Wilson Steam 99S - My Full Review

Discussion in 'Racquets' started by JackB1, Feb 6, 2013.

  1. JackB1

    JackB1 G.O.A.T.

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    OK, now that I have had 2 weeks to play with the Wilson Steam 99s, here is my full review......

    Background
    I play at the 3.5/4.0 level. Split 50/50 between doubles and singles. I am a 53 yr old male...6ft 1" - 185 lbs. Hit with a medium amount of topspin. Use a lot of slice and touch shots. "All court" player / baseliner, who changes strategies depending on my opponent's style/weaknesses. One handed backhand, which I slice about 75% / topspin 25%. Come into the net when I can and sometimes serve/volley or chip/charge.

    Initial Impressions
    I liked the way the 99s looked visually. The red, white and black colors were a little reminiscent of the Pro Staff's. Much improved cosmetics over the Steam 100 for sure. My 99s came in at 331 grams fully dressed. I love the new Wilson handle, the way it flares at the bottom. Feels great and gives you more leverage I think and keeps your hand from sliding off. The 99s feels lighter in hand than it's weight and swings that way too. I would have guessed 320-325 if I didn't know. Mine was strung up with Luxilon 4g 16 guage at 57 lbs for both mains and crosses. So let's hit the court!

    Groundstrokes

    Groundies felt great. Much better than you would expect from such a stiff (69) rated frame. Nice solid feel with a little flex/cushioning felt on impact. Not jarring or stiff feeling at all. Much less stiff feeling to me than the Juice 100 (which I previously used). Initially, everything was going higher over the net than I wanted, but after I adjusted and aimed lower, all was good. I did notice some extra topspin on my shots...especially in the last few feet of a well struck, deep groundie. Many times, my hitting partner stood there and watched a shot curve down and hit inside the back baseline, while they stood there expecting it to be out. I love that :) Power was pretty high and it was almost effortless to hit deep rally balls. With the 99s, you can really mix up your shots and keep your opponent from getting too comfortable. Hit driving forehands or loopy high bouncing deep shots or slice away or short angle touch shots.
    Score on groundies: A Only negative is you have to watch the high power level and hit with the right amount of drive/brush. As with any high powered tweener...you can lose control if you don't take a full swing with proper technique.

    Volleys
    Volleys are one area I wasn't expecting too much with the Steam 99s, but it surprised me in this area. Well struck volleys felt solid and there wasn't much twisting against hard hit balls. The racquet has pretty good touch for a stiff tweener and really has no weakness up at the net. Once you get the feel for volleys, you are good to go. The extra power is great for punch volleys and makes it easy to place them deep. Overheads were also easy and the easy swingweight keeps you from being late on them.
    Score on Volleys: B

    Serves:
    Serves were another pleasant surprise. I didn't need much adjustment and was serving my best within a few games. Got nice pace on flatter serves and great spin when I sliced across it more for 2nd serves. The racquet feels very light on serves and you have to be careful not to just use your arm too much. If you relax and stay loose, it's very easy to get good pace on your serves. I put this right up there with the best serving racquets I have used...(the Becker Pro, Pure Drive and Warrior). I only tried a few kickers and they were OK, but my kicker in general is just OK. With more practice it could be decent, but my slice for 2nd serves is good enough for me for now, plus it's easier on my back.
    Score for Serves: A

    Slice/Feel & Touch Shots
    Slices can be lethal with the 99s. I think the extra spin really helps herem just as much, if not moreso, than on groundies. The flipside is, you have to make sure and not get too open with your racquet face or they will float and fly on you. If you can hit a driving slice, close to the netcord, you will give your opponent fits. I it a lot of backhand slices and really enjoy slicing with the 99s. Drop shots and touch shots are effective also...you just have to get the feel for them. Again....no real weaknesses here either.
    Score for Slices: A+

