|Wilson Blade 104 Racquet Scores|
Endorsed by WTA superstar Serena Williams, the Wilson Blade 104 gets updated for 2015. With the addition of graphite braided with basalt and parallel drilling, this extended length racquet promises enhanced feel and a larger sweetspot in a 104 square inch headsize. Our playtesters found a seamless transition from the previous version to the new Blade 104, and they appreciated the large sweetspot created by the parallel drilling of the grommet holes. Our team found adequate power and precision, which allowed them to be aggressive and put the ball away. Our playtesters found ample maneuverability at the net, where they could be crafty and creative with their volleys, and they were happy that their power levels didn't suffer when hitting big first serves. We did, however, experience a lack of stability when playing against big hitters or when the ball hit outside the sweetspot. To put it simply, we think fans of the Blade 104 will transition into this update effortlessly. Players who appreciate comfort, touch, maneuverability and power will get exactly what they're looking for once they get their hands on this racquet.
Wilson continues the evolution of basalt by braiding it with graphite to enhance feel and flexibility, and it added parallel drilling to expand the sweetspot. Despite the new elements of this racquet, our team still felt like this racquet played a lot like the version it replaces -- which is a good thing! Chris said, "The previous Blade 104 felt soft and flexible, and I got that same kind of feel from this one. Switching between the two was seamless, with the only difference coming from the stringbed (fresher or different types of string) rather than the frames. With this update I also loved how fast and maneuverable the racquet felt. I was able to take the ball very early with it as well as quickly change the direction of play. I was getting good spin and excellent feel for where the ball was going. I liked how easy it was to accelerate this racquet through contact. The only downside was that it was a little underpowered on defensive shots -- I would have liked some additional weight or beam stiffness to help me generate depth."
Like the previous Blade 104 and earlier Blade Teams, this version of the Blade 104 amped up the fun factor from the baseline for Tiffani. She said, "The Blade 104 is really easy to use, and the depth and spin comes easily. I don't feel like I'm getting the plow through I would get from a heavier racquet, but I enjoy how the ball just flies off the stringbed -- there's no temptation to arm the ball to get some pace. When it came to spin, I especially liked how I could feel the strings pocket the ball on my backhand slices so I could keep them low to the court. One knock on this racquet would be the lack of stability when playing against someone who hits heavy topspin. I could feel the racquet flutter, especially on my forehand side. On my two-handed backhand my second hand helped stabilize the shot."
The Blade 104 reminded Brittany of the previous version from the first hit. She said, "I was amazed at the amount of control I was receiving from a 104 square inch head. I could really go after my shots. I think the biggest difference between this Blade 104 and the previous version is the slightly larger sweetspot. After several hits I found myself playing a little more aggressively by taking the ball on the rise and letting the racquet do the work. I could change directions and place the ball where I wanted on the court. I also found enough plow through to hit some solid slice shots."
Karly also found similarities to the previous version, and she loved how easy the Blade 104 was to use, saying, "The Blade 104 swung extremely fast and seemingly generated plenty of power on its own, so I didn't have to put much energy or effort into getting the ball back. I enjoyed setting up quickly and taking the ball early and on the rise. The power was definitely more prominent than control, but with the help of its easy to access spin, the power wasn't overwhelming. I could rely on the spin to prevent my shots from soaring long, whether it was by adding topspin or slicing through the ball. The only downsides for me were the lack of plow through and instability outside of the sweetspot. The racquet didn't feel like it had enough mass to drive through the ball, and the harder my opponent hit the more I felt pushed around."
Our playtesters found enough maneuverability and touch to be dangerous at the net with the Blade 104. Tiffani said, "I can always use a bit of extra reach at the net, and with its extended length the Blade 104 delivers on that front. Unlike some other 27.5" racquets, the Blade 104 didn't feel unwieldy. I also enjoyed the feel at net. The only issue I had was some stability when the ball didn't hit in the sweetspot."
