It’s a handsome frame.
That was my first impression of the CX 200 Tour. The sentiment was seconded by my playing partner who made a similar remark upon his introduction to the racquet. A trend was emerging.
As it has nothing to do with playability, I generally refrain from commenting on a racquet’s looks. We all know it’s on-court brains and personality that count. But when nearly all of the playtests I’ve received for the various models in the line laud kudos on the cosmetic it’s worth noting. The combination of burgundy and black coloring and understated graphics is certainly sharp. It’s a racquet that will earn an opponent’s second glance.
That being said, performance evaluation is the ultimate barometer. And on that front the CX 200 Tour was more than just a pretty face. It doesn’t wow with power, which could best described as adequate. Hardly a surprise given the dimensions. Salmon swim, kids say the darndest things and a flexy, head-light midsize with a thin (20.5 mm) beam is going to feature control. The type of player attracted to this type of frame either craves total command over their shots, or has the mechanics and swing speed to generate their own pace. The racquet need not add to the equation.
Fortunately, the weight distribution and slim profile fostered the type of swings that generate power. If I leaned into the ground stroke the natural flow of the frame through the hitting zone resulted in authoritative shots. Serves also imposed with good pop and better direction. I’m in the camp that likes serving with a spry, low-powered midsize; you can really whip it, contact is as clean as with a bigger face and it’s easier to manipulate the ball. That said, I could see players accustomed to the boost a stiffer, more powerful frame provides their serves to be a little underwhelmed by this racquet’s mph potential.
A price could be paid in terms of quality of shot when technique was faulty, or hitting flat or back-footed. The lack of inherent muscle was most noticeable in these situations. If I didn’t compensate with an extra speedy swing or a smart defensive tactic, I often found my opponent taking advantage of the opportunity.
Like power, spin was mostly dependent on user performance. The 16x19 pattern is conducive for putting rotation on the ball—more than the Tour’s 18x20 sibling—but it won’t add much to what you currently bring to the court. This is due to the Power Grid string configuration which opens the string pattern toward the upper portion, while tightening it up in the center. (When you string the racquet, you really notice how closely the middle cross strings are arranged).
The plush feel at impact was the real draw. Even with a full bed of polyester (Dunlop Explosive 17g) strung in the upper 40s, contact was buttery soft. As if your favorite hoodie were transformed into a racquet. A thin, rubber material (Flex Booster) has been added to the handle to help in this regard, and it seemed to work. Yet there was enough connection to the ball to produce a delicate drop shot or gauge the distance on a block lob. Imperfect hits and strikes above the sweet spot drew occasional twisting and a noticeable power outage, but there was little harshness. And stability on the whole was dependable.
That feel, along with the control and handling all added up for a very positive net experience. It was the type of racquet that volleyed so capably, it encouraged more forays into the forecourt to finish points. I’d sooner sneak an attack off a soft floater rather than stand back and try to rifle a winner. As with ground strokes, you do need competent footwork and weight transfer to hit a penetrating volley if pace wasn’t provided by the passing shot. If those basics were in place, there was no problem punching a shot into the open court. The soft flex was primed to suck the life out of passes on drop volleys or finesse a tricky half volley.
However, if you’re looking for a heftier feel and more sturdiness against pace, the frame’s specs make it ripe for customization. The 11.5 oz static weight is not lean by today’s standards, but the head light balance and low swingweight make additional mass quite manageable. I tried to bolster the solidity and punching power by adding about four grams of lead tape to the upper portion of the hoop. The result was a bit more in the pop, plow through and steadiness off-center departments.
Still, it didn’t transform the racquet into the Hulk. The seeds of its playability are sown and it’s never going to be a masher. But if that’s what you’re after, chances are this racquet would not make your demo list in the first place.
The CX 200 Tour is for those who are attracted to the all-court versatility and predictability of a friendly midsize. The low-powered, comfortable response sets the stage for varied shot-making and tactics. If you’ve got the game, this frame will help show it off. And it will turn a few heads while doing it.