99S lives up to hype
Hello TW Forum readers,
As promised I have tested the new Steam 99S and I have a few things I would like to share. I will give a mini review on my overall impressions, serves, ground strokes (topspin & slice), volleys, drop shots, and interestingly playing against the 99S.
After reading the review given by drakulie, I will second his thoughts. For topspin, this racquet makes the ball do things that I did not think I could do. When hitting my forehand with my focus being on spin, the ball moved through the air almost like a wiffle ball dipping at an extraordinary rate. I hit a few shots that made a couple other pro's at my club (I am also a teaching pro) almost swing and miss because of the immense jump off the court due to the increased spin. Now to specific shots review.
Because this racquet is geared towards topspin, I naturally tried my kick serve first. I noticed a great deal of spin as the ball bit the court and kicked up high to my opponents shoulders. Comparing it to a 16X20/16X18 I was not blown away, but that being said I did notice that I gained more spin with this racquet.
I am happy to report that flat and slice serves were also great and I got great power on my flat serves. I was a little nervous at hitting shots without spin but found I had no problem what so ever with hitting slat serves.
Forehand This stroke is the highlight of the mini-review. The topspin forehand with this racquet was no less than impressive. I am an ex-D3 college player with a 4.5 NTRP and a teaching pro so I would assume most all of you know that I hit with the appropriate amount of topspin; that being said, I have never hit with this much topspin. I could not help but think that hitting with this much topspin reminded me of watching professional tennis at the masters in Miami and being impressed with how much the ball moves in the men's game. My ball was dipping in when I was sure it was going at least a foot out and I was basically swinging as fast as I could. This to me is the selling point for this racquet as I felt I could swing out more and not feel the consequences of hitting just long.
Hitting flat was another potential issue but I found no issues here. I will say that I do not hit very flat when I play, but one of our other pros at the club does and he was absolutely spanking the ball! It looked to me that even his flat shots had a bit of spin that helped him control the ball even more. He commented by saying that he felt he could swing out more in this department which I would agree (especially being on the other end of it!)
For your information I play with a two-handed backhand but I can hit a good one-handed backhand. Also, I tend to hit with less spin on my backhand than on my forehand but I would assume that is how most two-handed backhand players play. The backhand was great for me and I only felt like I was hitting a little long when I was on defense just trying to punch the ball back. Other than that, when I swung out all was well. I really liked hitting angles with this stroke as you might imagine because of the increased dipping abilities.
The slice with this backhand appears to be one of the concerns as the string patters is so open and I believe that drakulie said that you really needed to go after your slice to insure the ball would not float and he is totally correct. There were a few times where I would not try and put a decent amount of bite on my slice and the ball floated long. After seeing this outcome I just drove through my slice a little more and all was good. I think with any racquet there are certain shots that take a little adjusting too and for this racquet I believe the slice will be that stroke.
This is another stroke that I felt might be a bit subject to error but I felt absolutely no difference when hitting volleys than I would with my current six.one team (leaded to the same weight as this racquet coincidentally!) I hit a few kick serve and volleys on the Ad side (i'm right-handed) and had to dig out some tough low volleys that I placed nicely to the open court. I was afraid that I would lose control in this department but no worries as all was good here.
Before reviewing this stick someone on the forum asked me to check out dropshots with this racquet so I decided to try these out when the chance came during some point play. The dropshot reminded me of the slice in the sense that you needed to give it a little stick in order to hit an effective drop shot. I did just this and the ball checked very nicely and I actually hit three winners this way, so that was nice! Overall I liked hitting dropshots with this racquet because you could be confident in the stroke and gain rewards with the extra bite after it contacted the court.
Playing against the 99S
I feel like this part of the review is important because I had a unique chance of fighting fire....with fire! Another pro and I hit against each other with the 99S's and it was almost comical. The rallies simply looked different. While in the rallies it looked like we were playing ping-pong as the ball was dipping and diving at such an extreme rate. We both tried to only hit heavy topspin and was incredible how much the ball moved. The other pro I was hitting with even got on the outside of the ball while hitting topspin and the ball was almost bouncing like a kick-serve; just nasty!
I also hit against another pro who was trying the new 93 blade (awesome, awesome paint job by the way) and I was making hit mishit all day long. My spin simply just put him on his heels.
My opinion of this racquet is no secret. In the gear article on tennis.com they state that this racquet will specifically help recreational players which I agree with but I would also add just about anyone up to 5.0-5.5. The spin science that went into this racquet is no gimmic, it is actual truth. For those who say it's marketing are incorrect as they have never tried this stick or probably have not read up on the actual data behind the racquet.
One thing that I will say that concerned me was the stiffness of the frame as it felt more stiff than my current racquet but I also string my poly's in the low 40's and I believe that the demo was strung in the recommended range which was probably 55lbs or so.
For me this racquet opened up different parts of the court that only players on the tour are capable of, so for that, I thank Wilson for their research and development of this racquet.
USPTA P2, Wilson