Solid and dependable. That’s what comes to mind when recollecting my experiences with this VCORE series of racquets from Yonex. There are other options that drop your jaw with nuclear power or devilish spin, but the VCORE Pro lineage has curried favor based on the more pedestrian qualities of predictability and precision. But if you’re looking for traits in a lasting partner, what better place to start.
Compared to the previous Duel G, the VCORE Pro has a few new wrinkles intended to improve the frame’s aggression capabilities, even if the updated cosmetics strike a more refined, subdued tone. A new carbon material (Namd) in the throat allows the frame to maintain better racquet flexibility at higher swing speeds. This creates more shaft torque for longer string contact with the ball, resulting in improved ball speed and spin. The beam is also slightly thinner and—as a result of consumer demand—the string pattern has been opened up to 16x19 from 16x20. (No more pesky shared holes, either).
While subtle, the enhancements seemed to offer easier access to spin, a bump in power and a friendlier response. But, ultimately, the VCORE Pro 97 310g remained an honest broker. When I struck the ball cleanly there was enough mass and spin-potential to deliver a deep, heavy, effective shot. The consistent response from the string bed resulted in exemplary distance and directional control. It also had a solid, clean, plush feel at contact regardless of string type—I tried it with both full poly and a gut/poly hybrid—that’s lacking in many of the thicker, stiffer offerings on the market.
However, when contact was outside the strike zone or tardy, the resulting shot was usually punished. Not to the extent I was completely out of the point, but there’s not the same assistance offered by Yonex frames in the EZONE or VCORE SV families. It strikes me as the type of frame that steady, stubborn counterpunchers would truly appreciate, as would naturally heavy hitters who want little help from their frames. The audience in between will probably be better served by those other two Yonex racquet silos. But the extra work and level of feedback of the Pro 97 is what discerning, high-level players seek.
Plus, when compared with other similar control-oriented frames in its weight class—Wilson Ultra Tour, Dunlop Revo CX 2.0, Prince Phantom line—the Pro 97 has plenty of juice. Like those frames, the Pro 310g is lighter and quicker than classic control frames. Subsequently, it doesn’t have the innate clout of something in the 12-oz. range, like it’s heavier sibling the Pro 330g. There were definitely times I found myself exerting extra effort to create pace, or gravitating toward spin production over power.
This was most glaring to me on serves. The Pro 97 generated good pop, capable of putting opponents on their heels and even winning the point outright. However, it wasn’t as repeatable as a heavier or more power-oriented option. Location and consistency were its stronger suits, and its quick head through the hitting zone offered a respectable level of kick. But this was the area I noticed a decline in my game over other similar frames.
Which I remedied to a certain extent by adding mass to the frame. The weight and balance of the Pro 97 make it a ready platform for customization. Players who enjoy fine-tuning their specs with lead tape or a leather grip, will favor this aspect of the racquet over a more finished product like the heavier 330g. By fattening it up a little, I was able to increase it’s put-away power and weight of shot. For some reason, I was finding the frame particularly adroit on slice backhands—a shot I don’t always see eye-to-eye with—and the extra bit of weight made the shot even more effective.
It also provided increased sturdiness at net, although in stock form it was still a top-notch performer on volleys. The thin beam and easy handling gave it a natural nimbleness—it just felt right—and there was enough mass to redirect pace with authority. The reliable control and cottony feel from the baseline translated perfectly to net play. The frame packs the rare combination of being able to punch aggressively into the corners and drop delicately over the net with equal levels of confidence. All-courters will definitely appreciate this versatility.
Overall, the VCORE Pro 97 (310g) proved to be a very worthy update. It’s more of an evolution of the franchise, allowing fans of the previous model to find a similar playability, while the subtle changes could entice players who found earlier generations needing a bit more in the power and spin departments. While still demanding, the lighter weight and easier handling should attract a broader audience than the beefier Pro 97 (330g). It’s not for everyone, but if you do like this type of racquet, you’re bound to love this one.