In recent years, much like tennis players themselves, we’ve seen a transition to all-court rackets.
No longer are frames pigeonholed as power or control specific. Today’s players want it all. Building off Babolat’s popular Pure Drive brand, Wilson recently introduced its newest line, the Ultra family. Predictably, power was at a premium, but so was the ability to hit your targets.
We had an opportunity to test-drive two of the models, the 97 and 100 Ultra. The former weighs in the mid-11-ounce range -- right in the comfort zone of decent rec players as well as some pros.
It was maneuverable yet plush, a rare but welcome feature these days. Groundstrokes were fast and heavy. Generating spin was far more seamless than a traditional players stick. If there was one downside, the sweetspot felt small. Off-center hits resulted in above-average wrist twisting. But anything that hit the rackets target was returned with strong impact.
Perhaps more than the ability to generate good pace, the racket’s strongest attribute was its defense. We found that lunging for shots and sending them back deep into the court was far easier than using other frames, notably rackets with thinner DNA. The Ultra 97 certainly helped extend points.
Serving was also a favorable attribute of this racket. The Ultra 97 is a fast-swinging machine that allowed for heavy kick and/or speed. Even second serves seemed like they had more juice.
The racket by nature isn’t really designed for a steadfast net-rusher. We were able to stick volleys, but because of the stiffer feel off the frame, it wasn’t as easy to hit targets. We found that there were a good amount of volleys that got away, but like any other stick, after a few adjustments, we were able to tighten this part of the game.
The Ultra 97 is a very versatile racket that will appeal to a wide variety of players. There isn’t a glaring downside to the frame -- unless you’re a player who doesn’t prefer power and control packed into one solid piece of hardware.
Unlike the Ultra 97, the 100-square inch version one more one-dimensional. On the plus side, it had a much larger sweetspot, which made hitting groundstrokes a lot of fun.
On the flip side, it lacked some feel, largely a result of the extra-wide beam and overall stiffness of the racket. Still, in today’s game, heavy power is first and foremost, and in this respect, the Ultra 100 might be more appealing.
Offensively, this frame easily matches the output of some of its rivals like the Pure Drive. Heavy spin was at a premium. However, mixing the pace up and going for pinpoint approach shots was more difficult to find a groove.
The overall comfort of the Ultra 100, though, can’t be understated. Using Wilson’s parallel drilling, the blows were softened quite a bit, which made this series a big step up from its predecessor, the Wilson Juice.
Expect this racket to make its way quickly around the local clubs, especially for players in the 3.5-4.5 range. It’s loaded with power and comfort. If control is lacking a little, it’s a small price to pay for a significant upgrade.