While looks certainly aren’t everything, with its deep red matte finish I loved the aesthetics of the new Dunlop CX line. However, at first glance, I wasn’t quite as enthusiastic about the new CX 400 Tour. I have always enjoyed the feel and versatility of the 200 models, but this frame brought specs to the court—lighter, firmer, larger head—that hinted at an entirely different playing experience. But from my very first hit, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked the CX 400 Tour.
From the ground, the frame had a really stable and solid feel for its weight. Right away I was finding good depth and pace with only modest effort. The Dunlop Explosive Bite 17g strings in the 100 square-inch, 16x19 head did just what they promise and gave me great bite and generous topspin off my forehand. I also enjoyed the way I could drive through the ball with my more conservative Eastern grips and still find lots of control and feel. My backhand slices were staying low and I felt like I could float them deep, knife them through the court or chip them short at will. I also liked the way my ball jumped off the court when I added a little extra topspin to my typically flatter backhand drives.
On serves the combination of power and maneuverability impressed me right away. I loved how easy it was to hit with extra pace, but without the extra effort. There was also great access to spin and it was quite easy for me to hit a hard kick serve down the T or slice one at ¾ speed out wide. In fact, in my first hitting session I snuck in a couple of aces on wide slice second serves. I was serving consistently too, even when trying to start points out aggressively.
The CX 400 Tour proved just as capable when the tables were turned. It was simply a great racquet to return serve with, quick and stable. I typically return best with frames having a swing weight in the 320–325 range and this one sat right in that range, yet it still seemed highly maneuverable. I unloaded on several forehand returns of second serves, but when a hard first serve challenged me, I was able to block the ball back while relishing the solid feel.
As with a lot of stiffer, 100 square-inch frames in the same weight class, I felt like all I had to do on low and stretch volleys was get my racquet in position and I could block the ball back deep with ease. In fact, I hit some of my best pick-up volleys and half-volleys in years. But unlike some of those stiffer frames, I also found it comfortable even when I made contact outside the sweetspot. Like the CX 200, the feel was soft and powerful at net, but the feedback was comfortably crisp. I could hit a variety of shots, from reflex volleys to sharp punches. I wasn’t quite as successful in putting away high floaters or overheads as I am with some slightly heavier frames, but that could be remedied with a little added weight.
It was also a terrific change-of-pace frame which led me to mix in more drop shots, angles and chipped slices than usual in point play. I liked the level of control and the precise response on both topspin angles and topspin lobs. In fact, there was honestly not much that I didn't like; maybe it’s a little on the light side for me in stock form, but that’s easily fixed with a leather grip and a tiny bit of lead tape.
With its superb all-around performance, the CX 400 Tour struck me as an everyman (or woman) frame. A decent 3.0 player could find a lot to love as could a high-lever junior or college player. Take my favorite attributes from powerful tweeners like the Dunlop FX 500 and combine them with some of the best elements of the CX 200 and you have the CX 400 Tour. And, though it has doesn’t have anything to do with performance, it looks awesome.