Gear of the Year: Part 2

by: Jon Levey | December 16, 2020

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Tags: The Pro Shop

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Dunlop FX 500
Price: $200

Dunlop doesn’t always come to mind when discussing power frames, but its new FX line could change that impression. The Force family in the company’s lineup delivers the easy pace, solid, spin-friendly response coveted by tweener fans, with the FX 500 sitting right in the sweet spot. The racquet produces the requisite big serves and groundies, but adds more versatility and control than many of its competitors. If previous dalliances into the category have proven too brassy and unruly, the FX 500 might be the solution. 

Yonex EZONE 98 Tour
Price: $229

The newest member of the EZONE clan is also the heaviest. The 10 added grams compared to the standard EZONE 98 make it more demanding, but gives the frame added backbone and muscle to compete at the most advanced levels. The extra stability and lower flex also improve its net prospects. Previous EZONE users may not find this model quite as user-friendly, but its dependability and all-court playability make it a worthy addition to the line.

Tecnifibre T-Fight 305 RS
Price: $230

In the last few years Tecnifibre has rolled out some impressive—possibly overlooked—frames. None more deserving praise than the new T-Fight RS. The updated beam geometry of this latest version isn’t square or elliptical, but actually an “R” shape. This five-sided construction is designed to give the frame a sturdier backbone with more punch, while delivering a softer response. The 305 model might be the best of the bunch. Go for the lines, grind, change speeds—it’s a do-it-all racquet with a crisp, clean response that will complement a variety of players and styles.  

Slinger Bag
Price: $550

Never be without a dependable hitting partner again. The Slinger Bag is a battery-powered, portable ball launcher with luggage wheels for easy transport. Straightforward controls allow you to easily customize launch speed, frequency and angle. An oscillation plate that causes feeds to also go from side to side can be purchased separately. Other ball machines may have more bells and whistles, but if you’re looking for a mobile option that will help hone your skills—at an affordable price—the Slinger is up for the challenge.

Price: $30/month

If you’re serious about your training and athletic performance, you know the value of recovery. Whoop tracks all the your daily stresses, whether it be a tough three-setter, a tense day at the office or restless night’s sleep. The lightweight, waterproof strap is worn just below the bone on the wrist, and collects a trove of data such as heart rate variability—time between each heartbeat—resting heart rate and sleep quality. It then analyzes and relays all the data through an accompanying app to determine your level of readiness to hit the courts again . It’s like having a personal coach that knows exactly whether it’s time to go for that personal record, or take an off day.

Price: free (basic); $15/month (Pro)

Pro players pay a king’s ransom for match tracking data, but with SwingVision all it takes is a smartphone. Built by engineers from Tesla and Apple, and backed by investors Andy Roddick and James Blake, SwingVision uses artificial intelligence to record and analyze data such as points played, ball speed, shot placement and court positioning. Watch a match from start to finish, or dissect the action by stroke or compilations of longest or most tiring rallies. Whether improving performance or just creating your own highlight reels, this app is highly effective and addictive. 

Babolat RPM Power
Price: $17 set; $230 reel

I was scared the first time I strung RPM Power. It felt so wiry and made such a piercing sound when pulling the crosses, I thought for sure the “electric brown” string would cripple my elbow. However, I couldn’t have been more mistaken—the latest in the RPM family is surprisingly springy and comfortable. Keep in mind that’s in comparison to RPM Blast; it’s not multifilament soft and still takes a healthy cut to get the ball moving. But it fits the bill for seasoned poly players looking for something juicier and easier on the arm that still provides plenty of access to spin and control.

Dunlop Explosive Bite
Price: $17 set

Everybody loves the control you can get out of a polyester string. The arm-killing stiffness? Not so much. Explosive Bite is designed to promote heavy spin production—which is does quite well—but also delivers noticeably more pop and comfort than a typical firm poly. It’s perhaps not quite as laser-focused as a lower-powered option, but still plenty accurate. If you want a friendlier feeling poly with a little extra punch this one will not disappoint. 

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