For Brittany, maneuverability was the highlight when taking this racquet to the net. She explained, "I was able to get the racquet into position quickly to try to return any passing shot, and the larger sweetspot gave me a little extra oomph when I had to reach for a volley. However, like the previous version, I wasn't the biggest fan of the feel and had a hard time adjusting to it."
"Hitting volleys with the Blade 104 was great because of how fast and maneuverable it played," began Karly. "I could move the racquet quickly into position and react to every shot that was hit at me. It also provided the same powerful response that I enjoyed from the baseline, which made the racquet feel like it did most of the work for me. All I needed to do was move the racquet into position to hit a hard volley. I just had to make sure to make contact in the sweetspot, otherwise the racquet felt unstable."
Chris really liked the response of this racquet when it was strung with a multifilament string. He tested it with Wilson NXT Power 16 (as well as some other multis), which he felt gave the racquet even better feel at net. He said, "My touch shots were working very well. When I was volleying from deeper in the court I had to make sure I punched through the volley because the racquet was lacking some mass. Other than that everything was feeling pretty dandy at net, and I liked the response of this racquet. I felt like I could react quickly with it, and I enjoyed attacking the net in both singles and doubles."
Our playtesters were quite content with the amount of pop they could get on their serves with the Blade 104. Generating racquet head speed with this racquet was a breeze for Brittany. She explained, "I was able to get the racquet moving quickly and was able to accelerate into my serve with little effort. This allowed me to go after my serves for a full hitting session without my arm getting fatigued. I enjoyed the easy power on my first serves, and I was able to hit some pretty powerful serves according to our PlaySight smart court. It took some adjustment to get comfortable hitting second serves, and I would have liked a little more control."
The exceptional power and spin of the Blade 104 was magnified for Karly on her serve. She said, "This was the stroke where I found spin and power to come the easiest. I didn't need to swing very hard on flat serves to generate power, and the ball launched off the stringbed. I enjoyed the extra pop I got from the Blade 104 on my serves, but I preferred hitting my serves with spin. That powerful response made it difficult to place my shots with good control. Instead, I relied on the racquet's impressive spin potential. The whippy feel made it simple to brush over the ball, and with the easy power my second serves landed with a dangerous kick behind them."
Chris was surprised by how much power he could generate on his serves. He commented, "I typically like much heavier racquets, but this one impressed me. I was not only getting great spin, but I was also finding lots of pace. Considering the specs of the Blade 104 I didn't expect to serve as well as I did in our recent review of the Babolat Pure Drive Plus. However, tracking my serves on our new PlaySight smart court revealed the pace and spin I was getting was right in there. My bigger first serves typically hit 90-95 MPH, and I was right there with this racquet with a high of 95 MPH and an average of 92 MPH on my faster first serves. When it came to second serves, I found enough spin to get the ball to my targets without having to take off much pace -- resulting in a combined serve speed average (first and second) of 85 MPH."
Tiffani was content with the maneuverability, considering this was an extended length racquet. She offered, "It swung very easily, and at times I could get some good pop on my serve, but I had trouble replicating the pace consistently. I hit some serves as fast as I hit with the new Babolat Pure Drive Plus, but my average pace was not as high. A lot of that is technique, but I do typically serve more effectively with racquets stiffer than this one."
With its comfortable response and manageable swingweight, the Blade 104 performed well for our team when returning. However, some of our playtesters were looking for a bit more stability when cracking offensive returns or blocking balls back defensively. "The fast and whippy feel of this racquet was the main highlight for me on returns," stated Karly. "I had an easier time attacking serves and taking the offensive quickly with the Blade 104 than most racquets. Because it was so easy to swing it gave me more time to set up, and with its natural power I didn't have to take a full swing to hit a big shot back. The only time I got into trouble was if I went for too much or made contact off-center. I had to be careful not to overhit since the power came so easily, and if I didn't make contact in the sweetspot the racquet felt unstable. Luckily, the larger headsize and mobility made it easier to hit in the sweetspot."
