Gear Q&A: Bye Bye Training Wheels
Jon Levey answers reader questions in Gear Q&A. Click here to submit your question.
I'm a left-handed (one-handed backhand) 3.0-3.5 player currently using a Head Ti S6. My strokes are flat with some sidespin/slice and medium swing. I'm looking to move beyond the beginner's racquet but really love how well the S6 suits my game and how light it is. Would really appreciate any suggestions.—Lance Shopper
Since I still see plenty of Ti S6 frames scattered throughout clubs in my area, I’d say you’re not alone in your affection for the frame. That said, I’ve never had the opportunity to play with one myself. So I’ll have to base my estimation of its performance on its specs: Under 9 oz. strung, 115 sq. in. head size, almost 28 in. length, rather head heavy, and extremely stiff.
Since you still really like how you play with the S6, subtle changes are probably the best course. Adding a little weight, shrinking the head size and length, and getting more evenly balanced will help in your progression. But you don’t want to make drastic changes—adding 2+ oz. or trying a midsize head—because those will almost assuredly never take. You may eventually get to a racquet like that, but you will most likely need a transition frame or two before it happens.
There are so many different brands and choices available, many of which are worthy. However, I’ll stick to ones that we’re currently testing that are new to market. Spin racquets, with wide open string patterns, are quite the rage at the moment. They’re designed to take your normal stroke and add spin to it simply by manipulating the configuration. I don’t love these frames for predominantly flat and slice players like you, though. If you have some topspin, these frames can enhance it. But from our testing flat-hitting players seem to struggle with distance control. The springy string bed gives them too high a launch angle and not enough spin to bring the ball down into the court.
Instead, I’ll offer up a couple of frames with more traditional string patterns and more “mature” specs than your S6. The first, is the Dunlop S 7.0 Lite (right). It’s about an ounce heavier than the S6, but only slightly head heavy and with a smaller head size (110 sq. in.) and shorter length. It’s probably more maneuverable, but will pack less of a punch. When our testers used your type of swing with the S 7.0 Lite they were extremely impressed with the results. It’s not as stiff as your frame, but it’s plenty firm with an ample sweet spot. Accelerating through the hitting zone resulted in a crisp, powerful ball. Volleying was particularly effective as knocking off high sitters was a breeze and the large sweet spot made digging low ones easier than expected.
Another option to consider is the Yonex Ezone Ai 108 (right). As the name indicates, it has an even slightly smaller head than the Dunlop. And while at the same weight (9.8 oz.) and length (27.25), it’s evenly balanced and even easier to swing. It’s probably not as powerful as the S 7.0 Lite, but it’s quick enough to deliver pretty good pop with a medium-paced swing. Again, when testers hit flatter balls with the Ezone Ai 108 they had no trouble clearing the net and found nice control for an oversized frame. Teaching pros enjoyed giving lessons with this frame as they didn’t have to work hard to feed balls, but still had enough control and feel to play out points when needed.
Those are just a few suggestions to consider. Your best bet is to do some additional research and grab a slew of demos to test out. Or find a savvy equipment retailer in your area who can analyze your game and point you in the right direction.
Good luck and happy hunting.