It’s time to say goodbye to another year and time to say hello to all the year-end “Best of” lists. So not to be outdone, we’re rolling out our list of Best of 2012 product lists. Once again the playtesters put on their thinking caps to come up with these favorites. We would love to hear yours, too. To kick off the countdown to 2013, we have our 2012 favorite racquets. For a flashback, check out the list of 2011’s top racquets.
This may have 2013 in the name, but by our rules, if it sold in 2012, it’s eligible. The new AeroPro Drive GT must be quite the impressive racquet to make the list of not one but two of our strongest playtesters, and it’s only been out for a month or so.
Siobhan: “Racquet of choice right now – I only spent the whole year waiting for it! It feels similar to the previous Aero, and the current Pure Drive, but the feel and response is just improved. I like stiff racquets, which this one is, and combined with power, spin and great control. This racquet just really suits my game and it’s probably the only racquet I feel truly comfortable playing with right now.”
Andy: “Power, access to spin, maneuverable, stable…this racquet has a lot to offer. And with the Active Cortex introduced to the frame, it’s the most comfortable AeroPro Drive yet.”
Welcome to the very first Playtester Spotlight blog. Each week, I will interview a Tennis Warehouse playtester on the different racquets, strings, shoes, and/or anything else (e.g. grips, socks, sweatbands) he/she is currently playtesting that week. I thought it would be a perfect time to start as we are starting to get really busy playtesting all new products for 2013. I am going to start with our social media expert, Jason.
Hours Spent Playtesting this week: 5
Playtesters you hit with: Carol, Brittany, Spencer, Karly
Type of Playtesting (singles, doubles, drills): Drills and baseline games
Playtesting Court: TW indoor
Wilson BLX Blade 16×19 and 18×20, Wilson Steam 99 S and 105 S
I’m currently hitting the new Wilson Blade 98 racquets, both the 16×19 and 18×20 as well as the Wilson Steam 99 S and 105 S. I like these new Blades over the previous versions because they seem to have better ball pocketing and feel better; the feedback is more comfortable. It is a bit tough to judge these Blades because for the two sets we received, the swingweight difference was over 20 points.
I think the real stars are the S racquets (although the S doesn’t stand for “star”). The amount of spin I am able to get is ridiculous. Dare I say, almost illegal? I dare. Dare I say nasty? I dare. I thought with the 16×15 pattern, I would lose control and the stringbed would be trampoline-like, but that was not the case at all. The control was there, and I could just take huge cuts at the ball. I was able to hit shots higher over the net for higher percentage shots and they would still land in because of the spin.
We first hit these with the Wilson team and they brought along a NLG (neat little gadget) that could track the spin on our shots. I am happy to announce that I maxed out at 3,200 RPMs on my forehand with the Steam 99 S. Take that, Rafa! They are strung up at a bit higher tension and use a thicker gauge string made specifically for these racquets, the Luxilon 4G S. I just wish there was just a bit more weight to the Steams, but other than that, these racquets could be my next racquet of choice. They’re really that good!
Editor’s note: Jason just gave you a sneak peek at the new Blades that will be available on our site for pre-sale Nov. 15. The new Steams as well as Luxilon 4G S will pre-sale Jan. 1, 2013.
Luxilon 4G S
If you read my comments above for the racquets, which I’m sure you did, then you know I’ve been hitting the new Luxilon 4G S. It’s a 1.41mm (15 gauge) string. I love the regular 4G and was glad to see them come out with the thicker version for these racquets. Without them, none of us would be able to hit the Wilson S racquets because Andy would break the regular gauged strings in his one hitting session. Jerk.
EleVen Men’s Apparel
I was one of the lucky few to playtest some of the men’s apparel for Venus Williams’ EleVen brand. I have two shirts, and they both are made of a moisture wicking material. And I gotta say, pretty impressed. Not only do they look good, but they feel good too and do the job of actually wicking away sweat. That’s what we in the industry call a trifecta.
Thanks for reading this week’s blog. Keep your eyes out for EleVen men’s apparel in the near future. Next week, Siobhan will be going over her current playtest schedule.