When Prince first released its O3 technology about a decade ago, I wasn’t a huge fan. The large string holes absolutely delivered on its promise of enhanced maneuverability and swing speed, along with a juicy sweet spot and incredibly soft response. But two things bothered me enough that I couldn’t embrace the new frames.
The first was admittedly something that could easily be overcome: The sounds. I found the whistling noise when I swung the racquet to be irritating. On the other hand, the muffled twack at impact was also unfamiliar. The popping noise I was accustomed to was missing, and while that had zero effect on the quality of the shots, it still didn’t work for me.
The second drawback would be a much larger adjustment. The frames were indeed soft and cushioned, but so much so I felt too disconnected at impact. I couldn’t sense the balls on the strings—some have called the racquets mushy—on certain touch shots, and that left me wanting. I’m sure that could have improved with practice, but it would always seem to be a liability.
So my expectations for the new Prince Tour 100 (16x18) were quite tempered. I knew it would be very arm-friendly and comfortable—which it is, even strung with a firm poly—but I also believed my previous reservations about O3 (now EXO3) frames would hold true. And while the sounds, or lack thereof, are still an acquired taste, I was pleasantly surprised at the heightened level of feedback.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s still an incredibly muted response. And I found the racquet at its best when driving heavy ground strokes during baseline exchanges. The frame is slightly lighter than I prefer, but it still feels substantial without being weighed down. It has a decent level of controllable power, that some sluggers may find a little lacking. But grinders who favor consistency and spin over pace—applying topspin is a breeze—should love this stick. I felt like I could hit cross-court shots all day long and rarely miss or get weary. I was not as assured flattening out the ball down the line, but I think that would come with time.
Serving had similar results to baseline play. The low flex and cushioned response felt great, but it did seem to absorb some of the shot’s power. Kick serves had great life, but I couldn’t find the same level of pace I’m accustomed to on flatter, power serves. There were a few times I caught myself trying to muscle the ball to compensate. However, when I relaxed and used a fluid motion, I still got enough pop and accurate placement to put my opponent on the defensive. I didn’t get as many free points off aces or return errors, but I did connect on a higher than normal percentage. Being that I never got broken in the match I used the frame, it was an acceptable tradeoff.
Volleying with the Tour 100 was where the racquet earned some unexpected points. It’s not a scalpel, but it’s not completely without precision. The responsiveness leaves a little something to be desired, but you could certainly do more than just punch it back deep. I found some sharp angles and even dropped over a delicate drop half-volley. There was also enough heft to handle incoming pace, and the softness seemed to absorb any off-center twisting. Yet it was more than quick enough to deal with a reflex exchange.
All in all, the Tour 100 was a welcome reintroduction to EXO3 frames. It’s a highly playable frame at a very manageable weight that should appeal to more advanced players who prefer a very soft, dampened response. Serves can lack a little pop and volleys are mostly solid rather than sublime. But neither are close to being deal-breakers and are overshadowed by the comfort at contact and massive spin potential. I can’t imagine steady baseliners who favor this type of feel over the stiff frames flooding the market not being fans of the Tour 100.
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The Tour 100 (16x18) is flexible yet powerful, this racquet is ideal for precision baseliners looking to carve up the court with spin and control. Used by top ATP professional David Ferrer.
A soft, comfortable ground-stroking machine.
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