Price: $259
Head Size: 97 sq. in.
Length: 27 in.
Weight: 12 oz.
Balance: 7 pts. HL
Swingweight: 330
RA: 61
Beam Width: 21 mm

To be honest, when the recently released updates to the Yonex VCORE PRO line arrived, I wasn’t that interested in the 97D. The previous version—the 97HD—was new to the franchise and a fine racquet, but we never really gelled. My first impression was it will be a fit for someone, just not me. Like a doubles partner with lots of skill, yet a poor complement for my game.

For one thing, I didn’t see its purpose. I appreciated that Yonex wanted an 18x20 frame somewhere in its lineup, but I felt the last thing the VCORE PRO needed to be was more control-oriented. It was addressing a need that wasn’t there. I thought the string pattern would’ve been a better fit in a more powerful line.

Then there was the softer flex. Sure, it felt great when contact was pure, but didn’t offer much help when it was off-center. On offense, you really had to tag the ball to cause trouble. Nor did it have as much spin potential as its 16x19 brethren. And if you were defending against a heavy hitter, even at 320g unstrung, it could feel overmatched.

Whether to possibly address these issues, or to simply give the frame a bit more pep, Yonex made some modifications—and a small name change—when it designed the 97D. While the flex on the updated 97 and 97H were lowered, it was raised on the 97D in order to match them. Not much, but you can feel the difference. The beam-width was also increased slightly to provide additional stability and pop, with a little more swingweight to deliver a bigger ball. Subtle on the surface, the minor adjustments went a long way to improve the playability. Enough so, that it went from the least enticing of the new 97s to perhaps my favorite.

From the ground the frame produced a dependable and predictable ball. It’s not going to naturally juice strokes, but has plenty of mass and swingweight to create offense with a smooth swing. It’s definitely one of those racquets that you get out of the shot whatever you put into it—just what advanced players are looking for. The improved stability was most noticeable when forced to play defense. It’s not as quick as the lighter 97 (310g)—which can lack backbone in these situations—or as rock solid as the heavier 97H (330g)—which can feel unwieldy—but strikes a nice balance.

The launch angle was lower than I’m accustomed—some shots were landing shorter in the court—and could take some acclimation for those not currently using a dense, 18x20 string pattern. It’s also not going to accentuate topspin, but can readily produce it with the proper mechanics. On the other hand, the low, penetrating drives combined beautifully with a biting slice.

The feel of the frame at contact was remarkably solid and stable. The response was definitely firmer than its predecessor, a possible demerit for fans of the plusher 97HD. Still, the update was hardly uncomfortable; it offered a warm, lived-in pocket even with a full bed of poly (YONEX POLYTOUR REV). And with a certain string pairing—possibly a thin poly or a hybrid—could be borderline buttery.


It’s definitely one of those racquets that you get out of the shot whatever you put into it—just what advanced players are looking for.

Like groundstrokes, serves reflect the server. If you’ve got a potent deliver, the 97D will show it off. There’s great directional control, and it really boils down to moving the mass. One of our testers and frequent contributors, Kin Roseborough, plays often with the 97HD, and commented that this newer version is not quite as maneuverable, with the serve being the most obvious area. If you’re accustomed to a lighter frame, serving with this one could give your shoulder a workout.

However, this wasn’t as much of an issue at net. In fact, the added beefiness bolstered the frame against incoming heat and put more stick on volleys. It’s the type of frame that instills a player with confidence to move forward and take advantage of its versatility and dependability in the forecourt. When I wanted to hit a working volley, it easily punched the ball deep in the court with consistency and accuracy. And when going after the volley—like knifing a backhand—the ball skidded low and jetted off the court. Skilled doubles players or aggressive all-courters will enjoy plying their trades with this frame.

Overall, the new VCORE PRO 97D pulled a 180 on me. It improved on the weaknesses I found in the first incarnation without compromising its finer traits. I’m sure users of the original will take umbrage with my assessment, but I think this version is more playable and will appeal to a wider audience. Just to see if I wasn’t overstepping my appraisal, I put the frame in the hands of a couple of accomplished players—a former D1 and a nationally ranked 35s—who both use similarly spec’d 18x20 racquets from competing brands. Each were impressed to the point that he could envision using it. One is even contemplating a switch. While I’m not quite there, I do see why he’s taken by the frame.

So much for first impressions.