Volkl Catapult V1 Racquet Review

A new addition to the popular Catapult line of racquets from Volkl, the Catapult V1, or Cat V1, rightly takes its place as the flagship Catapult model. Volkl's Catapult racquets feature a spring system in the grommet strip that is pre-loaded during the stringing process. Other Volkl technologies on the Catapult V1 include the Big Grommet System and the Sensor Handle System. Offering a tremendously broad player appeal, the Catapult V1 racquets come in two sizes. The Midplus version is a standard 27 inch length racquet with a 102 sq. inch head size, while the Oversize version measures 27.5 inches in length and has a 110 sq. inch head size. Both head sizes share the same black and gold colors combined with silver graphics, but offer slightly different playing characteristics. The Catapult V1 Midplus is currently the racquet of choice for ATP Tour professional Felix Mantilla.

We tested both the Catapult V1 Midplus and Oversize over a three-week period. Here's what we found.

Midplus

Groundstrokes

Because the Catapult V1 Midplus weighs only 10.8 ounces and is four points head light our playtest team immediately noted how maneuverable it was from the baseline. We managed to separate playtester Michelle from her extended length Oversize racquet and sent her out to the courts with the Catapult V1 Midplus. After her three-week playtest she had this to say, "when I first picked up this racquet, I immediately felt like I could play with it. However, when I went out to the courts and started hitting, it took me a while to get comfortable with the standard length as I've played with longer racquets for so long. Towards the end of my first hitting session, I felt more confident with the Cat V1 Midplus. As the test went on, I found myself wanting a little more power, but found the racquet to be very comfortable and easy my on arm."

John also found the Cat V1 Midplus to have a forgiving feel from the baseline during his playtest. "I felt confident taking full swings with the Cat V1 Midplus. I was not able to generate as much spin with it (as the Oversize), but the racquet did suit my medium to fast stroke. The Cat V1 Midplus was comfortable in play and stable on off-centered hits. However, I felt the Cat V1 Oversize had a more solid overall feel".

Playtester Chris liked the head shape and string pattern of the Cat V1 racquets and could see how this racquet would appeal to someone of Mantilla's caliber. Chris said, "the first thing I noticed when warming up with the Cat V1 Midplus was the delayed response of the string bed. It definitely felt like the ball stayed on the strings longer, and I found I had to make a slight adjustment to my timing to compensate. The racquet is very comfortable from the baseline and surprisingly stable considering its light weight. I felt confident taking a good cut at the ball with the Cat V1 Midplus and immediately found myself playing very aggressive tennis. There is a lot of topspin potential from the open string pattern, and combined with the racquet's maneuverability, it was easy to whip the racquet head around for sharp angled passing shots. Some lead tape at 3 and 9, plus a tighter string tension, and I'd be in business with this racquet." Combined Score 70

Volleys

The head-light balance of the Cat V1 Midplus made the transition from baseline to net an easy one for our team. Granville had this to say, "with a large sweetspot, the Cat V1 Midplus offers performance, feel and good power at net. Lesser players will benefit from the lively string bed for quick reflex-power, and more experienced players will enjoy the comfortable power offered by the Catapult technology."

John found the Cat V1 Midplus easy to use at the net, and while comparing it to the Oversize said, "predictably, the Cat V1 Midplus was more maneuverable than the Oversize. I was able to get to well placed passing shots more easily, but missed the larger sweetspot the Cat V1 Oversize provides. Volleys were crisp and stayed low when struck properly, and there was little twisting on off-center hits."

Michelle enjoyed the maneuverability of the Cat V1 Midplus and found it a benefit during doubles play. "The Cat V1 Midplus is really easy to get around at net. I really enjoyed this racquet and I felt I had good control on my volleys. I hit some really nice half volleys with it, too". Combined Score 76

Serves

Light and quick through the air, the Cat V1 Midplus offers plenty of serving potential. In addition, the Midplus offers an open string pattern which is useful for generating spin on slice and kick serves. John and Michelle would have liked a little more power on the serve from the Cat V1 Midplus. Michelle said, "the Cat V1 Midplus felt nice on serves, but I missed the power I get from my Head iX3 Oversize. However, I felt I could place the ball well and my serving was very consistent with this racquet." John added, "I was able to serve accurately with the Cat V1 Midplus. However, I lost some velocity wielding the 27" Midplus as my service motion is geared to a longer racquet. I was impressed by the feel when serving, and I felt that I could go for different serves knowing that they would find their way into the service court."

