Bending the Rules: Wilson unveils the innovative Clash

by: Jon Levey | February 01, 2019

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Wilson

A racquet revolution. Like going from wood to graphite, or natural gut to polyester, Wilson believes its new Clash has the potential to redefine the tennis racquet. All hyperbole aside, one hit with the latest addition to the company’s stable of racquets and it’s clear: Clash is unlike any of its competitors. 

The uniqueness of the frame lies in its blending of extreme flexibility with high-end stability. The success of the marriage stems from two new technologies. FreeFlex is a proprietary carbon mapping construction that allows the frame to bend in new dimensions—both horizontally and vertically—when compared to a traditional frame. This is designed to increase ball pocketing and dwell time for enhanced feel and control. The image Wilson envisioned was of a lacrosse stick; the ball sinks into racquet and strings and can be manipulated with the utmost control. 

But the combination of flex, feel and control has been done before. Where those racquets often come up wanting is delivering enough stability and power—especially on off-center contact—to compete with the increased pace and spins of the modern game. To preserve integrity through the swing on such a flexible racquet, StableSmart frame geometry allows the Clash to bend where its designed to, while still providing enough backbone to handle incoming pace and return it with interest.

Wilson doesn’t use the more common RDC ratings, opting for their own internal stiffness rating scale. According to their measurements, the Clash is 215% more flexible than the Babolat Pure Drive. Specs taken of the playtests samples submitted for the upcoming 2019 Tennis Magazine spring racquet guide came back with RA ratings in high 40s and low 50s for the frames. Regardless of the metric, it’s the most flexible high-performance racquet offered by the top brands. Yet Wilson claims their tests also reveal that the Clash is not just stable, it exceeds anything on the market.

“Some of the numbers we were getting, especially on torsional stability, seemed pretty off,” says Ron Rocchi, Advanced Innovation Manager for Wilson Racquet Sports. “When it came up that way a second time, we knew there was something different about this racquet.”

The typical development period for a racquet is 18 months. Wilson doubled that for the Clash, producing 45 prototypes before settling on the finished product. They took a look at their frames over the past couple of decades and realized they were mostly rolling along. For instance, the 2018 Ultra MP had the same head size, weight and balance as the 2002 Hyper Pro Staff Surge 5.1. There were certainly tweaks to the formula, but the feeling was racquets were merely evolving and not keeping up with the changes in string technology and player performance. 

“Over the last 20 years we know that the swing plane has changed with the introduction of the polyester strings,” says Michael Schaeffer, Global Product Line Manager for Performance Racquets. “Players play with a lot more spin and therefore swing a lot more vertically. So, with this new modern swing we felt there was this opportunity to really create a racquet that bent in a different way.”

The Clash’s name comes from its bringing together racquet traits that are generally seen as diametrically opposed. If a racquet is highly flexible, its stability suffers; if it’s powerful, then control can be compromised. The Clash looks to flip the script on both assumptions.

But there’s a more ephemeral characteristic the racquet is looking to promote: confidence. Contrary to the seemingly endless desire for more power and spin, a 2017 survey of consumers revealed that the top priority in a racquet was actually control. By a healthy margin, too. While control can mean different things to different players, to Wilson’s thinking it’s about having the confidence to swing out and play closer to the lines without fear of missing. 

There are two frames in the initial launch: Clash 100 and Clash 100 Tour. Both have a 100 square-inch head, 16x19 string pattern and a constant 24.5 mm beam. An unstrung 100 checks in at 10.4 oz. (295 grams) and 10 pts. HL; the 100 Tour is 10.9 oz. (310 grams) and 11 pts. HL. Expect future releases with varying head sizes and weights. 

And expect to see the Clash make its way into the hands of Wilson touring pros. Nicole Gibbs has already broken it out in competition this season. “The Clash was love at first strike for me,” says the 2011 and 2012 NCAA champ. “I'm always looking for that killer combination of feel and power, and I felt right away that the Clash was giving me extra depth on my shots, while still being sensitive to different spins. Overall, it gives me the feeling of sturdier and more reliable contact.”

Wilson still obviously believes their other models are worthy frames that will always have a devoted fan base. But they also believe the Clash brings an unprecedented playing experience to the court.

To hear Rocchi tell it: “The Blade is a great racquet, but it plays like a racquet from the past; Clash is functioning in a way that is the future.” 

Both the Clash 100 and Clash 100 Tour are priced at $249. They are available for pre-sale on February 8 via tennis specialty retailers and at wilson.com. The racquets will be available for purchase worldwide starting February 15. Check back in the coming weeks for more updates and detailed reviews.

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