Racquets are a little like cars. Every few years a model will get a few new standard features, but major overhauls are rare. Especially when a particular generation works. The Yonex VCORE 98 is such a frame. Largely seen as both an improvement over its predecessor and a capable all-around performer, any update would involve subtle tweaks.
Indeed, the new VCORE 98—the 6th generation—has a few minor alterations to its recipe meant to enhance feel and spin. Although, for some, the slight change in presentation may be the most intriguing. The additional touches of cool blue on different shades of red give it a Spiderman vibe. Perhaps the intent is to capture more winners in the racquet’s webbing.
And the VCORE 98 remains a frame quite capable of playing (super)hero ball. One of the modifications to the previous model is a 3% reduction in frame width in the upper part of the hoop. This was done to improve aerodynamics and swing speed. The VCORE is Yonex’s spin franchise, so bigger rips equal more rotation. And from the ground, the frame was right at home putting tons of work on the ball. Whether heavy drives, short angles or high rollers it consistently delivered.
The spin was also advantageous for providing cover on shots. The VCORE 98 has radioactive blood—plenty of pep and finishing power. The safety spin came in handy for reining it in and maintaining consistency. In addition to the 16x19 string pattern, thin grommet nozzles have been inserted at 12 and 6 o’clock on the racquet face to encourage faster string snapback and better spin. Pairing it with Yonex’s new Polytour Rev string helped the cause. On the whole, establishing control and the range on my shots required little break-in period. The EZONE has long been considered Yonex’s most user-friendly frame, but I think this one presents serious competition.
The medium-firm frame had a solid, pleasing feel at contact. The ball pocketed well at contact and there was a rather juicy sweet spot. Not quite plush, but comfortably numb. I would almost automatically add some weight to frame of its dimensions, but I’m not sure it’s required. It swung easily, but had enough swing weight and heft to stand up to heavy incoming traffic. I loved returning serve with the racquet; a winning mix of stability, aggression and dependability.
Serving was also a strength, scoring high in acing potential: Enough power to blow a serve past an opponent without having to redline the swing, with sufficient command to hit targets. And because of the spin capabilities, it was downright offensive on second serves. Kickers had lots of jump and twist and were attractive to use on first serves to open up the court on the next ball. Certainly a frame at ease with serve+1 strategies.
When I gave the new VCORE 98 to a friend who currently uses and loves the previous model, he responded largely with praise. From a playability standpoint, he didn’t discern a huge difference. Of the alterations to the current model, the one that stood out most was added vibration dampening mesh in the handle. He found it resulted in a slightly more muted feel at contact. So, that will either be a plus or a minus, depending on the type of feedback you prefer.
It was the one area that left me wanting. There were times, most notably at net, when the feedback was a bit muddled. I didn’t have enough connection to the ball on the strings and had struggles when it came to playing touch volleys or finesse shots. It felt more at-home on fast and full swings. To be fair, subtlety is a miniscule part of my game and the frame was perfectly capable of driving volleys through an open court. It also had a sturdy backbone for its weight. So, this shortcoming would not deter me from regularly using the racquet.
Or recommending it. Accomplished players who favor 98s in this weight class would be wise to check it out. It offers more punch than many of its competitors, with enough spin and control to support either offensive or defensive tactics, leaving opponents hanging by a thread. It’s just your friendly, neighborhood VCORE 98.