14 Sep 2017

My Tennis Racquet History

Over the last 20+ years I’ve played with many different tennis racquets. As a child I remember 2 different junior Wilson aluminium racquets before getting my first ‘real’ graphite racquet in 1994. Over the past 20 years I’ve gone from playing multiple times a week to not playing for several years, back to playing. Each time I take a break from tennis, I usually buy a new racquet both as motivation, and because I like seeing how racquet technology changes (it doesn’t always improve it!). I haven’t really played much tennis in the last 8 years, and having always had a soft spot for Yonex (I used to play badminton), I purchased a Yonex EZONE DR 98. This is supposed to be a mix between a traditional player’s racquet (like my trusty Pro Staff), and a more modern, forgiving racquet. Here’s a list of the racquets I’ve used over the years:

1994 - Wilson Pete Sampras Comp 25
This was a great starter racquet. I remember it cost me ‎£45.

1996 - Wilson Pro Staff 6.0 Original 85 (St. Vincent version)
I bought this while on holiday in the U.S.A. This was the original St. Vincent version that Pete Sampras used. It’s an incredible frame, but only if you can wield it. Back when I was playing 4-5x a week this racquet felt great. But these days it’s just too heavy and unforgiving. I actually damaged this racquet while playing in an area with Metal fences too close to the court boundaries. It never felt the same after that, so I sold it.

1997 - Yonex RD5
I bought this while in Spain. It was basically a cheaper RD7, which is considered a player’s frame quite similar to a Pro Staff 6.1 Classic. It had some of the feel of my old Pro Staff, but weighed less, and had a more forgiving and larger head. I have no idea what happened to this racquet. I probably gave it away to someone.

1999 - Head Ti. Radical OS (x2)
I actually intended to purchase the MidPlus (MP) version of this racquet, but due to some confusion at the shop, ended up with the Oversize (OS) version. While clearly at the opposite end of the spectrum compared to traditional player’s racquets I was used to, I learned to love this, and used it for several years. I then took a break from tennis from 2003-2006. When I got the urge to play again, I sold both of these to my Brother John and bought…

2006 - Head LiquidMetal Radical MP (x2)
Having always wanted to try the MP version of the Head Radical, I decided to finally purchase an MP Radical (though this time the newer LiquidMetal version). I believe at this point the racquet was a couple of generations behind, so it was very cheap ($80 each). After I bought another set of Pro Staff 6.0s in 2008, I gave one of these to my cousin James, and kept one as a backup/loaner racquet.

2008 - Wilson Pro Staff 6.0 Original 85 (x2)
I still missed my old Pro Staff, and found the Pro Staff on sale. It was no longer the St. Vincent version with the Fairway leather grip, but the frame should be more or less the same. This wasn’t a very realistic frame to buy as someone who only plays a few times a year, but I bought it for nostalgic reasons. It just feels so good when you’re landing shots in the sweet spot. If you even slightly mis-hit shots however, it’s very unforgiving. I played for maybe a year, and got busier and again stopped playing.

In 2017 I made an effort to watch Wimbledon and really wanted to start playing tennis again. Again, for nostalgic reasons I wanted to buy a Radical OS racquet. Unfortunately, Head no longer makes a proper Radical OS. The latest Radical line (Graphene XT) has a beginner OS Radical racquet called PWR, but it’s a super light weight, thick, beginner frame. I figured I’d just buy a cheap used older Radical OS.

2017 - Head MicroGel Radical OS
After some research I decided to get the MicroGel Radical OS. I managed to get one in great condition for only $30 on eBay. This will likely be a racquet I try every now and then, and loan to people, as it’s a good, easy to play with forgiving racquet.

Demo time!
I ordered some demo racquets from Tennis Warehouse a couple of weeks ago. For $20 you get to try up to 4 racquets for a week (the $20 covers shipping in both directions).

  • Yonex EZONE DR 98
  • Wilson Pro Staff RF97
  • Babolat Pure Strike 98 (16x19)
  • Babolat Pure Aero

Unfortunately Tennis Warehouse’s delivery estimate was off by about 2 weeks (I guess they can’t predict if someone will return a racquet late), so I actually got them right before going to Oregon for a family reunion. In the end I was only able to play with them for about 30 minutes before needing to send them back :(.

2017 - Yonex EZONE DR 98
The good news is that Tennis Warehouse sends you coupons to purchase any of the racquets you’ve demo’d. Also during this time, a new version of the Yonex came out, so the model I’d demo’d was $40 off. Add in my $25 coupon and I got a great deal. Hopefully I like it as much as my old Yonex RD5.