Head Size: 102 sq. in.
Length: 27 in.
Weight: 10.8 oz.
Balance: 1 pt. HL
RA Rating: 69
Beam Width: 25 mm / 22 mm / 28 mm
String Pattern: 16x19
"There’s nothing new out there."
"I bet this is just a paint job on the previous model."
"You could play just as well with a racquet from 20 years ago."
There’s some paraphrasing involved, but those are a few of the common complaints readers have offered up in response to our racquet reviews. Some of the more skeptical aren’t overly impressed by whatever new technology the racquet manufacturers roll out. They’re not buying that the next lightest, strongest, ____est super material is going to improve their games any more than what’s been on the market since Pete and Steffi were hoarding Slams.
Case in point being the Volkl Classic V1. When the racquet was released two decades ago, its winning combination of inviting, forgiving sweet spot, easy handling, and solid, dampened response was an immediate hit with players. Our own magazine, TENNIS, called it “a virtual extension of the arm.” It was one of Volkl’s first frames with Big Grommets, which allowed for more string movement for better comfort and power on off-center hits. Many players still view the V1 as one of the most arm-friendly racquets, and it’s arguably Volkl’s most enduring frame.
To celebrate its 20th anniversary, Volkl has released a limited edition Classic V1, available in the flag colors of four countries: Germany, Japan, Spain, and the United States. For dedicated V1 users it can serve as a collector’s item, or a fun spare in the bag. And for the uninitiated, it’s a chance to get acquainted with an all-time favorite. One of our testers, James Golden, falls into the latter category. Here are his assessments on whether the V1 still measures up.
James Golden: In tennis, when one speaks of classic racquets, there are many eager to champion the bona fides of offerings such as the Wilson Pro Staff or Head Prestige. Both racquets have earned a cult-like following due in no small way to the fact that they've been wielded by some of the greatest champions the game has known. They are excellent racquets but, despite the lure, they are very demanding to play with, and may have been forgettable sticks among recreational players were it not for those that brandished them on the lawns of Wimbledon and clay of Roland Garros.
Rarely mentioned among the "classics" is the Volkl V1, which has stood the test of time, technology, and the evolution of the game since it first hit the market 20 years ago. Unlike the venerable thin-beamed, small-headed, low-powered racquets of yore, the V1, with its larger headsize (102 sq in), stiff flex (69), and light weight (10.8 ounces strung), is credited by many as the first "tweener" racquet, offering then as now an uncommon blend of power and control that would come to be the hallmark of racquets such as the Babolat AeroPro Drive. Not wanting to let consumers lose sight of the V1's place in racquet history, Volkl has released a series of limited edition V1s bearing the "Classic" moniker (i.e., utilizing the original material layup of graphite and kevlar) and an array of paint schemes paying homage to the national colors of the U.S., Spain (right), Germany, and Japan.
I enjoy the feel of Volkl racquets, but the V1 has never been on my short list of demos due to its headsize and weight. When I received the racquet, my weariness wasn't buoyed by the chunkiness of the V1's profile (28mm at the tip), making me fear that it was a mid-1990's game improvement relic. Alas, I was wrong—very wrong.
Despite being 10.8 ounces strung, the V1 is nearly evenly balanced, making it feel far more substantial and stable than would seem possible. It moves effortlessly through the air and, with its 16x19 string pattern, generates heavy spin ("The ball is spinning like crazy," said one of my playing partners) and easy pace. True to its Volkl ethos, however, it does this while feeling sublime. The ball pockets in the string bed, providing feel that belies the frame's stiffness. I enjoyed hitting heavy, looping rally-balls, working the ball corner-to-corner, and often felt as though I couldn't miss. Slice backhands, which I admittedly rely on too often, left one of my playing partners lamenting that the ball was barely coming up off the court. The one area I was left wanting was in my ability to flatten out my forehand to drive through the ball, particularly when transitioning to the forecourt.
At net, the V1 was quick and, again, remarkably stable. It was easy to dig out balls hit at my feet with impressive feel and return them with depth. In fast-paced doubles play, the maneuverability of the racquet even made my usual brick hands look nimble. On serve, I was equally comfortable hitting flat, slice and kick serves, finding excellent placement and benefiting from the gratuitous yet very controllable power the V1 has to offer. When returning serve, I felt comfortable being able to take shorter swings, using my opponent's pace to block the ball deep, or stepping in, taking the ball early with a longer stroke and driving it deep into the corners to open up the court. The V1 very much lends itself to first-strike tennis.
Some "classics" bear the moniker as an homage to what they once were, but also acknowledging that time has moved on. Not so with the Volkl Classic V1. It is a classic not only in the sense that it helped initiate a significant shift in racquet specifications that would eventually become the hallmark of the modern game but, more importantly, it can still hold its own. It feels every bit the equal of the Babolat AeroPro Drive or Wilson Juice, even if doing so somewhat under the radar.
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