. It was easy to slice under the ball to keep shots low, but required extra work to keep volleys deep in the court. Directing volleys was fairly easy, although it was tough to consistently counter heavy shots at net." Enjoying the light weight and feel was Danny. "Crisp, solid and consistent is how I would describe this racquet at net. The lighter weight might have been a factor as to why I liked the racquet when volleying, but I found the racquet to have great maneuverability and feel. I’m not sure if it was the racquet or maybe a new type of volleying technique, but I was able to knife my volleys with great consistency with this racquet."
Serves

Spin and power seemed to be the defining features of the KTour with our playtest squad when serving. Thrilled with the combination of power and control was Spencer. "The KTour provided a nice combination of spin, control and power. I liked the depth and kick I could get, and when trying to heat one up down the T, the power was there. I was very comfortable when serving with this bat."

Ryan RS felt the extra length provided more pop. "The extra quarter inch helps with leverage and reach. Spin was fairly easy to impart, and I didn’t feel like the racquet lacked anything in this category. A slightly more head light balance might have added some speed to the serves." Having great success with his first serve was Danny. "My first serve was noticeably better than my second serve with this racquet. I was surprised how consistent my first serve was. I could hit a consistent flat serve with this racquet and achieve more pop on my serve than I could with most racquets that I’ve tested. The downfall was my second serve. I had a hard time finding a consistent second serve. I couldn’t put a finger on why I was having troubles with my second serve."

Enjoying lots of spin when serving was Chris. "I was able to serve with decent pace and get some nice action on the ball with the KTour. I wasn’t finding my usual pace and weight on shots, but was able to get some decent pop out of the racquet. I found it easy to whip the racquet through the contact zone, so access to spin was solid." Tiffani felt the KTour helped her velocity on serve. "Serves were adequate for me. There was nice access to some power. During this playtest I was coming off an arm injury so I hadn’t been serving for a while. This was a good racquet for me to practice the service motion because it was maneuverable. I injured my tossing arm, but it was good for my confidence to be able to swing fairly easily and still get some good pop on my serves."
Serve Returns

Having several different options when returning made the KTour effective for returning serves. Chris found the maneuverability and stability to be impressive. "As with groundstrokes and volleys, I was impressed by the combination of maneuverability and stability from the KTour. I felt like I could take a good rip at returns with this stick without taking a huge risk. The racquet felt comfortable and there was a decent amount of control to be had. When punching or blocking the ball back, the racquet felt solid and stable." Feeling more confident with defensive returns was Spencer."The combination of pop and maneuverability made this a nice racquet for returning serves defensively. Being able to get the stringbed on the ball and blocking back serves deep into the opponent’s court kept me in more points. On medium to slower paced serves I could take a good cut, but I tended to miss more, as I had slight timing issues with the lighter weight of this racquet."

Danny liked the versatility the KTour provided when returning. "I find any racquet that I like from the baseline will be a good racquet for my service returns. This racquet allowed me to vary my service returns. If I needed to spin my returns in I could. If I wanted to flatten the ball out, I could do that as well."

Liking the mobility and length was Ryan RS. "It was easy to get racquet head speed because of the maneuverability, but the racquet can become a little unstable if facing a big server. The extra quarter inch helped considerably when stretched out wide."

Tiffani was partial to polyester string on returns. "As with groundstrokes, I struggled with controlling the depth of my shots when it was strung with a multifilament. I played a doubles match with it, and it was a struggle to get into points. As with groundstrokes, I found the poly a better setup for me. It was like playing with a different racquet. The result with poly was balls deep into the court rather than deep behind the baseline."
Overall

Having a very similar feel to the nTour Two, the Wilson KTour offered a nice blend of maneuverability and power, with a solid feel. Our team was impressed with the amount of spin and control the KTour offered from all areas of the court. Though the weight of the racquet was light, with a close to even balance, the KTour still allowed our testers to be successful with aggressive shots, while the open string pattern helped with spin production. We found the KTour to be very versatile from all areas of the court and a good option for a wide level of players.

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Head MicroGel Radical Tennis Racquet Review

Andre has left the building.

But his HEAD Radical still plays on.

The king of Radical, Andre Agassi, may have retired from professional tennis, but his racquet of choice is still swinging.

