Powerbrokers: Racquets that bring the heat

by: Jon Levey | April 29, 2021

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Babolat Pure Drive, Head Graphene 360+ Extreme MP, Yonex EZONE 100

Think about your favorite shot. Now think about hitting that shot with some extra muscle on it. No change in technique, no extra effort or time in the weight room. Just naturally infused with more velocity and aggression. Sound attractive? That’s what a good power racquet can do.

The racquets on this list—all recent releases—are built to add pace and depth on shots. Their firm, thick beams, wide string patterns, expansive sweet spots and speedy acceleration combine to create big-time power potential. Most also score well in the spin department. However, when it comes to control, let’s just say there’s a going to be a little give and take in that category.  

Still, whether you’re looking for a frame that can carry more of the workload than your current model, or simply want to inject added pace into your game, one of these racquets is sure to help.

Babolat Pure Drive 2021
No list on power frames would be complete without the Babolat Pure Drive. From weekend hackers to serious tournament competitors, for the past few decades it has arguably been the go-to racquet for players seeking a boost in the power department. With great stability for its weight and “explosivity” on demand, it’s one of the ultimate serve/return +1 frames. Babolat has taken strides over the past several generations to lessen some of the harshness and vibration from the frame to make it more arm-friendly, and the 2021 might be the most refined yet. But action movies aren’t built around dialogue. Nobody comes to the Pure Drive seeking a plush, comfortable ride. Just grip it and rip it.

Dunlop FX 500
Always respected for their control and player’s frames, Dunlop has stepped up its wears in other categories. (No doubt a byproduct of its partnership with Srixon). The FX line—the F stands for force—is their power family of racquets. It has the stiff, variable beam and 300g weight that have become the benchmarks of the modern, power frame. However, Dunlop added technologies to give the FX 500 better feel and command when compared to the competition. When we tested it alongside the Pure Drive, reviewers found it to have similar playability, but with a bit more control and comfort. Still, if you’re backed into a corner and want to give the ball a jolt, it will happily oblige. 

Head Graphene 360+ Extreme MP
The Extreme is Head’s spin franchise, and you’ll need plenty of it to effectively employ the power produced by the MP. It’s the type of racquet that wants to be played fast and on the front foot. No half-measures here, as slower swings aren’t a reliable method for consistency. The 360 Spin Grommets on the mains allow for lots of string movement—both in and out of plane—to add pace and rpms to shots. Along with the medium-firm flex that is lower than any other racquet on this list, it also produces a bit friendlier response at contact. But it mostly rewards aggressive swings with tons of power and rotation. String it with a spin-friendly, dead poly and get busy bullying your opponents.

Wilson Blade SW102 Autograph 
This is a racquet for a very select group of heavy-hitters. Made to the specifications of Serena Williams, the 28-inch length, 102 square-inch head size and nearly 350 swingweight add up to a beast of a racquet. The type that requires proper trunk rotation, leg drive and weight transfer to make it remotely useful. Arm swingers need not apply. However, if you’ve got the mechanics and strength to wield it, pity your opponents. The racquet is a true battering ram—cannon serves and plow through on steroids. The 18x19 string pattern helps with control and decent spin production, but don’t expect great defense and counterpunching. The unique characteristics of the frame will require an extended adjustment period, but the returns on the investment will be substantial.

Yonex EZONE 100
It might be unfair to label the EZONE 100 a power racquet. Yes, it’s plenty lively and capable of cracking big serves and heavy groudies. But it has more versatility than a typical basher. This latest version—the sixth generation—has a vibration dampening mesh in the handle and changes to grommet positioning and construction to produce a friendlier feel that harkens back to the plusher vibes of the vaunted DR model. Yet, it’s still a crisp, firm-feeling frame with plenty of feedback. Players looking for even more clout—and extra reach—should give the extended EZONE 100+ a try.

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