Perhaps I’ve never warmed to the unique head shape. Maybe I’ve found their racquets in my specs range too challenging. Whatever the reason, Yonex frames and I have never been a match. Admittedly, I haven’t tried them all and I’m sure there must have been a model I could have found common ground with. However, up to this point I have yet to demo one that has given me that first impression.
That is until I tested out the Ezone Ai 98. Of all the Yonex frames I can remember trying, this one required the shortest break-in period. Often when I try racquets I find myself compensating for certain strokes; it may take some time before a lob or down-the-line backhand gets wired in. With the Ezone Ai 98 I felt confident doing just about everything. Ground strokes were solid with predictable power and excellent control; serves had easy pop and placement; and volleys had a very dependable response. No specific aspect blew me away, which is really the only (minor) negative I can hang on the frame. Overall the racquet has impressive shot-making potential.
But don’t take the word of a Yonex amateur. Kin Roseborough—head stringer and staff coach at the Family Circle Tennis Center in Charleston, SC—played for years with Yonex frames. He put the Ezone Ai 98 through its paces and came to his own conclusion.
Kin Roseborough: At first glance, I thought that the Ezone Ai 98 would prove to be the Yonex version of the modern racquet—a distinctive update, but without the classic feel. The Ezone Ai 98 does indeed have a very different feel from the Yonex racquets I played with regularly in the 1990's and, to a certain extent, it fits into the crisp, lively mode of many new frames. But this Yonex delivers on its promise better than some of the other updates. The Ezone Ai 98 has a bit more flex, a slightly larger sweetspot, and less of that hollow, tinny feel.
I'm currently playing the Dunlop Biomimetic F3.0 Tour, which was my favorite of the frames introduced in 2013. There was absolutely no adjustment required when I began to hit with the Ezone Ai 98. Like the Dunlop F3.0, this Yonex has a 98-square inch head with a large and comfortable sweetspot. At 11.5 oz, with a swingweight of 321, this racquet was quick in fast-paced exchanges and could also absorb and return pace when needed. For a little more power and stability against hard hitters, I would add a bit of lead tape to the 3 & 9 o’clock positions on the frame.
The soft but solid feel off the stringbed gave me consistently good depth on my groundstrokes, without having to alter anything in my swing. In fact, the harder I hit, the better this frame felt. I was able to try the Ezone Ai 98 with a multifilament string, as well as with my typical poly. While I definitely had more spin with the poly, the amount of spin I got with the multi was much better than expected. If I was able to tweak the tension just right, I could certainly play this frame strung with a quality multi or hybrid set-up.
The Dunlop F3.0 is one of my favorite serving racquets from the past few years, but the Yonex Ai 98 is right up there with it. I could place my serves with excellent consistency, good-but-not-great spin and enough power. And since I'm not a power server anyway, a frame that lets me hit the corners and into the body with accuracy is my ideal.
From my first approach shot, I found the Ezone Ai 98 to be as solid at the net as it is on the baseline. Not only is this frame very maneuverable, but I also found that I could get power or touch easily on my volleys, depending on what the situation required. I enjoyed the deep pocketing from the Ezone Ai 98 when I played serve-and-volley, particularly on balls contacted below the knee.
Maybe my first impression wasn’t too far off. The Yonex Ezone Ai 98 is indeed a perfect frame for the way tennis is played today.
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