From racquet updates, to stat-keepers, to shoes that slide, there was a lot of great gear this year. Here are nine of our favorites that came through the Pro Shop in 2015.
Adidas Barricade 2015 Boost
The Barricade 2015 was a noticeable and highly favorable departure from recent Barricade releases—so much so, Adidas broke with tradition and labeled it by the year of its release rather than the next number in the line. The shoe’s chassis was completely redesigned for greatly improved comfort and break-in time. It’s lighter, faster, yet still highly supportive and durable. Best of all, you no longer want to rip the shoes off your feet when you’re done playing. The Boost edition takes it to another level by importing the manufacturer’s running technology into heel of the shoe for enhanced shock absorption and energy return. No matter which model you pick, it’s easily the best Barricade in years.
Asics GEL Resolution 6
There weren’t any major changes to the latest Resolution, but when you’re producing what’s arguably the gold-standard in high-performance tennis footwear only subtle tweaks are required. The sixth installment is slightly lighter and lower to the court than the previous model for more responsive movement. I found the shoes to be a little tight to start, especially around the ankle collar and heel. But once broken-in, they seemed to get better with each match. If you’re looking for a dependable, all-around shoe for serious hard-court play, you can’t go wrong with the Resolution 6.
Babolat Pure Aeros
The power and spin output of new Pure Aero is so intoxicating that when Rafael Nadal first tried it, he immediately demanded to switch to it. The conversion didn’t take right away for Rafa, but the potential is undeniable. Creating a more open 16x19 pattern—dubbed FSI Spin—not only offers added pace and rotation, but a more comfortable, dampened feel at impact. The gem of the line is the new Tour model—the first time a heavy version has been offered in the Aero family. It’s got added backbone and stability to deal with the higher ball and swing speeds of more advanced play, and an overall more solid feel. Babolat continues to try to improve an already top-flight frame.
One of the attractive things about Glukos is what it lacks—no artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, caffeine, chemicals or dyes. The supplement sports a six product line—bars, ready-to-drink bottles, gel, tablets, powder mix, and gummies—with a minimalist ingredients label of primarily glucose, electrolytes (sodium and potassium), and natural fruit colors and flavors. I was particularly partial to chewing the tablets and gummies on changeovers during long matches. They’re easy to store, taste good without being overly sweet, and provide a quick, noticeable energy supply.
Head Adaptive String Pattern
Available in several of the frames in Head’s Extreme, Instinct, Radical and Speed lines, ASP practically creates two racquets in one. By having two sets of grommets for the cross strings, the racquets can house either a 16x16 pattern for extra spin, power and string bed flex, or a more traditional 16x19 for better control and enhanced feedback. The grommets can easily be swapped out, so you can go from one configuration to the other. While maybe not great for consistency, the flexibility in playability is a fun option. More importantly, it gives players a greater level of customization.
Prince Textreme Tour 100s
So far, we haven’t hit with a Textreme frame we haven’t liked. The light and strong material is designed to enhance stability without increasing the overall stiffness of the racquet. The result is a crisp, solid feel that is still incredibly comfortable. The Tour 100T sits in that nearly 11 oz. ‘tweener class, and is a speedy, spin-monster that still maintains a high level of control. The Tour 100P (above) is heavier for a weightier shot and still manages a very lively ball even with its accurate 18x20 string pattern. They’re not as powerful as some of the 100s on the market, but they more than make up for it with their precision and arm-friendly response.
Originally produced just for their touring pros, players and coaches affiliated with the company, Solinco received such positive feedback on the Hyper-G they decided to release it to the public. Like other strings in Solico’s Heaven Line, such as its popular Tour Bite, the Hyper-G is a shaped polyester designed to deliver heavy spin and pinpoint control even on the fastest swings. What separates this latest offering is the heightened level of playability for the category. It’s still plenty firm and low-powered, but for the experienced poly player it offers a more forgiving feel.
Sony Smart Sensor
Want to know if that new take-back on your forehand is increasing your racquet head speed? The Sony Smart Sensor will have the answer. The orange sensor snaps to the butt handle of new frames from Head, Prince, Wilson and Yonex and records such stats as shot type, ball and swing speed, and impact location. The information can be uploaded later to the accompanying app on a smartphone or tablet, or revealed in Live Mode on the device for immediate feedback. There’s also an option to record video to match individual strokes to their data and serves as a great teaching tool.
At $200 a pop and with plates in the outsole to promote sliding on hard courts, the Wilson Glide is clearly designed for a niche audience—specifically highly advanced and athletic movers looking for any sort of competitive advantage. According to Wilson players increased their recovery time when wearing Glide by up to 30%, allowing them to cover more court in fewer steps. The technique does take practice: Glide actually comes with a training manual containing various drills—glide dance, slide the line, loop star, to a name a few—designed to help users become more willing to and adept at sliding on hard courts. It’s not for everyone, but we applaud the innovation. Available now at select tennis academies in France, Japan, and the U.S.—it was also for sale at the Wilson Store during the U.S. Open—Glide will go worldwide in March 2016.