Gear of the Year: Part 1

by: Jon Levey | December 11, 2020

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Tags: The Pro Shop

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Babolat Pure Drive (2021)
Price: $229
Website: babolat.us

Every time a Pure Drive comes out it seems to earn a “best of” label. While this latest one isn’t a huge departure from its recipe of easy power, forgiveness and stability, the subtle tweaks give it a boost in the control, comfort and feel departments. It still hits a big ball with a penchant for aggressive serving and baseline tactics; only some of the sharper edges have been rounded out. So it should still sit in the crosshairs of current users, while potentially appealing to players who found previous models too harsh or unruly.

Head Extreme Tour
Price: $210
Website: head.com

With all of Head’s racquet silos, the Extreme sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. But this latest edition stands out—the optic yellow coloring doesn't hurt—with the brand-new Tour providing a new wrinkle to the franchise. Testers were impressed how the Tour still delivers the line’s promise of enhanced spin potential, but its smaller head and thinner beam reels in the power for a more predictable response. Rather than a dressed down version of the MP, the Tour plays and feels closer to a friendlier and more muscular Prestige. 

Wilson Pro Staff v13
Price: $219
Website: wilson.com

An OG of the graphite revolution, the Pro Staff has nearly four decades of prominence on its resume. This 13th rendition of the iconic frame plays up the line’s strengths. The racquet’s famed graphite and para-aramid fiber braid has been arranged at 45-degree angles—dubbed “Braid 45”—to improve ball pocketing and feedback. And the string spacing in the upper third of the hoop—where most players make contact—has been decreased to heighten control. It adds up to great feel and precision for advanced all-courters who like to provide their own power. In other words, it’s a Pro Staff. The retro 1980s graphics are the icing on the cake.

Tecnifibre Triax
Price: $20/set; $200/reel
Website: tecnifibre.com

The theory behind hybrid stringing is by combining two different strings—one each in the mains and crosses—you can create a sum that’s superior to the parts. Unfortunately, finding the right pairing can be a mystery. Tecnifibre’s Triax removes the guesswork by melding the best properties of polys (control, spin, durability) and multis (power, comfort, arm protection) into a single hybrid-in-one string. It’s the firmest feeling string in Tecnifibre’s Fusion category, designed to be a multifilament for polyester players. A rising junior looking to transition up to a firmer control string, or a veteran poly player needing something easier on the arm will find Triax a fitting complement to their games.

Asics GEL-Resolution 8
Price: $135
Website: asics.com

The GEL-Resolution has earned a reputation for being supportive and dependable, and the eighth generation of the shoe only furthers that status. The flexibility and comfort—which Asics felt were shortcomings of the previous model—are improved by the new seamless Flexion Fit upper. And the Dynawrap integrated lacing system and Dynawall support on both the medial and lateral sides increase the reliability during side-to-side movement. It’s just a solid, workhorse of a shoe.

Racquet: The Book
Price: $17
Website: penguinrandomhouse.com 

If you like your tennis writing longform and your subject matter more thought-provoking and unconventional, you probably already know about Racquet. This anthology compiles some of the most compelling features from the magazine’s first three years of publication, composed by some of the most talented writers covering the sport (including tennis.com's Joel Drucker and Stephen Tignor). Come for actor Jason Biggs’s infatuation with Andre Agassi’s private plane, and stay for Andrea Petkovic’s tennis lessons from reading Phillip Roth. It’s a must-have any tennis lover’s bookshelf. 

Crossrope
Price: $99 (Get Lean set)
Website: crossrope.com

Staying in shape is difficult this time of year, especially with people opting to steer clear of crowded gyms. Stay-at-home workouts have become essential, and few offer the efficient calorie-burn and agility benefits of jumping rope. What makes the Crossrope so effective is it offers weighted, easily interchangeable ropes for varying resistance. Its free app is also loaded with engaging workouts—endurance, HIIT, strength—appealing to all ability levels. The Get Lean Set comes with ¼ and ½ pound ropes, but there are handles and heavier ropes for more advanced skippers. 40 seconds of alternate hops with just a 2-pound rope will have you gasping like it's 5-5 in the 3rd set. 

 

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