And while Andre may no longer be on the tour, when he steps onto the court, he’s still a Radical guy.

The latest version of Andre’s racquet gets updated with HEAD’s new MicroGel Technology. There’s also a new look to the MicroGel Radical racquets - after all, it was Andre who said, "Image is Everything."

The updates are more than skin deep with the MicroGel Radical series. HEAD’s MicroGel Radicals feature a MicroGel construction that, when combined with carbon composite fibers in the racquet head, deform and compress upon ball impact, uniformly absorbing and distributing the impact load around the entire frame. HEAD states the result is a rock solid feel with improved comfort at impact.

As with the previous Liquidmetal Radical and Flexpoint Radical racquet lines, the MicroGel Radical comes in three versions. Andre’s preferred Oversize headsize is joined again by a Midplus headsize. The third version of the MicroGel Radical, called the Pro, sees the continuation of a heavier player’s spec Radical, with a 100 square-inch head and a more open 16/19 string pattern. While the heavier Radical in the Liquidmetal and Flexpoint lines was called the "Tour" version, HEAD has changed the name to "Pro" here - in keeping with its MicroGel Extreme racquets.

We handed the new MicroGel Radicals over to our test team for some extensive hitting. Read on for the results of our three-week playtest.
Midplus
Groundstrokes

Our team found lots of control hitting from the baseline with the MicroGel Radical Midplus. Finding heavy emphasis on control and comfort off the ground was Chris. "I found this to be a very control-oriented racquet from the baseline. The racquet felt very soft and forgiving. I liked the feel and felt well-connected to my shots. I found this to be the most comfortable Radical in recent memory, with a more dampened feel compared to the Liquidmetal and Flexpoint versions. Off both wings I could take big cuts at the ball without fear of over-hitting. Even with a lively multifilament string, I found a ton of control with this racquet. To get some added pop, I’d be looking to string this one at the low end of the recommended tension range." Also enjoying the controlled response of the racquet was Jason. "A very solid feeling racquet off the ground. I really enjoyed the control this racquet offered. Even with the tighter string pattern, I felt that the racquet generated a good amount of spin. Keeping the ball in play was not a problem, but at times I couldn’t get the ball as deep into the backcourt as I wanted. Control was great! When going for the big shots, I never felt the ball would fly. This MicroGel version of the Radical Midplus also offered great feel and feedback."

Finding a solid response from the racquet was Spencer. "A nice solid feel on groundstrokes. The tight string pattern offered nice control, though I had a little trouble finding depth on my shots. I also didn’t get as much spin as I would have liked." Granville found an appealing response from the MicroGel Radical. "The Microgel Radical Midplus felt good in my hand. I liked the balance and soft flex. It felt very maneuverable, with a solid response. It did not offer the ‘crisp’ response that I find with my regular racquet, unless I struck the ball perfectly. I found that I really needed to watch the ball very closely to find the sweetspot. Overall, though, I found this Radical very appealing." Enjoying the control, but left wanting for spin was Ryan K. "I was able to get a good amount of control with the Microgel Radical Midplus. It felt comfortable to hit with, but it took some time for me to be able to hit a fair amount of topspin with it. I was able to really place my shots, but I felt like I had to put too much effort into getting the topspin I wanted. It was hard to find the spin that I usually get with my racquet. I really didn’t feel much extra pop on this racquet, either."
Volleys

Our team enjoyed lots of feel and control with the MicroGel Radical Midplus at net. Finding some pinpoint accuracy on his touch volleys was Spencer. "I enjoyed the feel of this racquet at net. I liked it most with the more delicate touch volleys. I didn’t have as much confidence when trying to put volleys away, and felt any off-center shots were affected by a little instability." Also feeling well-connected to his volleys with the MicroGel Radical Midplus was Granville. "This one was perhaps the least forgiving racquet at net between the three iterations, but I liked the response best. I found some very precise action from the stringbed and good feel. I still need more time with this to make the most of what it has to offer."

