Having played tennis since 1985, I have gone through a few phases of racquet use. I loathe changing equipment when it comes to my racquets so my list of phases is not as long as one might expect. I will go through them in chronological order. Click on any of the links to see some of the dinosaurs I played with over the years.
My earliest uses of tennis racquets were akin to goofing around with badminton
Phase 1 – The Early Days – What is in the Coat Closet?
I was born in the mid 1970s, and tennis had a boom from that time through the early 1980s. While my father is still an avid player, at some point during the tennis boom my mother also liked to play tennis from time to time. This meant we had a lot of old wooden racquets in a closet near our front door. If my siblings and I wanted to pick up a racquet, it was easy enough to do, but notions of what grip is the right size and does this wooden racquet have any tension left in its strings were beyond us. Tennis was fun enough, but not having any sense of technique made rallying tricky so interest would wane.
Level of Fun – 6, Level of Equipment – 1
I never bought a Puma racquet with adjustable length, but I wanted to
Phase 2 – Boris Becker won Wimbledon and I wanted to Play Tennis
It was not uncommon for players to show up at a tennis clinic with a wooden racquet, but typically such racquets were quickly replaced by something better. I rummaged through my father’s closet to find a Snauwaert racquet made of fiberglass and wood. He did not use this so I took it to a clinic only to figure out that my hand was way too small for this racquet. I then decided I needed a racquet of my own so I kept mowing lawns and researching the ads at the back of Tennis Magazine. The only graphite racquet I could afford in my impatience was a Bard Graff Fire. I cannot say that this was bad racquet, but it was not a great racquet for me. It was not a stiff racquet, and I was not particularly strong at ages 10/11. Finally, a co-worker of my father’s switched racquets and gave me his old Prince Graphite Composite (not to be confused with the similarly named much more common frame the Prince Graphite OS). His co-worker’s hand was more or less the same size as mine. The stiffer racquet let me serve harder, and (with apologies to the World Wildlife Fund) I became a poaching machine in junior interclub doubles matches. The seed of a net rushing game inspired by Boris Becker was taking root.
Level of Fun – 7, Level of Equipment – 3-5: (depending on the frame) The Bard was worst for me at that age. The Prince was best.
Phase 3 – Max 200G, I love You
I had two stints with the Max 200 G. In 8th grade, my father stopped using the Max 200 G, and I quickly switched to it. If someone has not ever hit with a Dunlop Max 200G, it is hard to explain what it feels like. To me, it had a similar feel to some of the wooden racquets I used when first hitting a tennis ball recreationally, but it had much more power and control. The racquet was great for me as I have a pretty long (but slow) swing. Also, the Max 200G which existed long before the Wilson Profile was technically a wide body due to its graphite injection construction. It had power and flexibility. This is the first really good racquet I ever used.
My first stint with the 200G was at a time when I was learning the sport and playing with friends and in leagues. My second stint came when I left for college. I felt like transporting one racquet to and from campus would be easier than two so I left home with my 200G. I liked the racquet enough to switch back to it after 4 years of using a different racquet.
Stint 1: Level of Fun – 9, Level of Equipment – 7: The racquet was used when I got it.
Stint 2: Level of Fun – 8: I should have hit more balls in college, Level of Equipment – 5.5
Phase 4 – Head Genesis 660: No Exodus
As I got into playing USTA junior tournaments and high school tennis, I saved money and bought myself 2 frames. I picked the Head Genesis 660 (106 sq. in.) due to it being powerful on my serve and having a much bigger string bed than the Max 200G for volleys. I felt like this racquet could do all of the good things the Max 200G could, but that it added pop to my serve and made volleying easier. It was a good racquet for a second generation wide body. The Head Genesis had an odd frame design of being wide in spots but having a normal racquet’s width at the sweet spot/general point of contact. This was supposed to provide power and some flexibility that a racquet like the Wilson Profile might lack. A wide frame such as the Genesis 660 sometimes resulted in mishits, but this racquet had power to spare.
I had two stints with this racquet as well. In high school and during my USTA junior days, I treated these racquets like they were made of gold. I had two different colored grips to make sure my string usage was uniform. I was always meticulously prepared to go on court in tournaments even if my one-handed backhand was a liability at that age. My second stint with these racquets came 2 years after graduating from college. I was looking for something to do and reviving my interest in tennis seemed like a good idea. I got these racquets restrung and played a ton of tennis during my Masters studies. Luckily, my one-handed backhand was becoming much more reliable with the added strength of adulthood.
Stint 1: Level of Fun – 4: Junior tennis can be a mess of bad calls and gamesmanship, Level of Equipment – 7.5-8
Stint 2: Level of Fun – 9: Rediscovering tennis was a joy and I could relax far more than I did as a junior player, Level of Equipment – 5: Time had passed this frame by at the time I rediscovered it.
Phase 5 – Vokl Catapult 4 Midplus
As materials advanced, a racquet did not need a great deal of width to provide power. The Vokl Catapult 4 possessed many of the advantages of the Head Genesis 660 without its drawbacks. This racquet is more flexible than the 660 without losing a ton of power. It has better feel so to speak. I’ve enjoyed using this racquet since the summer of 2004. After 13 years though, the frame has lost some pop through repeated use and age. I first began to grasp how to play tennis at a decent level in 1990 and through 2017 I’ve really only used 3 frames: the Max 200G, the Head Genesis 660, and the Vokl Catapult 4 Midplus.
Level of Fun – 7, Level of Equipment – 7/8 at first, but again I kept my racquet longer than its technology was at the forefront. I hit a fairly flat ball by today’s standards so changing tech may not matter a great deal to the execution of my game.
Phase 6 – Alas, Babolat
I am switching to the Babolat Pure Strike racquet. I like what I have felt of the racquet thus far. It has easy power and affords me the amount of feel I need for my game. A few more free points on my serve might do a player now in his early 40s some good.