One of Chris' favorite shots to hit with this racquet was the return. He found he could take the ball ridiculously early in doubles, which enabled him to attack the net as fast as the server. He added, "I could whip the racquet through contact very, very easily. I was able to hit angles, add pace or inject some added spin at will. Best of all, the Blade 104 felt solid enough to easily handle triple-digit serves."
There was a mix of good and bad for Tiffani when it came to returning. She said, "On the positive side, I could get the Blade 104 around in time for just about any serve and step in early when the opportunity presented itself. However, even though I could get my racquet on some of those big serves it felt like the racquet was being pushed back, and I was unable to handle serves with pace. A lot of my returns against big serves fell too short to be effective."
With returns of serve being one of her strongest strokes, Brittany is always on the lookout for a racquet that is maneuverable and stable. With the Blade 104, she was left wanting for a little more stability. She said, "While I was able to get the racquet around super fast, I was struggling a bit with the control and placement of my returns. I wasn't as accurate as I would have liked, and this was most noticeable when I was playing doubles and I had a much smaller window to where I could hit my returns. Additionally, I found a small bit of torsional instability when trying to return big, heavy serves."
Chris - "I liked the comfort, power, spin, generous sweetspot and overall ease of use."
Tiffani - "I enjoyed the feel, comfort, easy pace and maneuverability."
Brittany - "I liked the combination of power and control (which felt about even), along with the maneuverability."
Karly - "I liked how easy the Blade 104 was to use. It swung fast, generated plenty of power and offered great spin potential. All I had to do was keep the ball in. It did the rest for me."
Chris - "I'd add some weight to the handle and tip, plus a leather grip to increase stability. Otherwise, no complaints from me on the new Blade 104."
Tiffani - "There was just a bit too much instability against bigger hitters."
Brittany - "I'm not the biggest fan of the feel and would have liked a tad more stability when returning serves. Additionally, it's hard for me to hold onto the flared butt cap."
Karly - "With its lightweight feel came some instability and lack of plow through. I felt pushed around on the court when I was hitting against harder hitters."
Chris - "The Blade 104 is very similar to the previous version, and I think most players will find it an easy transition. There's not much else in this weight class except for the Head MicroGEL Radical Oversize, which has a slightly larger headsize but pleasingly similar flex at around 56 RA."
Tiffani - "The previous Blade 104 and earlier Blade Team racquets are very comparable, and I could switch between those and this version without much thought. The feel of the Power Hole grommets is very distinctive to me, but I think the Volkl Super G 4 comes close to playing like this Blade 104. The Volkl is slightly lighter, but it has a similar feel at impact. Both allow me to get creative with my shot selection from the baseline."
Brittany - "To be honest, the Blade 104 plays pretty similarly to the previous model. There wasn't a ton difference between the two as they had a similar power/control ratio, feel, and maneuverability. I would say that the sweetspot was slightly larger on this version."
Karly - "This version of the Blade 104 played very, very similarly to the previous model. They were almost identical to me -- they swung extremely fast, generated decent power and had great access to spin. The only difference to me was the feel. The newer Blade 104 felt slightly softer at contact."
(Scores are determined by averaging individual play test scores)
Chris: 4.5 all-court player currently using the Wilson Six.One 95 S. Chris uses a semi-western forehand grip, has a fast swing style and hits a one-handed backhand.
Tiffani: 4.0 level baseliner with a semi-western grip on the forehand and hits a two-handed backhand. Currently playing with the Donnay Formula 100.
Karly: 4.0 baseline player currently playing with the Volkl Organix 10 Mid. She hits with a semi-western forehand grip and uses a two handed backhand.
Brittany: Open level player with a semi-western forehand and a two-handed backhand. She currently plays with the Yonex EZONE Ai 100.
Review date: December 2014. If you found this review interesting or have further questions or comments please contact us.
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