Finding the racquet to be crisp and maneuverable at net was Ryan K. "Volleys were very crisp with this racquet. The Microgel Radical Midplus also had excellent maneuverability at net. The high level of comfort only improved the feel for me on volleys." Jason was getting the job done at net with the MicroGel Radical Midplus. "Maneuverable and solid. For the most part, getting the racquet to go where it needed to and getting the ball back over the net was not a problem. Volleying hard-hit shots is where I felt the racquet had some torsional stability problems. Overall though, this racquet can get the job done and get it done well at net." Finding lots of control at net was Chris "This racquet felt very soft and forgiving on volleys. Again, I had no issues with hitting long and lots of control to find the short angles. I was impressed by the comfort, and the racquet offered a very dampened feel. There was enough feedback for me to find my spots on touch shots, but I felt the response was much more dampened than buttery."
Serves

When stepping up to serve, our team found lots of control and consistency with the MicroGel Radical Midplus. Granville quickly dialed in his targeting on serves. "The Microgel Radical Midplus has a very precise feel when serving. I had the sense I could place the ball on a dime. The other side of that coin is the inherent lack of power with the racquet." Finding lots of control on serves was Ryan K. "I felt comfortable serving with the Microgel Radical Midplus, but it lacked extra pop. I had to supply my own power, but it felt really solid."

Jason found a controlled response when serving with the MicroGel Radical Midplus. "The control was good. I could get the ball in the direction I wanted it to go, but I felt a lack of power. It just seemed as if my serves were lacking some zip. Hitting 2nd serve slices was not a problem. I found the level of spin was more than adequate with this racquet." Finding plenty of bite from the stringbed of the racquet was Chris. "I was serving consistently with this racquet and had no trouble finding my targets. Pace was OK, but I was much more impressed with the spin and control. The racquet felt somewhat low-powered so I concentrated on placement and variety over pace. As from other areas of the court, I found plenty of bite from the stringbed. I felt confident going all out on second serves without fear of hitting long." A solid sense of directional control impressed Spencer on serve. "I would say the Microgel Radical Midplus is the least powerful of the Microgel Radicals. Direction and control were good, although I wasn’t getting the desired result when it came to spin."
Serve Returns

The comfortable and control oriented response continued to impress our team when returning. When it came to shot selection, Jason found lots of variety while returning serve. "Because this racquet is fairly stable and maneuverable, it opened up some options on returns. Against big first serves, blocking the ball back was easily done, and on second serves I could really take a nice full swing at the ball from either the forehand or backhand side." Ryan K was also taking a good cut at the ball with the MicroGel Radical Midplus. "On most of my returns I was able to rip my returns back with this racquet. Finding the sweetspot was very easy and effective, although adding a good amount of topspin took some time."

Finding a demanding response from the racquet when returning was Granville. "Good stroke production is critical to maximize returns with the Midplus. I was able to drive the ball effectively when prepared." Spencer found an easier time on return with the MicroGel Radical Midplus. "A pretty easy stick to return with. If I had one complaint with returning serve it would be lack of depth. It was more difficult to get returns back deep with any consistency."

Said Chris, "I really felt like I maximized the control and response of this racquet on returns. I was able to play aggressively with this stick and still be consistent. I wasn’t blowing returns past my opponents like I can with my regular stick, but my control and placement was strong. I especially liked the control on chip and slice returns. I was able to drop the ball low to the serve and volley player’s feet, then move in and finish them with a forehand - lots of fun."
Overall

We found lots of control with the MicroGel Radical Midplus from all areas of the court. The level of comfort at contact was also very impressive. Most racquets offering a high level of comfort sacrifice feel. There’s no loss of feel with the MicroGel Radical Midplus, and our team found this one a solid performer when it came to shot targeting and touch play. The traditional 18/20 Radical stringbed seemed to add to the sense of control, and our team felt confident with this stick during aggressive exchanges. Getting power from the racquet was up to the playtester and good stroke technique was required for heavy hitting. As with previous Radicals, we found excellent mobility and control, but with improved comfort and a softer feel. A solid hitting racquet, this one’s a solid update to the Radical line and well worth a demo.

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Wilson K Factor Six One Tour 90 Review

 Subtle revisions in design, when added together and taken as a whole, can often result in big changes in performance. Roger Federer’s new racquet, the Wilson KSix-One Tour 90 is a case in point.

