ModernFrames

The modern racquet. The label gets tossed around all the time, but what does it actually mean. For manufacturers, it means creating frames that reflect the state of the game. More specifically, how stronger, more athletic players are using increasingly vertical and aggressive swings to orchestrate offensive baseline tactics.

Modern racquets need to be a blur through the hitting zone with a manageable balance of power and control; spin-friendly, with an elevated sweet spot to take advantage of the vertical swing path; stable enough to contend with blazing ball speeds, yet not too firm as to be uncomfortable or completely devoid of feel. So you can crunch serves and ground strokes, and still have command over touch shots and volleys.

Yes, a lot is expected of the modern racquet. Fortunately, this group is up to the challenge.

Babolat Pure Strike 98

In the spectrum of Babolat frames, the Pure Strike is somewhat of a hybrid of the Pure Drive and Pure Aero. It doesn’t have the extreme heights of power and spin the others possess, but applies both characteristics with greater precision. That said, it’s hardly a slouch in either department. The frame's variable beam is also thinner than those lines, giving it added versatility. The third generation Pure Strike just tinkered with the winning formula of the previous iteration—most notably a slightly more dampened feel for improved comfort—that saw a substantial upgrade from the debut model. There’s a 16x19 model for better spin potential, an 18x20 option for those who want greater control and a heavier Tour version—my particular favorite—for players seeking even more stability and plow through.

Head Radical 2021

The Radical has been Head’s staple in this category for decades. It’s more forceful, forgiving and maneuverable than a Prestige, yet still possesses excellent command. After a recent run of firmer, more power-oriented Radicals, the racquet has undergone significant structural changes thanks to an entirely new mold, giving this latest edition more of the characteristics that fans came to appreciate from the line. The head shape is rounder to promote a juicier sweet spot and softer feel at contact, while the yoke has been thickened for increased stability. The Radical also bulked up with a 5-gram weight increase to the MP (300g) and Pro (315g) models. After extensive internal playtesting, Head determined that the added mass resulted in noticeable playability improvements. And judging from the reaction of our testers, they’re spot on. It plays great, but you’d just better be a big fan of orange.

Tecnifibre T-Fight RS 305

With the recent successes of Daniil Medvedev and Iga Swiatek, Tecnifibre frames are starting to get more attention. The brand considers its T-Fight a “perfectly balanced” racquet, combining the ideal levels of power, stability, precision and feel that serious players seek. The updated beam geometry of this latest version isn’t square or elliptical, but actually an “R” shape. This five-sided construction is designed to give the frame a sturdier backbone with more punch, while delivering a softer response. The 305g—endorsed by Medvedev—has its weight portioned more towards the head which gives it a hefty swingweight. So it arguably plays with more substance and punch than the 315g version, its heavier, more head-light sibling. Its uncommon 18x19 string pattern offers a nice combination of spin and control to take charge of its power. Whether you’re brawling from the backcourt, finishing points at net or shifting between multiple tactics, it simply delivers.

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Daniil Medvedev endorses the T-Fight RS 305

Daniil Medvedev endorses the T-Fight RS 305

Wilson Blade 98 v7

Rising juniors, college studs, touring pros and everyone in between, perhaps no frame is in the hands of as many accomplished players as the Wilson Blade. Over its seven generations, the racquet has transformed from more of a scalpel into a machete capable of inflicting quicker, more lethal damage. But ultimately players have gravitated to the feel and dependability produced by its constant beam. This latest version looked to improve upon that characteristic—bye, bye Countervail—with FeelFlex technology derived from the maker’s Clash line. There are two available string patterns that tweak the frame’s playability: Those looking for a bit more spin and power potential will find both in the 16x19 model; heightened command and feedback comes with the 18x20 version. Regardless of the choice, either is a true all-court weapon.

Yonex VCORE 95

It plays like a 98. That’s the common response of those who try the VCORE 95. It’s just unusual for a racquet of its head size to be this forgiving. Yet, it retains the quickness, feel and versatility one would expect from such dimensions. With the sixth generation of the VCORE, Yonex continues to make refinements to enhance the line’s spin production. And for a 16x20 frame, the VCORE 95 delivers plenty of jump on the ball, along with some healthy pace, both without having to come out of your shoes. It has the response and precision of a more classic frame, with a just enough brawn to play and feel relevant. If you think your days of playing with a midsize are in your rearview, this racquet might just change your mind.