Hall Of Fame
Join Date: Dec 2006
Wimbledon Graphite review
Well, I was able to hit with one of the ex-Bosworth Wimbledon Graphite 88’s last night. I bought two of them a couple weeks ago – one that was customized with lots of lead strips on either side of the head, and strung with some natural gut loooooooong ago, and one that was not customized, but seemed earmarked for a pro named “Rodney,” Rodney Harmon, perhaps? I have known of this racquet model since new; Mikael Pernfors and Joakim Nystrom were two of the ATP pros I admired, and this was the bat both of those guys used in the best years of their careers, 1986-1987-ish. Always wanted to try one; never did take the chance, until now. Though a few pros used these (Ken Flach did too, IIRC, and did well in grand slam doubles with it), they flew under the radar for the most part. They were made by Kunnan (Pro Kennex) in Taiwan and have the same excellent quality and understated looks that other top-end PK sticks of the 80’s had (think Black Ace).
Here in Northern California, it’s been rather cold and humid as of late. My hitting has been limited to after-work (meaning, evening), outdoor hardcourt play under the lights – mostly doubles with a great group of middle-aged guys who are all ex-college, or ex-open players now at NTRP 4.0-5.0 level. I myself used to play college and open ball, and am currently 43 years old. Anyway, the weather was too cold (38 deg F) and moist (foggy) to take the natural gut-strung customized pro stock frame out for a spin, so instead, I took the NOS frame, had it strung for the first time ever with Tecnifibre NRG2 1.24 (17 ga.) at 55 pounds, wiped it down with some alcohol, and hit some Penns with it.
At around 13 ounces and 5 points headlight, and with a (beautiful) leather grip in size 5, and with an 88 square-inch head that seems more round than elliptical, most would probably guess it would be challenging to hit with. I found the contrary to be true – given sufficient time and instinct to get the racquet around where it needs to be to prep for groundies, it was surprisingly maneuverable (possibly by dint of its very narrow beam width), yet more stable than a Head Prestige mid of any era, or Wilson 85. That wider, rounder head helps, torsionally! The 16x19 string pattern is also composed of very even grids (all approximately 1cm square throughout), so spin and response off the face was predictable and even. Sweet spot felt ample for the head size. Vibration absorption was excellent with this set-up, with no “ping,” but a crisp enough feel (FYI: I refuse to use stringbed vibration dampeners on my racquets, so this is something I look at very closely on a racquet). Flex pattern was interesting – it felt stiffer than it should be with its narrow beam width, but not harsh. It was not tremendously powerful with this particular string tension or type; I had to take a full, confident swing to go baseline-to-baseline with it (which is, I believe, how tennis should be played). Ball control was excellent, and it was easy to generate a heavy ball off either wing (including my 1HBH). Slice control and penetration was impressive. It volleyed authoritatively, though the weight and balance would be a liability for rapid net to net exchanges for anyone other than a very fit, very advanced player. A big, flat first serve required a big, smooth, controlled swing. Plenty of kick could be found on second serves with the string pattern and 17 gauge string.
So, in short: it’s a great classic top-level graphite midsize frame! It felt quite a bit (unsurprisingly) like the original Pro Kennex Black Ace, with a more user-friendly-sized head, incorporating the kind of stability across the width of the head that the Head PT630 is revered for, with a little more overall maneuverability and a little more overall mass. Flex is a little stiffer and more crisp (by my arm-o-meter) than a PT630, however, the string set-up admittedly makes a world of difference there, and the racquet could be tuned to be crisper or much more soft and cushy, depending entirely on string type and tension.
Why don’t they make them like this anymore?