While at first glance it may look like the changes from nCode to KFactor may have happened in the material build up, a close inspection of the KSix-One Tour 90 reveals some other subtle design updates to the racquet, as well.

The new KSix-One Tour 90 takes a page from the Wilson ProStaff Original 6.0 85, the racquet that wrote the book on classic racquet performance. Take a close look at the new handle of the KSix-One Tour 90 and you’ll notice a shorter pallet with more of the graphite shaft exposed below the yoke - just as with the ProStaff Original 6.0 racquets.

Although we’re not aware of any physical advantages to the ProStaff 6.0 85 like handle pallet, we do know it will silence critics that noticed this difference between the version of the Tour 90s used by Roger Federer and those available to the rest of us.

Another subtle update to the KSix-One Tour 90 is the string spacing in the sweetspot of the racquet. Members of our Talk Tennis message boards were quick to point out that Federer’s version of previous Tour 90s had only four cross strings along the PWS bar at 3 & 9 o’clock on the racquet face. The retail versions of the Pro Staff Six-One Tour 90 and the nCode nSix-One Tour 90 both had five cross stings through this area. With the new KSix-One Tour 90 we now get four cross strings, just like Federer.

After taking a close look at the racquet we had to ask, can blending design hints from the ProStaff 6.0 85 with a technology as new and mysterious as KFactor (Wilson still hasn’t told us what KFactor is) result in a better Tour 90? And, most importantly, can this blending of old and new enable us to hit the ball like Federer?

To answer these questions (and to take advantage of some terrific California Central Coast weather) we hit the courts for a three-week playtest.
Groundstrokes

The KSix-One Tour 90 was a hit with our team at the baseline. Offering excellent stability, comfort, feel and control, our playtesters found this stick well suited to advanced level play. Finding more slice than a New York pizzeria with the KSix-One Tour 90 was Ryan. "Hitting groundstrokes with this racquet was exceptionally good. I especially appreciated hitting approach shots with this racquet. I was able to get really good depth on my approaches. The other shot from the baseline that was just really good was the slice backhand. This racquet is the best slicing racquet I have ever used. I was really able to attack with the slice backhand - just like Gonzalez in the Aussie Open was doing. Great racquet from the baseline, both spin and depth were good." Finding himself one with the racquet from the baseline was Jon. "As a big fan of the ProStaff Six-One Tour 90, I had high expectations for this KFactor version. The KSix-One Tour 90 was no disappointment. Consistent is the only way I can describe this racquet. From the baseline, the KSix-One Tour 90′s only limitation is the person swinging it. The smallish 90 square inch headsize delivered good topspin, excellent power, and pinpoint accuracy. It was smooth and comfortable to swing, with good ball feedback on impact. I could tell instantly where the ball was going and where on the stringbed the ball impacted."

Busting the felt off the ball with his very first shot with the racquet was Granville. "The always welcome ‘thwap’ sound greeted me on the first strike - solid as a rock. I was taking full swipes at the ball and crushing them deep into either corner at will. Very comfortable, yet crisp. The swingweight is noticeably higher than my Hyper ProStaff 6.1, but this only inhibited my regular stroke production on two shots (serve - more on that later) and the extreme forehand and backhand topspin short angles where the added swing weight may be delaying, ever so slightly, contact with the ball. This new Tour, in my honest opinion, is far superior to the nCode version of the same racquet. So comfortable was I with this racquet, I was able to come through with a slightly closed racquet face (especially on the forehand) to further drive that ball deep with pace." Spencer found the KSix-One Tour 90 to offer more spin than a politician caught in a hot debate. "I’m not sure there’s a better feeling racquet when hit in the sweetspot. The racquet really comes through the ball and drives it. Access to spin was excellent, as well as the level of control. That being said, I had more mis-hits because of the demanding nature of the racquet. I began to tire and fall behind in timing, as the racquet has a heavier swingweight than what I am used to. I also found that as I tired balls would sail on me. I wasn’t hitting a full stroke, so I couldn’t create enough topspin to help balls land inside the baseline. Though more forgiving than the nSix-One Tour 90, I still felt very penalized from results of off-center shots."

