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My Quest for the Holy Grail

by TN

Okay, I admit it, I’m a racquetaholic.

It’s not as bad as many of my racquetaholic buddies at Stringforum and TT Warehouse but I’ve tried plenty of racquets and string setups in my so called tennis “career”. It’s been a fun ride, and that’s the point of it all I guess, but I’ve realized there will never be one holy grail racquet and I’ll become a lot better player using the time I do reading and reviewing new racquets on working on my footwork.

Obviously, footwork training is less fun than buying stuff and that’s while I’ll probably keep fiddling with racquets and strings and lead and leather grips until I’m 70.

So what’s my journey been like and where am I currently at and is there at least a few holy grails for likeminded racquet seekers? All will be covered below in a lengthy and rather unfocused post.

Well, I’ve always been a Wilson man since the Pro Staff Classic. The stick I’ve played in most iterations is the Six-One 95 in the 18×20 pattern. If I would have a top five of racquets I’ve played it would definitely be there. A solid, crisp and control-friendly workhorse.

Another favourite has been the Head IG Prestige MP, especially the IG version. Which I leaded up to 370 grams and thought I’d found perfection with. But no, like fellow racquetaholics know, you always end up finding faults with your stick of choice. My main issue with the Prestige IG MP was that it didn’t move through the air fast enough for me and felt a bit clunkish on serve.

So I moved back to a mid, the currently much beloved Wilson Blade 93 which requires no lead, just a leather grip. Loving it on so many shots, the only issue I have is a slight arm pain I’ve developed after my sessions. It is a stiff stick (RA 67), but not THAT stiff!?

Hence, I’m currently entering another period of playing around. I have a few interesting frames lying around at home:

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It’s a Head Radical Pro Tour MP (“Candycane”), Head Prestige Tour 600 and Head iPrestige mid. Three allegedly great feeling sticks. The problem is that they’re all in plastic and I feel reluctant to rip them up and play with them.

Especially since I have another couple of interesting racquets to try, specifically the Head TGK 237.1 that’s on the way to me. I will start there and then move on to another “classic”, the Fischer Vacuum Pro mid. Will keep you posted how things go.

As you can see I’m in mid heaven/hell. Due to the following reasons:

* They move quicker through the air.
* They give you the possibility to swing out properly.
* They have “feel.”

But with the good comes also the bad:

* It’s a small frame which will lead you to one or more “shank”.
* When you get tired and stop moving your feet they don’t give you anything extra.
* You won’t be hitting heavy top spin forehands like the Bull from Manacor.

For a long time (in relative, racquetaholic terms) my stick of choice was the Wilson K90 and then later the Pro Staff BLX 90 because of the absolutely beautiful attacking tennis you can play with it. I had to put it on the shelf though because of a lacking defense. Once I lost the initiative in a rally, I was usually dead meat.

Still, I ended back in mid-land, first with the Völkl Powerbridge 10 mid and now with the Wilson Blade 93 (all matched to 360 grams strung with smiley dampener). Why I didn’t stay with the soft and friendly German? Hard to say, my backhand slice suffered for some reason. Maybe it’s too flexy, maybe there’s something else, but it’s now for sale. It’s a shame really, because I’ve never hit a better serve or forehand with any other stick. I will possibly regret selling it.

VolklPB10mid2

As you can see I’m not much into colorful graphics on a racquet. Some of the frames they produce today look like some kind of design disaster. I much prefer the clean Prestige 600 (what a paint job!) or this:

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The Blade 93 is strung with Völkl Cyclone 17 in “crazy green” because I needed a contrast. The Cyclone is, by the way, my favourite string ever, tied with Babolat RPM Blast (the Cyclone maintains tension longer).

Back to topic, yes, it’s all about mids right now. I’m very keen on trying the RF 97 Autograph, but I’m worried about two things there:

* It’s too stiff.
* 97 inches of stringbed will make it too heavy to swing.

But, it’s a must-try somewhere down the stretch. If you have one lying around and are interested in trades, I have a few “New Old Stock” racquets that I’m willing to sell/trade. Check my ad at Stringforum.

Until I get my hands on a Wilson RF97, I also have some Biomimetic 300 Pro stocks that are next on the list after the Head prestige mid pro stocks. They are also 97 inches, but more flexy which should hopefully help my arm a bit.

One thing I learned by going back to the mids is that I’m much more comfortable with my one-handed backhand (arguably the most beautiful shot in tennis, sorry Agassi/Djokovic/Murray fans) because you can really whip it through and even with less than energetic footwork you can get your racquet on the ball in good time.

That’s why it’s a shame that current racquet manufacturers seem to be giving up on the mids completely. I understand that you can dial in control even with a Yonex AI 98  (artificial intelligence? – everybody seems to want this particular stick after the luscious Tennis Warehouse review) or other mid-plus racquets, but there are also aerodynamic factors that come into play in swinging a racquet and that’s why mids deserve to be around.

I haven’t tried the Prestige IG Mid, but have heard great things about it, but I guess Head couldn’t muster enough sales to keep it around. Same goes for my beloved Wilson Blade 93. So the mids are soon no more. A shame.

What strikes me when watching college/junior tennis is that most kids seem to be swinging their oversized and stiff Babolats like there’s no tomorrow. It’s all bashing and dashing. I wonder if their elbows hurt at the end of the day (sorry Babolat, you’re fantastic at marketing, but your racquets are not yet for me or my body).

There are in fact studies on the harshness of the new stiffer racquets and what they might do to our limbs in the end. I read a pdf-report a while ago, but can’t seem to find it again, if I do – I will post it here.

Jeez, time flies when you’re writing about tennis. Got other things to do, but for now I give you my top 5 racquets of all time (from the 30+ sticks I’ve tried):

* Wilson Blade 93 2013
* Head Prestige Mid (Classic, etc)
* Head Prestige IG MP
* Wilson K90
* Wilson Six.One 95 Ncode 18×20

Will try to update this blog a bit more often, time permitting. Comments always help to keep me inspired. Let’s keep each other going during the “off-season”.

PS: Had some fun recently with the Wilson Six-One 95S. (First spin effect frame I’ve played with), but I feel it’s lacking a little control (I’m Mr 18×20) so it’s for sale if anyone wants to have some spin fun. DS.

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