TENNIS.com gear editor Justin diFeliciantonio and his technical advisers answer your equipment questions each day. Click here to send in a question of your own.
Back in December, I read in your preview of the Head Graphene Speed MP that you’ve been spending a lot of your time recently reviewing new racquets. How many reviews will there be, and when will you release them? Also, have there been any models, like “sleepers,” that have taken you by surprise? I’m always interested in hearing about smaller, emerging brands and products.—Jason A.
You’re right, Jason, that for the past few month, I’ve devoted myself almost exclusively to reviewing racquets. It’s been an all-consuming task: We’ve tested many more sticks for this year’s guide than we did for the last. Specifically, the 2013 Racquet Guide will encompass 39 frames from across the industry, each of which was/is marked for a winter or spring ’13 release. The print version of the Racquet Guide (March/April issue of Tennis Magazine) will be delivered to USTA members and go on-sale March 12th. The reviews will also be posted online, along with video commentary by Bruce Levine, the magazine’s Racquet Advisor. Stay tuned for more details.
As for your second question: I’d honestly have to say that the one racquet from a smaller brand that surprised me the most this year was the Pacific X Fast Pro. Before this past fall, I didn’t know much about Pacific, other than the fact that they made quality natural gut. Otherwise, I was faintly aware that the company manufactured racquets, but had never played with one. Of course, it’s easy to buy Pacific products through online retailers, but to my knowledge, the company has practically no racquet exposure in U.S. stores and specialty pro shops.
Maybe this should change, because the X Fast Pro was one of the most powerful baseliner’s sticks I’ve ever played with. During playtests, I was simply cracking my groundstrokes; ball after ball would hit the backstop with a loud whump, and the stick wasn’t even strung with a monofilament. Certainly, the Pro’s power owes, at least in part, to its thicker, stiffer beam and extra 2/5 in. length over standard. (Although compromising maneuverability, extra length increases leverage and potential power.) It's in that same category of racquets as the Babolat Pure Drive and Wilson Juice, among others.
Of course, how the racquet matches up with the idiosyncrasies of my strokes is a variable. (I hit a forehand floating somewhere between Eastern and semi-Western, with an Eastern one-handed backhand.) Still, it struck me that there was something special about this racquet. (Possibly the way the weight is distributed throughout the frame? Note: Weight and balance does not tell the whole story here. Short of segmenting a racquet into little pieces and weighing each separately, weight distribution can be a bit of a mystery.)
I’d encourage intermediate-to-advanced players out there, especially those with baseline-style games, to give it a demo. And for those who have tried this particular model, could you leave a comment on your experience? Pacific doesn’t receive much attention, but perhaps this model should.