Finding the KSix-One Tour 90 to be the best Tour 90 yet was Chris. "Of all the Tour 90s so far, this latest version reminded me of the ProStaff Original 6.0 85 the most. I could feel a lot more ProStaff heritage in the response and feel of this racquet. The KSix-One Tour 90 felt more maneuverable compared to the other Tour 90s and I felt like I had better control of the tip of the racquet. For some reason, previous Tour 90s always felt cumbersome compared to the ProStaff Original 85, but with this version Wilson seems to have corrected the maneuverability issue. I was also finding better access to spin with the racquet. Part of the reason was the increased racquet head speed I was able to generate. The other contributing factor seemed to come from the stringbed. I felt like I was getting more bite on the ball and better ball speed. The result was better pace, spin and court penetration on my shots than I’ve found with any of the other Tour 90 racquets. My favorite shot was the backhand slice. The racquet sliced through the ball like a hot knife through butter, resulting in excellent court penetration and spin. I struggled a little when hitting topspin approach shots as the mass of the racquet really pushed the ball deep. I had a little trouble getting the ball to drop inside the baseline without holding back."
Volleys

The controlled response, excellent stability and impressive feel offered by the KSix-One Tour 90 made it a hit at net with most of our team. Finding the racquet more solid than the Chicago Bears’ defense was Ryan "Besides the obvious disadvantage of a 90 square inch head size, I thought the racquet was unbelievable for hitting volleys. The response I got at contact made hitting my volleys on target a lot easier. Depth was another factor that was great with this racquet. It was pretty easy to get good depth on the volleys. Maneuverability was also pretty good. This is a 12+ ounce racquet that handles very well on reflex volleys. But again, the main thing that stood out to me was the solid response of the racquet at contact and the resulting accuracy." Spencer found the sweetspot of the KSix-One Tour 90 to be as sweet as pie on the volley. "When hitting volleys in the middle of the racquet I could put away shots at net. But, once again I felt very penalized for off center hits. I would say maneuverability was average."

Chris found the net to be his favorite court position with the KSix-One Tour 90. "This racquet felt incredibly stable at net. No matter the pace or weight of the shot coming at me, the racquet remained stable at contact and I was able to control my volleys very well. The head light balance made for a maneuverable feel and I felt very comfortable volleying with this racquet - so much so that the net was by far my favorite area of the court to be when wielding the KSix-One Tour 90." Jon found the racquet to be a lethal instrument at net. "I enjoyed volleying with the KSix-One Tour 90. I would have liked a larger 95-98sq in headsize at the net, but overall this racquet proved very lethal. Despite the weight, the KSix-One Tour 90 was very maneuverable at net. It’s been awhile since I played with a 90 square inch headsize, and it did take a little getting used to. After a few games I felt comfortable and confident that I could put the ball anywhere I wanted."

Immediately finding the groove at net with the KSix-One Tour 90 was Granville. "Soft and crisp with excellent touch - just what I would expect from a 6.1 racquet. Maneuverability wasn’t hindered with the added swingweight (as noted on the groundies) and I was immediately comfortable with the new KSix-One Tour 90 from anywhere at the net or court. I can feel the slightly smaller headsize on the really wide volleys and am considering this as a perfect compromise between my pick as the greatest racquet ever made (6.0 85) and my current favorite (6.1 95). This one offered slightly lower power than the 95, and a bit more of the ‘buttery’ feel of the 85."
Serves

Our team found good access to pace and spin when serving with the KSix-One Tour 90. Jon took a trip down memory lane when serving with this racquet. "Serving with the KSix-One Tour 90 was very reminiscent of my old Pro Staff Tour 90. It had a very similar feel and power level. It didn’t matter if I was going big or moving the ball with spin, I couldn’t find a weakness while serving with the KSix-One Tour 90." Although he may not have guns like Rafa, Ryan found the heft of the KSix-One Tour 90 more than manageable. "Serves were excellent. Pace and depth were easy to muster up, I think because of the weight of the frame. However, usually with a heavy racquet like this, I would start to feel the effects of it on my arm, in that I start to tire, and I’ll start missing second serves, etc. However, that never happened with this racquet. I was able to generated great spin, and it was just an excellent racquet to serve with."