Playtesters Chris and Granville found the opposite to be true during the playtest. "The head light balance makes serving easy and fun. I definitely appreciated the extra power I got from this racquet compared to most player's racquets, and spin was easy to generate on both kick and slice serves," said Chris. Granville also enjoyed the maneuverability of the Midplus while serving. "The Midplus version of the Catapult V1 seems to benefit by being a bit more maneuverable and offers a bit more racquet head speed at the top of the stroke". Combined Score 74

Return of serve

Our playtesters found the Cat V1 Midplus to be stable and mostly predictable when driving returns of serve. The weight and balance of the racquet also lent itself well to reaction returns against faster serves. Michelle seemed to struggle the most out of our playtesters, but still had a good level of success with the Cat V1 Midplus. "I found myself hitting a few returns near the tip of the racquet, and I was not sure if it was because of the standard length, or if I was just too early on the shot. When I did hit the middle of the racquet, I was able to hit my returns nice and deep".

John said, "I liked the feel of the Cat V1 Midplus when returning serve. When returning hard struck and well-placed serves, the racquet head remained relatively stable, even when I made contact out of the sweetspot." Granville agreed, adding "the racquet offers some good power on reaction returns and the racquet will offer a bit of pop even when not hit decisively. This is especially beneficial on returns to the body or big heaters down the middle when you just don't have time to set up and swing." Combined Score 74

Overall

Our playtesters found the Cat V1 Midplus to be surprisingly stable given its light overall weight and head-light balance. The Catapult technology has a noticeable and distinct feel, and our playtesters were impressed with the comfort it offered. The only downside of the Catapult technology noted by our team was the presence of a tinny sound with certain brands of multifilament string. However, the sound seemed more noticeable during the "palm test" most players perform when first holding a racquet, than during play. Alternate string choices seemed to eliminate the sound altogether. For a Midplus racquet, the Catapult V1 offered impressive spin potential from its open string pattern, and offered all court playability. As is, the Midplus is a solid choice for players seeking a do-it-all racquet that's both light and maneuverable. For players seeking a little more heft, the Cat V1 Midplus is an ideal base for customization with lead tape. Combined Score 75

Volkl Catapult V1 MP Combined Scores

Volkl Catapult V1 MP Test Results Chart
(Scores are determined by averaging individual play test scores)

Technical Specifications

Length27 inches69 centimeters
Head Size102 square inches658 square centimeters
Weight10.8 ounces306 grams
Balance Point13 inches
33 centimeters
4pts Head Light
Construction 27 mm Head/22 mm Throat
CompositionGraphite/Titanium/Kevlar/Fiberglass
String Pattern16 Mains / 19 Crosses

Babolat RDC Ratings

Score
Grade
Flex Rating64Range: 0-100
Swing Weight310Range: 200-400

Oversize

Groundstrokes

The extra 1/2 inch of length on the Catapult V1 Oversize was immediately noticeable to our playtest team when hitting groundstrokes. The larger frame adds an additional 10 points (RDC) to the swingweight and moves the balance of the Cat V1 Oversize to just two points (1/4 inch) head-light. John immediately found the groove with the Cat V1 Oversize, saying, "hitting with the Cat V1 Oversize for the first time was comfortable and predictable. The racquet possesses many of the characteristics I enjoy in my favorite racquets. The somewhat open pattern enabled me to generate plenty of spin from both wings. I was able to take full swings on both forehands and backhands and I could really feel the 'catapult effect' when balls were taken early and struck squarely in the sweetspot."

Our other oversize fan, Michelle, also found the Cat V1 Oversize predictable off the ground. "The Cat V1 Oversize felt a little heavier to me at first, but once I got into hitting, I liked the way the racquet played. Both my forehands and backhands were consistent and had good depth. The Catapult System is very comfortable to hit with, but I missed the crisp response of my usual racquet".

Chris, used to hitting with mid to midplus racquets, felt he lost a little control with the Cat V1 Oversize. "This racquet felt great when I was driving balls from the baseline. However, when I tried to hit high, heavy topspin shots to push my opponent off the baseline or to recover from a defensive position, I struggled to stop the ball from sailing long. The only reason I could find for this was that the delayed, almost trampoline effect of the Catapult system was exaggerated by the extra half inch length of the Cat V1 Oversize. I was also missing some touch on my drop shots".

Granville also found the Cat V1 Oversize had more power off the baseline compared to the Midplus. "With such a small variation in head size, the Cat V1 Oversize seemed to get its extra power from the half inch of added length. While slightly less maneuverable than the Cat V1 Midplus, it is still a racquet that can get around the ball quickly". Combined Score 73

Volleys

The increased swingweight of the Cat V1 Oversize did not hinder our playtesters as they moved in for volleys, with most finding the extra length and increased hitting area a plus. If anything, John found the Cat V1 Oversize a little light on the volley. "I was able to hit crisp, deep volleys with the Cat V1 Oversize. The sweetspot is accommodating. As on groundstrokes, I found the racquet to be stable on off-center hits. When serving and volleying, I did have to adjust to the head-light balance of the Cat V1 Oversize. At times, I found I was a bit out in front of the ball".

Michelle adds, "I liked the extra hitting area and length of the Oversize when volleying. The racquet is light enough that I could make slight adjustments to my technique when needed during four-at-the-net exchanges while playing doubles. The racquet felt very soft and comfortable, yet I found plenty of power available to help me keep my volleys deep."

