When it comes to tweener frames, the goal of manufacturers seems to be crisp and powerful. Make the racquet maneuverable enough to bolster swing speeds and spin potential, but not so light that stability becomes a liability. Stiffen it up for added power and a firm feel, but not so much that it becomes uncomfortable and brassy.
Two new sticks from Dunlop—the F4.0 Tour and M4.0—appear to fall into this category. Absent is the familiar box beam Dunlop design and feel, replaced by a wider profile and a lively response.
In a two-part review, tester Mitch Case, director of tennis at Woodridge Lake in Goshen, CT, offers his take on the two new frames. First up is the F4.0 Tour.
Mitch Case: The new F4.0 Tour and M4.0 replace the Biomimetic 400 Tour and Biomimetic 400 in the recently revamped and redesigned Dunlop line of racquets. Having demoed several Dunlop frames over the years, including the recently re-released Muscle Weave 200G and Hot Melt 300G, I had grown to appreciate the classic appeal of the Dunlop design. However, the engineering of these new frames moves Dunlop in a more “modern” direction. In an attempt to appeal to an increasing number of players in search of fast, powerful frames, Dunlop introduced both new frame geometry, as well as a new naming scheme: Frames sporting an “F” in their moniker are the lowest powered, requiring a full, fast swing; frames designated with an “M” are medium powered and are best suited for players with moderate swing speeds.
Upon starting my week-long play test with the F4.0 Tour, I immediately noticed the handle—specifically the very slight flare towards the butt of the frame. In comparison to many other racquets on the market, the flare is almost non-existent. I was sure that this would bother me. However, it did not, and I found the handle/grip to be just as comfortable as any other with which I’ve played. Players that prefer, or need, a larger circumference at the bottom of the handle will need to modify/customize on their own.
Based on Dunlop’s naming scheme, I knew the 4.0 frames would be more powerful than the 3.0 and 2.0, which I have hit with in the past. I anticipated power on par with the Prince Warrior, the Babolat Pure Drive, or the Wilson Juice. This was not the case. Despite being strung with Dunlop multifilament, Silk, I experienced a crisp response and low launch angle at contact. Coming from a less powerful racquet (Prince EXO3 Rebel 95), the power level worked in my favor, as I was comfortable taking full cuts without fear of sailing the ball long. In terms of power, the F4.0 was much closer to that of the F3.0 than I expected.
Serving and returning with the F4.0 Tour was a pleasure. From the first warm-up swing, the movement of the frame blended perfectly with my service motion. I was able to crush flat first serves with accuracy, especially serves to the T on the deuce side, and out wide on the ad side (I’m a righty, so this really appealed to me). Sliders out wide on the deuce court and to the T on the ad court brilliantly pulled my opponent out of position. Kickers had solid movement, jumping up aggressively over my opponent’s shoulder level.
I had just as much success with my returns. My usual hitting partner is a lefty, and constantly takes advantage of my one-handed backhand. With the F4.0 Tour, I was able to react quickly enough to consistently punch back deep returns. As I became more comfortable with the frame, I started taking my chances with bigger and bigger swings on the return, which managed to find the court more often than not. I felt invincible.
Of course, I still needed to play the remainder of the point whenever my serve or return came back over the net.
And in those rallies, there were a couple of things about the frame I didn’t love. Though the overall response of the frame is consistent and not mushy or vague, the feel at contact is too tinny for me. Even with a full stringbed of multifilament, I still wanted a more plush feel. But this is more of a personal preference; the metallic feel of frame vibration has always been a turn-off for me regarding “modern” frames. Other players have come to prefer it.
From a performance standpoint, there were just a couple of stability issues. I found myself getting pushed around more than a frame in the weight class of the F4.0 Tour ought to be. And though the mass in the hoop seemed spread fairly evenly, there was still an occasional wobble at contact, and not as solid as I would have liked it. This showed up most often while hitting heavy topspin shots. If I were to switch to this frame, adding several grams of lead tape to the hoop would increase the plow though of the racquet and potentially solve many of these issues.
Check back in a few days for Part II of Mitch's review, in which he looks at the M4.0 and compares it the F4.0 Tour. See which stick might be the better fit for your game.