After a tepid start, Chris started to find the heat on serve with the KSix-One Tour 90. "I struggled a little early on to serve consistently with this stick. The increased weight, compared to my Pure Drive Roddick, was throwing my timing off slightly. As the playtest progressed I started to get more dialed in, but this was the shot that took the most adaptation to the racquet. Again, the racquet felt very solid and I was able to find some good spin on serves. I hit a lot of kickers with this stick, as I was a little erratic with my first serves - although they did have impressive pace. By the end of the test I was in the groove with my kick serve. I was able to consistently kick the ball out wide or jam my opponent by kicking the ball into their body." Finding some added pop to his already powerful service delivery was Granville. "This is the one stroke where I still need more time with the racquet. The added swing weight (again compared to my Hyper ProStaff 6.1) definitely affected my targeting and depth. On the second day out I was better with depth but still struggling a bit with targeting. On the upside, the added swingweight seemed to give me a bit more ‘pop’ on the big serves."

Spencer’s serve had more kick than a plate of Kung-Pao chicken when he stepped up to the line with the KSix-One Tour 90. "Good feel and good spin when serving. I like to hit a solid kick serve and this racquet can produce just that, being able to provide good bite and kick. Once again I loved the feel, but my serve percentage was lower than usual. I think timing and lack of forgiveness had something to do with it."
Serve Returns

Our team enjoyed the solid and stable response of the KSix-One Tour 90 when returning serve. Going for some Federer like consistency on his returns was Ryan. "The return of serve was the best aspect of this racquet. I now know why Roger Federer is so consistent on his returns! This racquet is the most stable and consistent racquet I have ever used. This translates to knowing exactly where the ball is going to go when you hit. The downside is that if you hit a bad shot, the racquet isn’t going to help you. I was able to block big serves with startling consistency and depth, neutralizing the biggest weapon of my opponent. And again, it was there every time. This is the best racquet I have ever returned with. Better than the previous models of Tour 90s because I never felt behind in my swing with this one, which is something that I struggled with using the nCode and Pro Staff Tour 90s." When returning serve, Chris found the racquet to plough through the ball better than a John Deere tractor through loose soil. "I found some excellent stability and feel from this racquet when returning. I was able to go after hard hit serves and generate effortless pace and depth thanks to the way this racquet ploughed through the contact zone. I was amazed at the depth, pace and accuracy I was able to generate with little effort. It never felt like the ball pushed the racquet around, and that let me use the server’s pace against him."

Granville discovered that mucho racquet mass meant he was packing serious heat on his service returns. "What a difference mass makes when it comes to service returns. Defensively, just get the racquet on the ball and it will do the work for you. Get a short serve and take it early and drive it to the open corner. This added luxury of mass enabled me to approach on a service return when appropriate - it was like having an extra tool in the toolbox. With the KSix-One Tour 90, I had a sense that I came to the battle with the biggest gun and no one could take me out." Jon found that good things can come in small packages while returning with the midsize KSix-One Tour 90. "I found the racquet very well suited for returning serves. I expected it to perform well, but I was still surprised at how much control I had. Again, with a 90 square inch headsize this racquet is not for everyone. I had some trouble adjusting to this stick at first, but once I found my groove I became very aggressive with my returns with good results." Spencer found he could take a good cut at slower serves. "I had issues returning faster serves, as it was tough to get a consistent and solid stroke on them with this racquet. On the flip side, with a second or slower paced serve I could zero in and place a return with good velocity, putting my opponent on the defensive."
Overall

It helps to be an advanced player to wield a stick like the KSix-One Tour 90. While intermediate players maybe able to handle the heft, a player needs to also consistently find the sweetspot and be prepared to generate their own power from a long and fast swing style. For players that do meet the playing criteria, the KSix-One Tour 90 rewards with pinpoint precision and excellent comfort and stability. With this latest Tour 90, there’s a spin friendliness we’ve not encountered in any of the previous versions. We also found more ball speed off the stringbed and a slightly larger feeling sweetspot. We found previous Tour 90s performed better at the lower end of the tension range (50-52 pounds), but this KFactor version provided a much livelier response at 57 pounds (2 pounds above mid tension).

