Wilson Blade 98 (16x19) v7

Reviewed by Jon Levey | October 31, 2019

Tags: racquet

Overview

Pros

  • Improved response

  • Better handling

  • All-court versatility

Cons

  • Can be unpredictable

Gear Review

The Pro Staff is pure Wilson heritage, but the Blade has become the company’s preeminent player’s franchise. While the frame started out as more of a scalpel, it has evolved with the game to become more of a machete; it still carves up opponents, but it’s designed to inflict deeper cuts. This latest installment—the seventh—aims to revive and amplify some of the trademark ball connection associated with the line that was more muted in the last version, along with the all-court playability that makes the Blade so attractive to high-performance players. In other words, get the Blade back to feeling more like a Blade.

And it certainly did so on ground strokes. The frame delivered a manageable level of power with a solid, comfortable response on contact. Control was respectable, although you can glean more from its tighter 18x20 sibling. The more open pattern in this model ups the power and spin potential, and begs to be taken advantage of. 

Ultimately, the racquet proved to be a front foot frame for me. I really felt I needed to be closer to the baseline and leaning into my shots to be effective. My consistency wasn’t quite up to the level I expect it, especially when playing defense and trying to get back into a point. I couldn’t fully trust it when trying to stay neutral—had some launching issues—particularly on my backhand.

The contrast was most apparent when comparing surfaces. On clay, with the longer rallies, trickier bounces and deeper court positioning, errors became more of an issue than usual. But when playing on a hard court, I had great success taking the ball earlier, changing direction of shots and being aggressive. When I played points on my terms, the Blade was quite a weapon; when I tried to probe and be patient I often slit my own throat. However, I think with some extended practice time and string experimentation, some of these issues would be minimized. 

That’s not to say the racquet lacks feel, command or the ability to be creative. Far from it. Wilson removed the Countervail dampening that was introduced in the previous version and drew some criticism from users for numbing the feedback. They also inserted FeelFlex, an offshoot from the technology in the Clash line, which is designed to provide enhanced stability and flexibility for the more modern vertical swing path. 

The overall flex of the frame is also lower, although I found it to play a little firmer than its specs would typically dictate. I played it alongside a few frames with higher RA ratings and the same string set-ups, and the Blade seemed to have the least amount of give. But it was more a feeling of sturdiness than stiffness, as it was plenty arm-friendly. Add up the changes, and the feel and feedback at contact were upgraded. I had no trouble creating sharp angles with topspin rollers or tight slices, or attack short in the court with touch. It’s quick enough at the net with just enough backbone and control to be a dependable volleying companion.

Another tweak to the Blade was a slight lowering of the balance point. Again, credit to Wilson for listening to their players clamoring for a quicker stick. The Blade still has plenty of mass toward the head—there’s plenty of swing weight—but I found it more maneuverable. And nowhere was this change appreciated more than on the serve. 

In fact, I loved serving with this Blade. Hands down my favorite aspect of the playtest. Which was a surprise because I struggled mightily with the previous one; I just couldn’t find any rhythm. But things were really working with this update: high percentages, lots of pop and reliable ball control. And because I had better acceleration through contact—something I couldn’t consistently do with its predecessor—kicks were a kick. Serving worked so well for me that it made me wonder if I could excuse, and work on, some of the shortcomings in other parts of the game and stick with the frame.

That won’t be an issue for Blade disciples, though. This version accentuates the feedback and all-court playability that has made the line so popular, while improving the handling and feel. It’s still meaty and I found it responded better when played fast. But players who prefer a more modern control frame can certainly find enough command to be effective. It’s up to its seventh generation, and the Blade continues to sharpen its edge. 

Info & Specs

The most popular frame in Wilson's Blade series, the Blade 98 (16x19) V7.0 now features FeelFlex to connect players with the ball unlike ever before. Featuring carbon mapping placed strategically throughout the frame, FeelFlex increases frame flexibility and stability for superior feel. Throw in reduced spec variance for added consistency from frame to frame plus a new Top Grip Taper for more comfortable top-hand grip placement, and the latest version of this racket brings significantly added performance to the court for avid Blade fans.

Length:27 in

Head Size:98 sq in

Strung Weight:11.4 oz

Balance:4 pts. HL

Swing Weight:328

String Pattern:16x19

Flexibility:Flexible

Suitable NTRP:4.0+

Beam Width:21 mm