Hi all, Just wanted to share some of my impressions about demo rackets. Since the end of January I went through four demo rotations, 16 rackets total by now… scratch that, 15 – one of them I demoed twice. First, disclamers: 1. I'm a 3.5 player. While I do have a long and fairly fast swing, and hear from teaching pros and hitting partners that my form (at least on groundstrokes) looks better than 3.5, until competition results prove otherwise 3.5 it is... 2. My impressions are subjective (dah), and may not be fair… neither is life! If I felt a definite dislike for a particular frame right off the bat, 5 min might have been all I spent with it. 3. Obviously I demoed the rackets as they were strung, some might have faired better with a more appropriate (for my game) string setup. 4. I used vibration dampener (Tecnhifibre, or Sampras 'O') with all rackets. 5. Most frames tested outside on hard courts, hitting against a ball machine (except serve of course). Some were tested indoors on hard courts. A few in the last batch were tested in match situation (doubles) 6. I demoed a wide variety of frames, from ‘The Beast’ (Wilson K-Factor 90) all the way down to Wilson K Factor K Court, which is an almost kids’ frame in weight. All these rackets however fit within ‘tweener’ to ‘player’ range, and all are better suited to full, long swing style. Rotation #1 With this batch, I did not have a chance to hit against a person or a ball machine. All tested on indoor court: self-fed groundstrokes, and serves. No volleys/overheads. Yes this batch didn’t get enough TLC, but I still feel that I got a general idea of how each frame hits (except on volleys). Fischer M Pro No. One 98 Mid+ Pretty sweet. The results were good on groundies, both with targeting and power. Same on serve. However I felt disconnected from my shots. The shots would go in with power and precision, but I felt like the racket was generating more that I put into the shot. Should be reassuring in theory, but for me it was the opposite. Special feature: for the life of me, I could not flatten out my shots. Babolat Pure Storm Ltd. Mid+ This one looked great on paper (and in person), but ended up being one of those 5-minute demos. I didn’t really dislike it, just didn’t feel like it’s helping me in any area. I guess it takes a better player than myself to properly appreciate this racket. Special feature: felt very ‘dry’ on contact… not sure how to explain it. Very abbreviated dwell time on strings perhaps? Yonex RQ iS 1 Tour Light Mid+ First time ever I put my hands on a Yonex. Experience kind of similar to Fisher above, in the sense that the output (especially on serve) seemed better than the input. Special feature: trying to hit a one-handed backhand, whether topspin or slice, felt like a lost cause. Dunlop Maxply McEnroe Mid+ The only one that I’ve got in the wrong grip size (1/2 instead of 3/8), and did the grip felt huge! Another five minute affair. Result were OK but I felt no joy with this one. Special feature: Reminded me of my first (wood) rackets… not in a good way. Rotation #2. Tested outside against a ball machine. Fischer Magnetic Tour MP Light Same ‘auto-magic’ qualities as Fischer M Pro No. One 98, but less solid overall. Good power on volleys, not so good control. Special feature: My car keys stuck to it… not. Dunlop Aerogel 300 Mid+ This one was ‘auto-magic’ on steroids. More pace that any other rackets in this write-up for the same input, and for the most part the shots stayed in… but I had no idea on contact whether I was hitting a good shot. Too bad I didn’t get to hit against a human, I’d be interested to see whether my opponent was more startled than I was to see some of those shots going in. My Silent Partner Lite was not impressed. Special feature: Enough said. Wilson KSixOne Team Mid+ Ok, this was my favorite of the bunch. A direct opposite of the one above. The feedback was very direct (though somewhat muted). I felt that the result was exactly proportional to the effort I put in. Meaning that Garbage In = Garbage Out (short ball, little pace). But it certainly keeps one honest. If I went for my shots with good technique, the reward was excellent targeting, both directional and depth, and good (though not killer) pace. Surprisingly, despite the tight string pattern it was easy to generate a lot of spin, both on serves and on groundstrokes. Special feature: [K]ontrol, and [lack of]power. Wilson K Factor KPro Tour 96 Like Babolat Pure Storm Ltd from batch #1, but easier