    Conclusion
    Overall, I give the Wilson Steam 99s an A
    Wilson has done an outstanding job with this new racquet and deserve praise for pushing this new "spin technology". The racquet performs as advertised. You WILL get more spin, but how much more will depend on the player's technique. This racquet will not work for everybody and I think it's designed for the average rec player 3.5-4.0 ...maybe 4.5 level. It is a high powered tweener, so if you prefer those types of racquets, you owe it to yourself to check this one out. The other possible negative here is string durability. Extra hard/heavy topspin hitters may go through strings faster than normal due to the wide open pattern, so if you are in that category, be aware of this. I would highly recommend using a 16 or even 15 guage poly, such as Luxilon's 4GS, with this racquet, as you need something thick and durable. I would never put anything but poly in the mains of this racquet and full poly is optimal. Some experimentation may be needed to find your optimal string/tension setup, so if you don't like to fuss with that, you may be better looking elsewhere. Personally, I had no issues with this, but just be aware.

    Hope you enjoyed my review of the Wilson Steam 99s. I am having a lot of fun playing with it and think it will be a big hit at the club/rec level.
     
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2013
    #1
  2. jjs891

    jjs891 Semi-Pro

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    Jack,

    I know that you were trying out 200G and pro one. Would you give us a brief comparison vs 99s. Thnanx.
     
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  3. JackB1

    JackB1 G.O.A.T.

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    The 200G and Pro One compare to each other very well. I found the 200G slightly less head heavy feeling and easier to swing. The 200G felt a little more flexible also and had slightly less power. Those 2 are VERY similar, but I choose the 200G due to the fact that I couldn't get a Pro One from TW or Donnay that was equal to or less than published specs.

    Comparing the 99s to the 200g/Pro1...The 99s is more of a powerful tweener, like the Juice 100 or Pure Drive with a little more solid feel and spin potential. The 200g/Pro1 are more towards the "players sticks" spectrum and have slightly heavier feeling swingweights. The 99s has the most power of the 3, with the Pro One next, then the 200g. The 200G has the besr feel/touch of the 3, with the Pro1 next, then the 99s. The 200g/P1 are a little harder and more demanding than the 99s and hit a lower trajectory ball.

    I love the 200G's and still have 2 in my bag. I want to make sure the 99s has staying power long after the "honeymoon" wears off before I get rid of them. I may keep both for a while.
     
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  4. Rabbit

    Rabbit G.O.A.T.

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    Excellent review. I can vouch for 4.5/5.0 players as many are using this around here. For the record, I'm a 54-year old 4.5 who plays mostly doubles now and hits/drills more than he plays.

    Public Notice
    To add my 2 bits, it you currently use poly in an 18X20 string pattern and break strings, this racquet is definitely not for you. If you use a 16X19 string pattern and use poly and break strings in under 5-6 hours (or any time you feel borderline too soon) this frame is definitely not for you.


    My experience
    My experiences echo yours directly. I was most surprised by 1) volleys are this frame felt more solid than any I've used in quite some time -- almost like a wood racquet at net 2) serves are way better than I've been getting, almost on par with the K90 I used for 6 months, 3) service returns are really smooth once you make a little adjustment and 4) my topspin backhand is killer both down the line and crosscourt.

    I think this frame will help me recover some of the racquet head speed I lost since I developed tennis elbow. (My strokes have never fully recovered) While my arm feels great now, the pain way back has caused me to adjust in a not-so-good way that resulted in my drop from 5.0 to 4.5. I do not expect to get back to 5.0, nor do I want to at this point, but strictly from a playing standpoint, I would love to start hitting the ball like I used to again.

    I should also note that I have always really, really liked open pattern frames way more than closed pattern and this frame is about as open as you can get so it's really up my alley.
     
    #4
  5. jjs891

    jjs891 Semi-Pro

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    Thank you Jack.

    I currently play with pro one and it works well for me but somehow my shoulder is a bit sore each time I play with it. I know it's not due to the wt since I'm used to playing with heavier sticks.

    200G sounds interesting. Maybe it's easier on my arm and shoulder.

    Good luck with your 99s. I'm very curious to see how well it will turn out in a long run for everyone.
     
