Published on June 21st, 2010 | by Greg0
Volkl: Tennis for the Pros (And Amateurs, Enthusiasts, and Most Anyone)
Wimbledon started today, and we find ourselves in a bit of a tennis mood. We’ve been skipping the World Cup and the US Open, and finding ourselves a good court to play with a few new racquets from VÃ¶lkl. You may not have heard of them before, but this German company makes some of the best gear in the game, along with snowboarding and skiing equipment. The lineup of players using their items includes one of the world’s top men’s doubles players, Martin Damm.
We’re not playing in tournament-level tennis just yet, but it never hurts to be prepared. One of the easiest ways, beyond thousands of hours of practice and physical training, is probably to get something good in your hand. We’ve been testing out three racquets, each strung to a mid-range strength for balance and durability using their pretty great Kicker 17 single wrap synthetic strings.
We started with the Volkl Bridge PB10 Mid, a pretty great piece offering some interesting technology. Fraunhofer, a major German research institution, developed DNX, basically carbon nanotubes said to be “25 times stronger than any other mass-produced carbon fiber”. It’s not obvious at first, but the three point that were reinforced add strength and stability to the entire surface. At 93 square inches, this is definitely not a beginner’s racket, and offers a lot of control thanks to the smaller head. At 27 inches long, it also is fairly short, and perfect for a smaller player. It’s also fairly heavy, around 12 ounces, offering quite a bit of mass and thus power behind your shots. We found ourselves needing quite a bit of time to get used to the size and balance, and at first were frustrated at the smaller sweet spot and overall heaviness. In the end, we’d recommend that only advanced players consider this one, but those who play with precision will appreciate the flexible feel and decent punch. Around $200, available widely online.
Similar in some respects is the PB 5- it’s also 27 inches long, and also uses DNX for reinforcement. But there are two major differences that make it a bit easier to use for many players, and quite distinctive as well. First, the head is quite a bit larger, up to a mid-sized 102 inches, and the weight is noticeably less at under 10 ounces. That makes it better for amateur players, and a nice balance of power and control. But, to make things really interesting, they modified the lower part of the racquet to create what they call a Power Arm, and it adds a unique twist… seriously. The added flexibility allows a bit more give when the ball hits your strings and, as they grip it, you can snap your wrist and add some wicked spin. We’ve never played with anything quite like it, and came away feeling like we could curve just about any shot. It’s nicely cushioned to boot, and simply feels well engineered. An easy audience comes to mind for this model- anyone who desires a bit extra spin in their game. At $200, it’s an investment, but worth adding to any mid-level tennis fan’s arsenal.
Finally, aimed directly at women comes the PB 6 Attiva, a balanced and nicely-colored racquet also offering that DNX stuff we are starting to grow fond of. This one is even lighter- 9.5 ounces- though still 27 inches, and with a 100-inch head. Once again, we wouldn’t recommend this for a beginner, as it still requires quite a bit of experience before you’ll be able to find that sweet spot comfortably. But the power is there, and our lady folk tell us that makes for a pretty roaring service game and good baseline hits, perfect for an aggressive player. Strong enough for a man, indeed- our guys found it easy to like and a pleasure to play with, if a bit head-light. It’s also the most inexpensive of the bunch, coming in at around $180.
Finally, remember to carefully consider your grip size when purchasing a racquet. Generally, the average woman will want a grip between 4 1/8” and 4 3/8”, and for men, it will be between 4 1/2” and 4 3/4”. An easy way to tell is open your hand with your fingers extended, and measure from the middle of your palm to the tip of your ring finger. Of course, the best way is to try them out to see what feels comfortable. Also note that some sites use the 1-2-3-4-5 system, where the smallest size (1) is equivalent to a 4 1/8” grip, and each additional step up adds 1/8”.