Racquet Review: Gamma RZR 98M
Head Size: 98 sq. in.
Length: 27 in.
Weight: 11.5 oz.
Balance: 6 pts. HL
RA Rating: 54
Beam Width: 22 mm
String Pattern: 16x18
Although probably better known for their string lineup, Gamma also produces quality frames that have garnered a small, but loyal following. During testing for Tennis magazine’s spring gear guide, a few of our reviewers inquired on whether we’d be getting in the new RZR models, as they were intrigued by some of the previous offerings in the line.
We did, and as it turned out, the RZR 98M made an impression with its soft flex—the lowest RA Rating of any racquet we tested—and distinctive response. Two of our testers—Kin Roseborough, head stringer and staff coach at the Family Circle Tennis Center in Charleston, SC; and Mitch Case, director of tennis at Woodridge Lake in Goshen, CT—put the frame through its paces.
Kin Roseborough: The Gamma RZR 98M is not too different from the Gamma RZR series last year, though it's certainly not the beast the original RZR 98T was, at more than 12 ounces and a swingweight of 350+. The new RZR 98M owns much more manageable strung and swingweights for a wider range of players.
The RZR 98M may have the most flexible feel at impact of any recent frame I've hit. The soft feel and light weight make for comfortable, controlled ground strokes, but didn't give me an instant sense at contact of whether or not I had hit a good shot. I found it easy to generate deep, penetrating topspin with the RZR 98M’s head-light balance and open string pattern. The sweetspot, however, seemed a little smaller than most 98-100 sq inch frames, and if I didn't hit the ball precisely, there was a drop off in comfort.
I enjoyed the control and spin friendliness of the RZR 98M when serving. While the flex and lower swingweight may have cost me some pace on my first serve, as long as I didn't try to "muscle up" and go for too much, the added accuracy mostly made up for it. When receiving, this frame also responded well when I made a conscious effort to move forward on the returns, rather than sitting back and waiting for the ball. There was ample spin, accuracy, and comfort when I took the ball early, but less control and stability when I was tentative.
Volleys with the RZR 98M were much like the returns: As long as I moved forward to intercept the ball, I was effective at the net. The excellent maneuverability was a plus when it came to reflex volleys, and if I kept my strokes compact, placement and control were great.
Mitch Case: Given its exceptionally soft flex, the Gamma RZR 98M achieves power from its mass, and not from the stiffness of the frame. This puts the burden of work on the player, who must generate enough inertia before contact with the ball. As someone that likes a both a high swingweight and static weight (my frame clocks in at 12.8 ounces strung, with a swing weight of 357), I like the balance and heft of the 98M. And I found that when I was timing the stroke well, the frame easily plowed through the ball. However, when I was late, the racquet felt totally different, as it offered little help in my attempt to get the ball over the net with much authority.
When things were clicking, the frame worked well with my game. As long as I found the middle of the string bed, I was able to punch back my opponent's shots with enough pop and depth to have a say in the point. However, balls hit outside of the sweetspot, much like hitting late with the frame, left me in a bad place. In this case, the racquet flexes in a way that absorbs too much energy, and effectively kills the chance of getting a decent result.
On serves, I again liked the way the frame moved through my motion. The weight and distribution of mass worked well with my stroke, and I was able to take full, confident cuts after only a few practice/warm-up serves. Flat serves were fast and easy to place. Spin serves were equally easy to locate, and the 16x18 pattern allowed for more break and aggressive bounces than with my current racquet of choice. The RZR 98M most definitely makes up for many of its shortcomings with its performance on serves.
Could I play with the Gamma RZR 98M? Yes. The frame's weight, balance, and distribution of mass work well with my swing. However, as I've gotten a little older, and the game has gotten faster, I've realized I need a little more forgiveness from my frames. As well as the 98M hits balls in the strike zone, I struggled too much from defensive positions.
I think that Gamma is close to getting the formula right. With a couple of tweaks to the recipe—perhaps by way of astute customization—the RZR 98M could potentially be a great frame.