    #5
  6. A_Instead

    A_Instead Professional

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    Nice Review and format very well done JackB1,
    Now you have set the bar on personal racquet reviews.
    Can we expect this on all of the racquets that you try?
    I am sure many would like it and benefit. (if you have the time and effort to spare)
    You are a "Subject Matter Expert" in this forum and have a decent amount of followers.
     
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2013
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  7. latestgood

    latestgood New User

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    what tension did you use?
     
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  8. JackB1

    JackB1 G.O.A.T.

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    57 lbs..........
     
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  9. JackB1

    JackB1 G.O.A.T.

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    Thanks and I can sure try! I only like to do full reviews on racquets I have spent some quality time with though.
     
    #9
  10. kimbahpnam

    kimbahpnam Hall of Fame

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    I just spent about 4 hours over two consecutive days hitting with it and the more time I spent with it, the less I liked it.

    I am coming from using leaded up APD 2013s. I started out like everyone else thinking the extra spin was awesome. There was a noticeable amount of extra spin.

    The pros: spin, feel, easy power, drop shots, slices

    Cons: lack of control, weak off-centered shots, grip pallet felt a little short

    The deal breaker was the control and poor off-centered shots. I had a hard time controlling my shots and it was really weak when it came to off-centered shots.

    I was using MSV Focus hex soft at 54lbs, the lowest recommended tension. I could probably up the tension, but I don't think my elbow would be able to handle it for long sessions. I'll be sticking with my 2013 APDs.
     
    #10
  11. Dgdavid

    Dgdavid Professional

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    Demo the non-S 99, well worth it.
     
    #11
  12. TimothyO

    TimothyO Hall of Fame

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    Excellent review Jack! I especially appreciate the fact that you spent a couple of weeks with the frame. Good job!

    I'm intrigued by this frame's pattern but being a control freak I don't think it would fit my game. I love to hit "threading the needle" type shots that might not have a ton of pace but are placed perfectly so the opponent can't reach them. Painting the lines is my specialty.

    This doesn't seem like a control frame but does something like 4G improve the frame's control enough for a control freak?
     
    #12
  13. aimr75

    aimr75 Hall of Fame

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    The grip pallet is very short.. anyone with a 2hbh might not like this aspect.
     
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  14. JackB1

    JackB1 G.O.A.T.

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    Not really. The 4g is just to tame the frames power and for durability. It's definitely more power tweener than control stick. I think I know what you prefer and this ain't it. I would let you hit with it though if you want to meet up for a hit.
     
    #14
  15. JackB1

    JackB1 G.O.A.T.

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    you would have to have huge hands for that to be an issue. I wear a large size glove and can easily get 2 hands on the handle. Also, you can always rewrap with a new grip and go a little higher up the handle.
     
    #15
  16. Ross K

    Ross K Legend

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    Echoing the response already provided, I just don't think this is a 'threading a needle' type frame.
     
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  17. mad dog1

    mad dog1 Hall of Fame

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    it can. as long as the eye of the needle is REALLY big! :)
     
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  18. Dgdavid

    Dgdavid Professional

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    I can get two hands on the handle fine but I actually prefer to have the index finger of my left hand wrapped around the frame over the top edge of the handle anyway so suits me.
     
    #18
  19. JackB1

    JackB1 G.O.A.T.

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    David..can u do a comparison between the 99 and the 99s?
     
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  20. Mick3391

    Mick3391 Professional

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    Don't want to discourage anyone from trying it, but I can get as much spin off a wood racquet as this.

    It's a nice marketing gadget, we'll see how many pro's play it, it was just a weird racquet.
     
    #20
  21. Fuji

    Fuji Legend

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    So the guys who break poly in under 2-3 hours in an 18x20 shouldn't even enter the same room as the 99S? That's disappointing! :razz:

    -Fuji
     
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  22. Mick3391

    Mick3391 Professional

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    The two guys at the pro shop broke strings in a couple hours, many on the review board broke strings, and when I played the strings frayed like crazy.