Last Shots from our playtesters

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Yonex RDS 003 2008


The Majors are where champions prove their worth, but it’s also where the wild cards come to spoil their fun. The ladies’ draw at the 2008 Wimbledon was full of surprises, none bigger than a third round match featuring two women wielding Yonex sticks: Ana Ivanovic and Jie Zheng.

The underdog story was set. It was a match-up of the recently crowned world No. 1 and top tournament seed vs. a wild card who came into the grass championships ranked No. 133 in the world. Ivanovic was coming off her first grand slam victory in Paris. Zheng last won a singles title in 2006.

On paper, the cards were stacked in Ivanovic’s favor. But sticking with the Cinderella script, Zheng stunned Ivanovic and tennis fans with a convincing 6-1, 6-4 victory. Zheng’s Wimbledon story ended in the semifinals when she met a certain Serena Williams, but not before dispensing of two more seeds, No. 15 Agnes Szavay and No. 18 Nicole Vaidisova (another Yonex player).

Zheng’s weapon of choice on her Wimbledon quest: Yonex RDS 003.

If the RDS 003 could help propel a wild card past the reigning world No. 1 and deep into a Grand Slam, what could it do for our playtesters? After a month of testing, our playtesters reported back with their feedback.


Groundstrokes

At 11.1 ounces strung and 6 points head light, the RDS 003 impressed with its maneuverability. Troy felt the racquet played even lighter than its specs. "The first thing that I noticed while hitting groundstrokes was how maneuverable this racquet felt. Even though the weight of this racquet sits right above 11 ounces, it seems to play a bit lighter due to its 6 points head light balance. I was able to generate great racquet head acceleration, enjoying the whip-like effect I could create off the forehand side. I felt like the racquet was slightly unstable when hitting my two-handed backhand; not getting a solid plow-through that I need to really hit a penetrating backhand. I was finding good spin when hitting angle shots, which was due to the open stringbed and good maneuverability of this stick."

The power level of the RDS 003 surprised Chris. "I found plenty of pop from this stick off the ground. I hit toward the upper hoop of the racquet head and found this racquet to really come alive up there. I was able to get plenty of spin and the racquet felt very whippy - both maneuverable and flexible in the shaft. At times the power I was generating with this stick caught me off guard, and I was over-hitting. A co-poly string, strung at the higher end of the tension range helped me rein in some of that power, improving my confidence, consistency and accuracy with the racquet."

Tiffani found she too could whip up some good results off the ground. "It’s tough for me to pick out the outstanding aspect of the RDS 003 because it excels in all areas off the ground for me. The quarter inch of extra length is great for my two-handed backhand, and I get lots of pop. I like to hit just high of dead center and feel that this racquet responds well up there. The head light balance makes it super easy for me to whip through the ball when I need to, and I can easily generate topspin, which is also great when moving forward."

The flex in the shaft made the racquet comfortable on the baseline for Jason. "Wow! What a comfortable racquet to hit with! At first, I thought it was due to the multifilament strings that we originally strung it with, but the soft, forgiving feel was still prevalent once I changed the strings to a polyester string. I found I was able to hit the ball deep and with plenty of spin. Coming from a heavier, more head light racquet, I felt this stick was great for cross court shots, but a bit sluggish on inside out forehands. My balls would tend to go wide by a few feet. What really stood out about this racquet was the spin and comfort."

Volleys

Longer than a traditional racquet at 27.25", the RDS 003 was still maneuverable for Tiffani. "Volleys aren’t my strong point, so the maneuverability at net was outstanding. The extra quarter inch of length wasn’t a hindrance on my net game, and I actually enjoyed it on the high volleys, being that I’m what I’d call vertically challenged. This is now my racquet of choice and part of the reason is the flex. It’s flexier than my previous racquet, and I like the added feel at the net." Chris was also impressed by the maneuverability. "The racquet felt very mobile at net. I was able to stick volleys as well as place them for an angle or drop volley. I never felt hindered by the added length and found it easy to get the racquet around and into position."

Despite the racquet’s light weight, Jason was surprised by its stability. "My volleys felt solid and stable, which was a little surprising, considering the relatively light weight of the racquet. I definitely did not expect such solid torsional stability from an 11-ounce racquet. I was able to maneuver the racquet around easily, a great asset for the shots right at my body."

