Racquet Review: Battistone Freestyle/Diamond, by Natural Tennis
Watch gear editor Justin diFeliciantonio hit with the new Battistone double-handled racquets as TENNIS.com racquet advisor Bruce Levine discusses these unique sticks:
Head Size: 105 sq. in.
Length: 27.25 in. (F.); 27.25 in. (D.)
Weight*: 10.8 oz.
Balance*: 10 pts. HL
Beam Width: 23-26-22.5mm
String Pattern: 16 x 19
Ideal Swing: Medium to Long
*NOTE: Values represent strung frames
Choice of ATP pro Brian Battistone, the Freestyle and Diamond racquets feature a double-handled design, which the company says allows players, on both sides of the body, to hit with greater leverage, reach, and stability. (“The modern tennis stroke,” states Natural Tennis, “is a combination of the push-pull concept. Optimal leverage is created by pulling with the front handle and pushing with the back.”) What’s more, the company claims that, by discouraging lopsided stroke development and encouraging more symmetrical play, the two handles reduce the types of muscle imbalances that can stress the wrist, elbow, and shoulder.
Save for a difference in length—the Freestyle is 27.25 in. long, the Diamond 27.5 in.—what distinguishes each racquet is shape of its handles: Whereas the Freestyle’s are constructed like a V, the Diamond’s handles conform to a more rectangular configuration. According to the sticks’ designers, both promote strong wrist positions at contact, as well as a wide variety of heretofore uncommon shots. (Think of two singled-handed Western forehands, or the two-handed “Santoro Slice.” For instruction and demonstrations by Brian Battistone himself, click here.) Both racquets are approved by the International Tennis Federation for use in sanctioned competition.
How It Tested
As sui generis iconoclasts of tennis’ singled-handled norms, the Battistone Freestyle and Diamond are without direct context or precedence, and thus are difficult to evaluate without prejudice. In other words, readers, bracket your skepticism: The Freestyle and Diamond, if perhaps specialized in their appeal, are valuable additions to today’s racquet market.
“For someone who grew up playing a classic, one-handed style game, like myself, these racquets come off as a little bizarre,” says Bruce Levine, Racquet Advisor for Tennis Magazine. “But I think someone who plays with two hands may really enjoy this. Keep in mind, though, that the two handle designs are going to affect where your elbows sit relative to your swing. If you use the Diamond, your elbows are forced in a little bit more. Whereas if you use the Freestyle, your elbows are more comfortable bowing out. [If nothing else] there’s definitely value in it as a teaching tool to help people learn how to turn their hips into the ball.”
Playtesters, for their part, approached the sticks with a combination of bafflement and mirth. (“They look like hedge clippers,” said one.) But after a few hits, many players, especially those with ambidextrous dispositions, found the racquets growing on them; together, they presented a wide range of reasons why. “It really helps you turn your hips and follow through,” said a 4.5 teaching professional, who went on to say that, by using the Diamond, one of his 3.0 students had managed to lengthen one of her previously abbreviated swings. One 4.0 player said he found both two-handled designs offered succor during rapid-fire exchanges at the net, while another claimed that, by using the handle closest to the net, the Freestyle gave him added reach when hitting squash shots stretched wide. Also with the Freestyle, this writer—a college-level, right-handed player with a semi-Western forehand and one-handed backhand, usually—started to get a feel for two-handed groundies, and even managed a few left-handed stab volleys at net. Although some playtesters encountered a learning curve when attempting to serve—Natural Tennis recommends that the handle closest to the net be used to hit serves and overheads—many reported the sticks presented advantages when blocking back returns.
Certainly, the Freestyle and Diamond’s unique design allows players to hit a number of unique shots—a tantalizing proposition for early adopters. But the racquets’ novelty may present a challenge to those uncomfortable with public scrutiny. Naturally, one might ask, when contemplating playing a match with a doubled-handled racquet, “What if our opponents make fun of us?”
Resisting clear-cut categorization, the Freestyle and Diamond are promising candidates for the adventurous and ambidextrous players, not to mention those who seek a more symmetrical approach to developing their form. While tennis pedagogy incorporating the sticks is, for the most part, still in the works, players open to unorthodox means might do well to give two handles a whirl.
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