    They'll sell a ton of them and make a bunch of dough for a short time, then it will die out, you'll never see a pro play one, good players can get as much spin with most top of the line racquets.
     
    #22
  23. Fuji

    Fuji Legend

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    That's too bad. The frame seems like a lot of fun, but not overly practical. One of the guys I hit with quite frequently, breaks full ALU in his Prestige Mid in just under 2 hours on average. I doubt he'll be demoing this stick! Haha!

    That does make sense though, they'll make a ton of cash on 4G because they are basically marketed hand in hand with each other, but I wonder if the Steam will stand the test of time till the next release. I did hear however, that they want to have the S pattern in player frames next cycle. I'd love to try a 6.1 95 in the S pattern.

    -Fuji
     
    #23
  24. Mongolmike

    Mongolmike Professional

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    The 99s and 105s may not be for everyone, and that is ok... but I gotta say that yesterday using a 105s is the first time I hit a solid kick serve that broke the other guy's strings. It made me smile.
     
    #24
  25. srvnvly

    srvnvly Professional

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    Jack -how does the 99S compare to the Head Extreme 2.0 MP?
     
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  26. Mick3391

    Mick3391 Professional

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    Yea, and heh I don't want to discourage anyone, but well try it, you might like it, it's just weird. If you can generate your own spin, this racquet is not necessary. I don't like to blanketly say "This is just a marketing thing", but again I don't think you'll ever see a pro using it, then again they carry 10 racquets with them!
     
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  27. JackB1

    JackB1 G.O.A.T.

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    Well unfortunately I am feeling a little unsure about this racquet lately. The control is sometimes not so great and i don't have confidence to swing out all the time. The 99s really only works with a full swing and sometimes it's all or nothing for me on full swings. Either I'm hitting winners or committing UEs. There are times when I'm hitting great and there are times when I struggle to keep the ball inside the lines. I don't have any of these issues with my 200g. I think my main issue with the 99s is the power level. Not sure if the poly is losing tension or if the racquets too too powerful in general? I have only logged around 8 hours with my current stringjob and played most consistently the 1st 2 hours. At first I thought it was just that I needed more adjustment time for the 99s and it still may be that? But if the extreme ups and downs continue, I won't be able to stick with it. Every time I switch back to my 200g I seem to regain consistency and the errors stop. Anyone else have this issue and did things smooth out?
     
    #27
  28. yonexRx32

    yonexRx32 Rookie

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    You better hurry and sell it quickly before others write their experiences and the used market price drops below $8.99.
     
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  29. Ross K

    Ross K Legend

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    Similarish to myself ^. Found when I went to my Pure Control a lot of stuff was back in sync more. Still not sure this will (or won't) come just with more hours logged. Not giving up yet though as there's so much I like about it.
     
    #29
  30. Buford T Justice

    Buford T Justice Semi-Pro

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    I'm publicly posting here ill buy all 99S frames in one piece offered for $8.99!
     
    #30
  31. Buford T Justice

    Buford T Justice Semi-Pro

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    Perhaps its because your strings are likely not snapping back after the first few hours ?

    Try lubricating the strings next time out and if the frame magically feels like it did when you first used it, you'll know your answer.
     
    #31
  32. jackcrawford

    jackcrawford Professional

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    I didn't like the feel of the frame on impact - in tennis, you can hit the ball thousands of times in a day; unless you're Ben Hogan , that's not so in golf. My V1 Classic has much better feel for the ball, more power, better stability, and nearly as much spin.
     
    #32
  33. JackB1

    JackB1 G.O.A.T.

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    Feel on impact is also very important to me and was one of the reasons I recently moved away from tweeners and was enjoying hitting so much with my Dunlop Maxx 200G and Donnay Pro 1. I made the mistake of trying the 99s again and had a great session with it and that changed all my plans. I don't think the 99s has a "bad" feel in impact and it is better than most other tweeners, but it doesn't have the rewarding feel of the P1 or 200G.

