With the trend skewing towards lighter, stiffer, larger faced frames, mostly in the pursuit of more power and spin, it’s kind of refreshing to sample a racquet like Volkl’s Powerbridge 10 Mid. Recently rereleased with an updated, cool “stealth” cosmetic—all black with anthracite graphics—so much of the racquet’s characteristics scream old-school charm. A frame with a 93 square-inch head? Those things are going the way of the newspaper. Weighs more than 12 ounces with a19 mm beam width? Let me take a picture of it with my flip phone.
Yet matched with the right player, the PB 10 Mid ($170) is no relic. It’s extremely flexible, offering a very comfortable, buttery response at impact. That feel, along with the open string pattern, makes finding angles, playing touch shots, and employing spin rather accessible. The thin beam cuts easily through the air—slice backhands have a sinister bite—making the frame much more maneuverable than its weight would indicate. This was particularly handy at net, probably my favorite spot to use the PB 10 Mid; it’s so easy to get it into proper hitting position, the mass gives it plenty of backbone to deflect any pass, and the flex makes drop volleys a blast.
The most glaring limitation of the racquet is, while it’s not without punch, it’s certainly not a power stick. It’s best attributes revolve around its playability and control. Players who prefer throwing haymaker serves and forehands to end points quickly will probably not be awed by what they find here. In a market increasingly cluttered with heavy artillery, this is more of a bow-and-arrow. Strokes are easy to place, but it takes proper execution to make them sting. Any breakdown in form and the racquet will not give you much help. I saw this most on so-so second serves and defensive backhands.
The flip side to that, however, is you can take big rips at the ball and the control is almost always there. I could really go after my forehand and serves and got rewarded with good pace, direction, and spin. And as I mentioned above, volleys are pinpoint. (I think this would be a great stick for an accomplished dubs player). Which is fitting because you kind of have to use the whole court to take full advantage of this frame.
Here’s what I mean: There was a point in my practice session, after I had gotten acclimated to the frame, in which my opponent and I got involved in a lengthy baseline exchange. After moving him wide with a sharp angled forehand, he could only counter with a soft, floating short ball back crosscourt to my forehand. I moved up to the service line and looked to drive another forehand, this time down the line to the open court. With my customary frame, thicker and more powerful than this one, it would be go-time: Let it rip and deliver the killshot. One way (winner) or another (error) the point would be over. In this instance, however, I went for the positional play, directing the ball deep and close to the sideline, allowing me to close in. My opponent managed a weak crosscourt backhand pass, which I cut it off and returned with a feathery (from my highly biased perspective) drop volley winner in the open court.
Those are the types of points I really enjoy playing with this frame; manipulating the ball and my opponent. It’s not for everyone, but advanced all-court players, who favor patience and guile in building winning shot combinations, will find a worthy complement in the PB 10 Mid.