Chris found the Cat V1 Oversize competent at net on all but low volleys. "I found the Cat V1 Oversize offered good stability on volleys. The power this racquet offers is useful and controllable on volleys from the waist up. However, low volleys were harder to control as I felt the Catapult system somewhat dampened the feel of the string bed. After hitting a few low volleys long, I found myself having to consciously soften my wrist to keep the ball inside the baseline". Combined Score 76

Serves

Perhaps the one shot that benefits the most from the longer frame and main strings of the Cat V1 Oversize is the serve. The added power and leverage, combined with the Oversize's head light balance makes for some impressive serving potential. Chris found the Cat V1 Oversize useful on a variety of first and second serves. "I was able to generate lots of pace and spin on serves while still being able to hit the flat down-the-T fastball with the Cat V1 Oversize. I really felt like I could exploit all corners of the service box, and I had some great success hitting slice serves out wide to the deuce court."

Michelle also had success on the serve with the Cat V1 Oversize. She said, "I liked serving with the V1 Oversize and was able to really control my placement. I also liked the heavier feel of this racquet over the Midplus when serving, and I found the racquet to be more stable than the midplus."

John found the Cat V1 Oversize to be stable and forgiving on the serve. "The extra-length and maneuverability of the Cat V1 Oversize made for a satisfying serving experience. I was able to hit flat or spin serves with depth and accuracy. The generous sweetspot helped slightly miss-hit balls find their way into the service box".

Granville was the only playtester who thought the Cat V1 Oversize offered less spin on the serve compared to the Midplus, but stated he found the Cat V1 Oversize to be more powerful. Combined Score 78

Return of Serve

When given time to set up for returns, our playtesters took full advantage of the power and spin potential of the Cat V1 Oversize. When rushed into a reaction return, our team found the Cat V1 Oversize to be maneuverable and effective. John soon found the groove returning with the Oversize. "Returning serve with this racquet is a lot of fun. If given time, I was able to take full swings from both sides and place the ball away from or at my opponent. On hard hit serves, blocked returns were effective and, at times, deep - keeping me in the point".

Granville also enjoyed returning with the Cat V1 Oversize, finding it an effective racquet when given time to set up. "I enjoyed returning serves with the Oversize. When you have time to set up and take a big swing you get good power and control."

Michelle made the most of returning with the Cat V1 Oversize, using her playtest time to work on some new shots. "I really liked hitting my two-handed backhand return with this racquet. My favorite new shot is the crosscourt angle return from the ad court. I was really able to zone in on a short angle target with this racquet". Combined Score 74

Overall

While John enjoyed the Cat V1 Oversize so much he decided to switch to it as his regular racquet, our other playtesters were more reserved in their praise. They liked the swingweight of the Cat V1 Oversize and felt the racquet maintained a good level of maneuverability. Each member of the team noted an increase in power over the Cat V1 Midplus. Chris was our only playtester who found the Cat V1 Oversize to be too powerful, feeling it came at the expense of some touch and feel found in the Midplus. The playability of the Cat V1 Oversize almost creates its own contradiction. On one hand, the power of the raquet will appeal to 3.5-4.0 players, on the other hand, the heavier swingweight is more likely to appeal to stronger, more advanced players. The result is a racquet that has immediate appeal to a broad range of playing levels and styles. Combined Score 75

Volkl Catapult V1 OS Combined Scores

Volkl Catapult V1 OS Test Results Chart
(Scores are determined by averaging individual play test scores)

Technical Specifications

Length27.5 inches69 centimeters
Head Size110 square inches710 square centimeters
Weight10.8 ounces306 grams
Balance Point13.25 inches
34 centimeters
2pts Head Light
Construction 28 mm Head/24 mm Throat
CompositionGraphite/Titanium/Kevlar/Fiberglass
String Pattern16 Mains / 19 Crosses

Babolat RDC Ratings

Score
Grade
Flex Rating64Range: 0-100
Swing Weight330Range: 200-400

Footnote:

The Catapult System

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Catapult technology, is the fact that it is a noticeable technology. The Catapult racquets have a distinctive feel and playing characteristic. Many racquet technologies, although providing playing benefits, are not noticeable during play. We know what they are supposed to be doing while we play, but we can't really feel the technology at work. This is not the case with the Catapult System. Our playtesters all commented on the power and comfort of this system during the three-week playtest.

Playtester Profiles
Chris 5.0 all-court player currently using a Yonex MP-Tour 1 Midsize.
Granville 5.5 all-court player currently using a Wilson Hyper ProStaff 6.1 95.
John 4.5 All court player currently using a Prince Triple Threat Bandit OS and switching to the Volkl V1 Catapult OS.
Michelle 3.5 player, currently using a Head i.X3 Oversize.

Review date: May, 2003. If you found this review interesting or have further questions or comments please contact us.

All content copyright 2003 Tennis Warehouse.

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