    Now I have to figure out how I want to proceed? Back to the 200g or keep experimenting with the 99s? I have to say though, when I am "on" with the 99s, it's the best I can play. But when I "lose it", it can be very tough to win with and I lose confidence. One other thing....i started feeling some throbbing in my elbow the other night after hitting with the 99s. That has me a little concerned. I have never used full poly before (always a hybrid with soft crosses) and even though the 99s doesn't "feel" stiff, there has to be some residual effects of a 69 rated frame on your joints?

    Like Ross, I am not giving up just yet. But lets just say, I'm not sure the "S" will be a long term resident in my bag or not? I am still trying to figure out if the inconsistencies are due to the racquet's stringbed or due to me?
     
    #33
  34. Rabbit

    Rabbit G.O.A.T.

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    I gotta say, I played a lot of tennis this weekend. The more time I spend with the 99S, the more I like it. My serves are as good as they've been since I played with the K90. I can hit the corners, spin is good, surprisingly, my kick serves aren't as kicky as they were, but time will solve that.

    I played with my usual complement of 5.0s last night, and I held serve pretty easily. My slice out to the ad court completely confounded one of the 5.0s to the point that he kept saying "I've missed 100% of those damn serves". After the match, he said that the ball basically shot away from him. BTW, he's one of the 5.0s who plays with the 99S as well.

    From the backcourt, I won every rally with this guy again to his chagrin. At net, I did miss a few, but this frame feels so solid.

    I have 7 sets of play on a set of Wilson Spin Cycle which is more than acceptable to me; it is though near breaking. The frame does give me more spin, obviously, but I prefer to think of it not as a game changer, but more as an the open pattern that I've always been wanting!

    Everyone who plays with it comments one way or the other, but all feel it is supremely comfortable. The 5.0 I mentioned says it has cured his sore arm which he got from a Babolat Aero Pro Drive.
     
    #34
  35. SC in MA

    SC in MA Semi-Pro

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    I feel for you JackB1. I've been a long time 12oz+ racket user. Around 7 or 8 years ago I went thru a long tweener racket trial process. I ended up using the original APD (pre-yellow) version for a year or 2. I actually liked it a lot, but I missed the more solid feel of the 12oz racket. So I gave it up. Since then I've been mainly a Wilson 6.1 nCode and now BLX (the first one) user.

    I was intrigued by the 99s write-ups, so I acquired one. I've only used it twice - once in drills and once in competitive doubles. While its pretty solid for its weight, it doesn't have the solid feel of the BLX.

    Beside the feel, the other main negative of the 99s for me is the need to use poly strings. During the period I experimented with tweener rackets, I also gave poly strings a try, mostly in a full poly setup. While I loved the poly playability, they slowly and gradually wrecked my elbow and shoulder. So, I gave up poly for a natural gut/syn gut setup, which brough my arm back around. For the 99s, it's strung with Pacific Tough Gut in the mains and 4G in the crosses at 58/52. Both are 16g. I already see fraying of the gut in the 2 middle mains. I haven't really played enough with it to know how the 4G in the crosses would affect my arm.

    Not to be all negative on the 99s....on the plus side, I did find it easier to play with overall than the BLX, although I totally struggled with my forehand, which is my strongest shot. This was during the doubles. I just couldn't get the timing right. On the other hand, my backhand was really good, especially hard slice returns in doubles. Serves were really nice with the 99s, especially spin serves. A lot more action than with the BLX, but not as forceful. Volleys were surprisingly good during drills. However, during the doubles, I wasn't getting any weight behind them and hit a number of sitters. Definitely a technique problem on my part. Overheads are much easier with the 99s than the BLX. Around the net, the 99s is a lot more manuverable than the BLX, which I really liked.

    Anyway, for me, I've decided to stick with the BLX and maybe hit/drill with the 99s once in awhile to get a better feel for it. I think the transition to this racket would be more time consuming for me than the transition I went thru with the APD way back when (it was actually very seamless). Also, I'm guessing that the 99 (non-s) would likely suit me better than the 99s, but I don't currently have any plans to acquire one.

    Good luck with however you proceed.
     
    #35

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