to deal with. I’ve spent quite a bit of time with this frame trying hard to love it but fell short in the end. Special feature: Feeling on contact is crisp but kind of ‘hollow’. Rotation #3. Tested outside against a ball machine (+ serves) and inside with a hitting partner (just rallying) Wilson K Factor KTour Mid+ I expected it to play like K6.1 Team little brother, and in a way it did. But it wasn't nearly as well behaved as Team. [Much]more power, [Much]less control. Special feature: enough said. Wilson KSixOne Team Mid+ Yes, this frame again. It has become my yardstick at that point, and I wanted to measure some other Wilsons against it. My opinion of the frame has not changed but I was no longer tempted to pull the trigger and buy it on the spot. Wilson KSixOne 95 (16x18) Mid+ This is the frame that put some cold water on my new-found passion for 6.1 Team. On groundstrokes 6.1 95 (16x18) did everything better for me. Same level of control and direct feedback as Team, but substantially more power. However my serves/overheads/volleys suffered. For me, it was difficult to generate racket head speed on serves and prepare on time on volleys/overheads. Special feature: made me want to hit the gym and do some weights. Wilson KSixOne Tour 90 Mid Aka ‘The Beast’. From the moment I picked this frame up it became abundantly clear that I am not man enough to wield this sword. Just holding it hurt my arm and shoulder; heck, just looking at it hurt Still, out of curiosity, I used it in a warm-up against a hitting partner, hit some groundies and volleys. The good: within 5 minutes, I hit some of the most solid volleys, half-volleys and forehands I ever hit in my nearly quarter-century (on and off, maybe 6-8 solid seasons) of playing tennis. The bad: within 5 minutes, I probably shanked more balls than in any hour in my nearly quarter-century of playing tennis. Special feature: The Beast. My hat goes off to people who can effectively use this racket. Or should I say ‘the only person…’? Rotation #4. Short-circuited due to back injury (not related to tennis): Donnay Pro One Internat. Mid+ Did not get a chance to hit with it, will be sending back to TW today. Head MicroGEL Radical Mid+ Same, goes back untouched Wilson KFactor KBlade Tour 93 Me likes! A far more realistic alternative to K Tour 90. Certainly has some of the same heritage, but this one I could actually use fairly effectively. Tested during one set of doubles, though I feel it would work better for me in singles which are my specialty anyway. A demanding racket, but handsomely rewards proper technique. Special feature: olid. On my short list to demo again. Wilson K Factor KCourt Mid+ This one is by far the lightest racket I’ve ever played with. I did not hit with it in stock form though. For some reason, I had high hopes for this frame, in terms of customizing it to resemble the bigger Wilson brothers (6.1, K-Blade) at $100 discount. I added 19 grams of lead (wrapped around the bottom part of the handle), an overgrip, 4 grams of lead total at 3 and 9 on the head, 4 grams in the throat. With all that it was weighing in at somewhat respectable 310+ grams. Unfortunately, I did not find sufficient power or control with this setup. Maybe it would have played like a dream in stock form? I doubt it very much, but will never know. Special feature: Blind date gone wrong. Finally, the rackets I’m playing with currently/played in the past: 198? – 199? it’s all a blurr.. aluminum, wood, recycled dog poop, you name it. Some of the rackets that I used early on, back in Russia, must have been truly awful… 199? – 2007: Wilson ProStaff Original 95. These are near-legendary frames, I won’t go into why. They were always a bit too much for me I suppose, and as I got older it became more apparent. They swing pretty easily actually, nothing like K-Tour 90, but still require very precise technique to consistently produce good results. 2007 – Jan 2009: Techifibre T-Fight 320. I loved these when I first got them. Over time the love turned to respect, and finally I sold them on TW forums. Solid frames, comparable to K 6.1 95 (not Team) and K-Blade Tour. Perhaps a little easier to swing then either of these Wilsons, but also slightly less solid (or at least different) feel on contact. Overall, my experience with them is similar to the short stint with the demo K 6.1 95 – really good on groundies, not so good (for me) off the air. Current: Head Intelligence i.Radical MP circa 2001. More on these in the follow-up post.