Throughout the year we get various products—on-court equipment, clothes, supplements, electronics—that run the gamut of what constitutes tennis gear. Unfortunately we can’t always get to everything. So instead of letting them fall through the cracks, we’re starting a new periodic segment in which we briefly cover recent arrivals at The Pro Shop. Here are some that piqued our interest over the past few months.
Adidas Adizero Y-3 ($135)
For the second year in a row Adidas has collaborated with Y-3 (Yohji Yamamoto) to produce a Roland Garros-inspired performance line. Last year the Adizero sported a floral pattern, and this season the shoe owns a stripes in motion motif. Typical of its heritage, it remains extremely light and quick with excellent traction for the clay thanks to the full herringbone tread outsole. Bounce cushioning in the midsole serves as a shock absorber, but these shoes are really about speed. If you’re going to resemble a zebra—the men’s shirt makes the wearer look like an NFL official— might as well move like one, too.
Bolt Racquets ($215)
The core innovation for this upstart racquet brand is the Zipstrip—a spring like support placed on the frame at 6, 9 and 12 o’clock made of carbon composite that absorbs ball impact. The Zipstrip flexes at contact instead of the frame, allowing the racquet to enjoy the power and stability of a 70+ RA rating, yet still be comfortable, controllable and easy on the arm. It’s almost like a suspension system for the racquet. The addition of the strips along the sides of the frame does give it a bit of a Princess Leia look. But from a playability standpoint I tested out a weighted-up Bolt 98 Light—there are four frames in the line—and the response was remarkably solid. There was a nice “thud” at contact and the 18x20 string pattern provided good directional control. Admittedly I had never heard of the company prior to demoing, yet I recently received an email from one of our testers with a picture of his client’s Bolt in his stringing machine asking if I had ever played with one. So while a small outfit, word is trickling out.
Last year Glukos hit the market with its line of energy supplements: bars, drinks, tablets, and (our favorite) gummies. The selling point is there’s no stimulants or artificial ingredients and the only energy source is pure glucose. Now Glukos is entering the protein game. As opposed to in-game nutrition, these supplements are meant to be consumed pre and post activity. There are three tasty flavors of bars—Rocky Road, Cookies ’N Creme, and (the winner) Chocolate Peanut Butter—that are a little like Rice Krispy treats on steroids. The chocolate whey protein powder is also quite good. It has only six ingredients, mixes easily, isn’t chalky and doesn’t have an overly sweet or chemical aftertaste. However, at 15 servings per $25 container it’s not inexpensive.
Tory Burch, the upscale women’s fashion designer best known for her signature shoes, recently launched into sportswear. (Earlier this spring the company opened a flagship Tory Sport location in the Flatiron District of Manhattan.) There’s a tennis-specific line which includes clothing and accessories as well as crossover performance wear, like the Scoop Neck Tank. We tried it out, and besides the look, comfort and breathability of the tank, our tester was impressed with the lack of bunching during exercise. The pure pima cotton lay flat even under the most sweaty of circumstances.
While great for spin, control and durability, polyester strings can also be unforgiving and underpowered. That’s why there’s been a growing trend of thinner gauge polys hitting the market. They offer more elasticity, pop and bite on the ball, with a softer—for a poly—response at contact. Two recent entries I’ve enjoyed playing with are Volkl Cyclone 19g ($10/set) and the soon-to-be-released Pacific Poly Force 18g. They offer a bump in power—string them a couple pounds tighter—and a friendlier feel at impact while really gripping the ball for massive spin potential. They’d be good choices for players whose arms can no longer handle the rigors of thicker polys, or want one that doesn’t make you work quite as hard. The ultra-thin gauges might not be durable enough for serious string breakers, but I actually found them sturdy enough to outlast their playability, which dropped a little faster than their lower-gauge counterparts.
The Swedish headphone brand is producing a clay-red edition of its sweat-friendly, wireless bluetooth Hellas model from its new Active collection. The headphones have a washable headband and ear-cushions, a built-in microphone and a swipe interface on the ear cup for music control. I’ve yet to experiment with the headphones—it’s hard enough being consistent without having to worry about something on my head—but players looking for some personal music while they practice (I’m thinking juniors) should check them out.