Yonex repositioned the soft grommets from the previous version of the RDS 003 to enhance feel. Troy felt this helped the RDS 003 stand out among its ‘tweener counterparts. "The amount of feel that I experienced at net with this racquet was better than most other comparable ‘tweeners. I enjoyed the medium power level, which helped me get volleys deeper in the court. I also felt like I was able to hit good touch shots and angle volleys. This racquet had the maneuverability to allow me to get good underspin, making the return of my volleys more difficult. The only down side I found was that when heavy balls were being drilled at me, the racquet was getting pushed around because of a lack of heft."

Serves

With the 16/19 string pattern, Chris found the RDS 003′s power and easy access to spin pleasing. "I found I was able to utilize the power I was finding with this racquet very well on serve. Even when I made the move to a more control-oriented string set-up, I was still able to get lots of pace out of the racquet. I was also very pleased with the amount of spin I was getting. This was a good serving stick and I enjoyed serving with it very much."

Troy was slicing serves so easily it was like he was using a set of Ginsu knives. "I found serving to be the most enjoyable part of having this stick in my hand. I found a good amount of pop, mixed with great maneuverability for some nice results; adding a lot of pace to my lefty slice serve. I was finding a lot more maneuverability from this racquet compared to some of the heavier player’s frames I’ve been using lately. I could easily whip the racquet to help get more jump from my kick serve, or to help me hit a flat bomb down the T. There were no complaints from me while on serve with this one; good pop, spin and control."

Jason was spinning his way into points too. "Power was adequate, spin was above average, but what stood out was the consistency. I was confident in the fact that I could go for a big, lower percentage first serve, and if I missed, have a good chance of placing a second serve in. The spin I was able to impart on the ball truly helped me keep many of my serves in the box. At times I was erratic, but that was in no way the racquet’s fault."

For Tiffani, the RDS 003 was beneficial all around. "I felt like I got pop on my serve, and I need plenty of help because this is the area where I have the toughest time generating my own power. The maneuverability again stood out, and I felt I could move my serve around easily. If a match went three sets I had plenty of juice left to keep on serving through to the end. The ease of maneuverability also helped me get some additional spin, which is welcome on my weaker second serves."

Serve Returns

Jason found the RDS 003 versatile when facing a serve. "Another feather to put in this racquet’s cap. I felt that I returned very well with the RDS 003. The racquet provided good stability for when I played against big servers, while at the same time I could really tee off on the slower paced second serves. My backhand slice return yielded plenty of spin, which was a great for when I couldn’t get the ball deep enough."

The ease with which Troy could generate racquet head speed helped him on returns. "Once again, maneuverability was what made this racquet more user-friendly. My favorite part of returning serve was that I could take a short, quick swipe at the ball and still find a penetrating return. The part that was not as likeable for me was that returning a heavy, fast paced serve proved the racquet to be unstable; as I found on some groundstrokes and volleys. For the most part, I found good placement and ample power for having an effective return game."

The mix of spin and maneuverability was a winning recipe for Tiffani. "Because I felt this racquet was a good fit for me all around, I was really comfortable and confident when returning with this stick. I could take aggressive swings and hit attacking returns off weaker serves, and because it’s so maneuverable I could swing through quickly and get my racquet on the heaters, too. The spin-friendly set-up of the RDS 003 allowed me to hit a lot of deep returns."

Chris again found the power impressive. "I was impressed by how comfortable and solid this racquet felt when returning. Even when returning against a powerful opponent I was able to swing aggressively without fear of mishits jarring my arm. As from the baseline, I was finding plenty of power and lots of spin to help get the job done. Once I switched to the more control-oriented string set-up I was returning with good consistency, too."

Overall

While none of our playtesters is going to be playing in the Wimbledon semifinals anytime soon, the RDS 003 performed well. Power and access to spin impressed everyone, but some found that this stick needed to be held back a bit with a control-oriented string setup. The light weight of this Yonex racquet helped make this a maneuverable one for most, but it also made it somewhat unstable for the bigger hitters. Though, with the generous sweet spot, easy access to power and spin, the playtesters found the RDS 003 a standout in the ‘tweener category.

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