When you try out racket after racket, the results can become blurred. The different technologies -- weight, head size, string pattern, flex -- and then the variables within said specs make each racket unique, but after a while, these various ingredients can blend together when attempting to dissect so many new and different frames. It can get pretty befuddling trying to remember how each racket performed.
But then there’s the Yonex EZONE AI 98.
Perhaps the most intriguing frame I have tried this season, this racket, which by the way happens to be Ana Ivanovic's latest choice, is about as smooth and comfortable to hit with as any new racket on the market. Absolutely nothing befuddling here.
First and foremost, the sweetspot is enormous. And this creates an interesting juxtaposition: The isometric head shape in Yonex rackets (which more or less means square shaped), gives the appearance of a head that is smaller than it actually is, but in this case, the EZONE AI 98 has a sweetspot you would typically find only in an oversize racket. What does this mean? It means you can measure your shots with pinpoint accuracy in a frame that produces unparalleled comfort.
It should also be noted you can take a good crack with the Ezone AI 98 and keep the ball in the court. The racket seems to play lighter than its 11.05 oz frame. I added about three inches of lead tape around 3 and 9 o’clock to help alleviate the temptation of overhitting. This is more of a personal preference; you may very well fancy the stock weight. I found that in this racket, the tape did not detract from the maneuverability or head speed.
Perhaps the most intriguing feature was the feel of the ball off the string bed. There was a discernible pocket upon contact, one that produced a buttery-smooth response. One of my favorite new rackets on the market is the Prince Tour 100 16x18 because the feedback off contact is so friendly. But there is also some unpredictability; balls can fly on occasion, although far less than previous iterations. The EZONE AI 98, however, had a Prince Tour-like feel, but it was much more control oriented. This Yonex actually felt like a hybrid of the best qualities of the Prince Tour (comfort and power) and a Babolat Pure Drive (control, command, plush).
And this was especially obvious, not just in groundstokes, but in volleys, too, in which I had total confidence to stick them where I wanted to. The racket is extremely maneuverable, which made serving easy. There was noticeable mass upon contact, and I was able to consistently hit heavy kickers.
In most rackets I’ve demoed, I’ve found some fault (bad tennis pun), but in Yonex’s EZONE AI 98, none whatsoever. So much so, that I have a pretty good feeling this racket will see more mileage and wear and tear when I’m on the court than any other stick in the coming months.