It’s flexible, sports a classic, thin, box-beam profile, and doesn’t promise massive power or wicked spin. Other than owning the coveted 100 square-inch head size, in the current racquet landscape the Phantom Pro 100P could be viewed as a charming relic. Indeed, it’s a smallish segment of the playing population that will be attracted to a frame that combats the prevailing preference for brute force with comfort, feel and precision as its primary weapons. Yet for the audience looking for a remedy to the stiff, often harsh powerbrokers littering the pro shops, this Prince racquet provides an ideal antidote.
The first, and most overt characteristic of the Phantom was the smooth, plush feel at contact. And while soft, as long as I found the sweet spot it still had enough mass and toughness to repel heavy-hitting. Even though it has an extremely low flex, the Textreme seemed to toughen it up, and it played a bit stiffer—particularly in upper part of the string bed—than its RA rating. It’s still cushy and arm-friendly, but for this reason I didn’t find it quite as buttery as some of the thin-beamed classics of the past. That’s being a bit nitpicky to be sure, as the Phantom is head-and-shoulders above its current competition in the comfort department. It’s a no-brainer for those with persistent arm troubles.
As expected, the brunt of the power generation fell upon the user. Players with clean mechanics who have little difficulty mustering their own pace, and most likely already using a control-oriented frame—Wilson Pro Staff, Head Prestige, Yonex VCORE Duel G, Dunlop CX 2.0 Tour, etc.—will probably be satisfied with the amount they can create with the Phantom. I put the racquet in the hands of a playing partner who normally uses one of the aforementioned frames—and owned a top 250 world ranking in the 1980s—and he gushed over the performance.
Without feeling the need to come out of my shoes, there was just enough muscle to punish short balls, the 16x18 string pattern gave access to plenty of spin potential and the high degree of control allowed me to be more aggressive with placement. When on defense, I didn’t feel like I could immediately turn the tables with one swipe, but I had sufficient reserves to neutralize and play my way back into the point.
However, if you’ve grown accustomed to racquets that offer a boost on well-struck balls, and added assistance when off-center, you might need to experiment with strings and tensions to squeeze some more juice out of your strokes. My tester came strung with Solinco Hyper-G, and I certainly felt I had to work harder than normal to hurt my opponents. If I stayed the polyester route, I would definitely opt for a thin gauge strung at low tensions. I did swap out the test strings for a natural gut/poly hybrid at low tensions, and it was much easier to find repeatable depth on my strokes; not to mention the feel and comfort were outstanding.
Given the manageable static weight, I’d consider adding some mass as well. A little lead tape to the hoop could give shots extra pop and plow through. Which I’d offset by replacing the stock grip with a leather one, something this frame is absolutely screaming for.
That said, I don’t think any measure of customization will outrun the racquet’s genetics and turn it into a slugger. Its strengths will always gravitate toward its precision, heightened feel and spin production. It seems better-suited to counterpunchers and players who prefer to bleed their opponents rather than batter them. While I didn’t mind the more reserved play and added consistency on my ground strokes, the one noticeable detriment to my game was on the serve.
For instance, time and again I was able to create an offensive angle on my slider out wide in the deuce court. To be honest, probably more often than my customary frame. When I hit that spot on a first serve, I generally expect a weak reply, or none at all. However, with the Phantom, my opponents seemed to be having better success returning the serve more frequently and effectively. I still usually had the edge in the point, but needed more creativity to exploit it.
So, since the frame was a combination puncher rather than a knockout artist, I had to be patient and opportunistic when given the chance to move forward to finish points at net. The flex and feel of the frame resulted in great connection to the ball on volleys. The good control allowed me to use all areas of the court—drive it deep into the corners or play it short. There was sufficient stability against incoming traffic, although contact outside the sweet spot drew a noticeable drop in power, just as it did on ground strokes.
Overall, as someone with a soft spot of old-school frames, the Phantom Pro 100P proved an exceedingly enjoyable playtest. It was comfortable, controllable and loaded with feel and spin. What it may have lacked in power, it made up for in versatility and shot-making capability. Players who have been yearning for a more flexible, classic-playing mid-plus frame will not be disappointed.