Yonex Ultimum RQ Ti-1500 Tennis Racquet Review
Have you ever wondered how a professional tennis player ends up playing with a particular racquet? Me either, but we're going to tell you one player's story because the player we're talking about is Anna Kournikova, and you can't really love(infatuation) or hate(envy) her without knowing all there is to know about her search for the perfect racquet. Plus, you may discover that your search for the perfect racquet isn't much different from hers.
According to Yonex's Pro Player Liason, Jun Hirasawa, it was Natasha Zvereva who unkowingly introduced Anna to Yonex [racquets] in Russia. For many years, Natasha has requested Yonex save any discontinued or leftover racquets for her, so she could donate them to the Russian Tennis Federation's junior development programs. In the mid-late '80s, Anna was a member of this program and received an RQ-180 through Natasha's donation.
After being discovered and moving to Nick Bollettieri's Tennis Academy, she switched to the RQ-380, which she used until she was around 12 years old. She then picked up the SRQ-500 and honed her game to a level that would bring her to the WTA Tour at age 14. After using the SRQ 500 for about 3 years, Anna told Yonex she needed more control and spin. After playtesting several models, she chose the Pro RD-70 Long 105, the same racquet Martina Hingis was using at the time.
In 1998, Yonex developed the SRQ Ti-600 Long specifically for Anna. However, she could never quite get used to this racquet, and after a terrible early-round loss at the 1999 Italian Open, she went back to the Pro RD-70 Long. In the Autumn of 1999, Anna felt she needed a little more power in her shots and asked Yonex to send her all their available racquets to playtest. She switched back to the SRQ-500, the racquet she used as a WTA Tour debutante, just prior to the Chase Championships in November. Not wanting one of their marquee players using a discontinued model, Yonex developed the Ultimum RQ Ti-1500 Long for Anna and she's been been using it since the 2000 Australian Open.
While most of us didn't grow up in Russia, didn't attend Bollettieri's Tennis Academy or play our first pro tournament at age 14, we do have one thing in common with Anna. We want a racquet that will help us play our best. The Yonex Ultimum RQ Ti-1500 Long, whether Anna plays with it or not, is going to help many players achieve that goal.
Ultimum RQ Ti-1500 Long
The Ultimum 1500 effectively replaces the SRQ-500 (and SRQ-500 Long), one of Yonex's most popular racquets. It's quite similar to the SRQ-500, offering the same 105 square-inch headsize, similar beam width, same Isometric Head Shape, Oval Pressed Shaft, basic weight, balance and stiffness, as well as the same string pattern. So what is different about the Ultimum 1500? Besides the addition of Ultimum Titanium fibers and an extra 1/2 inch of length, not much. According to Yonex, this was intentional and designed to fill a void created when the SRQ-500 was discontinued (the SRQ Ti-400 Long was their initial attempt).
From the first groundstroke it's clear that the 1500 caters to a variety of playing styles. Granville begins, "the racquet feels good when you pick it up and even better when you smack the ball with it. The 105 headsize contributes to a generous sweetspot power level. If balls started to go a little long, adding more topspin was a cinch. The extra power allowed me to relax my stroke a bit and still retain good power and depth. One of the most enjoyable almost-oversize racquets I've playtested." Mark adds, "I was able to take a full swing on my topspin forehand and backhand and still keep the ball in the court. I could hit with heavy spin or flatten my shots out and hit with pace. The racquet is light enough to maneuver when hitting defensive shots but has enough mass to keep the ball deep, even when I was pulled wide and couldn't step into my shot. Loved the slice backhands!"
Our harder hitting play testers had to rely on more spin to harness the power of the 1500. Says Drew, "I had my best results hitting groundstrokes with extra spin. I found it hard to control the depth of flat shots and the quick racquet head speed lends itself to topspin. Slice shots had plenty of underspin but tended to float rather than bite for me." Dan comments, "the 1500 was a little too powerful for my long stroke style, so spin capability was critical for control from the baseline. The good thing is I could generate the spin required to keep my shots in. Overall, a great racquet for players of higher ability who need a little extra juice and a little extra sweetspot offered by the larger head." Don concludes, "good combination of comfort, power, control and maneuverability. The 1500 fit well with my medium-long swing and provided great spin potential. It's reminiscent of the SRQ 500 but a little more refined."
The Ultimum 1500's headsize, lighter weight and head-light balance all combine to make it a fun and effective racquet at net. As Granville says, "volleying with the 1500 is a delight. It's easy to move the racquet from side to side and it has a seemingly huge sweetspot. Due to the power level, more aggressive volleyers will need to shorten their strokes for best results." Ron comments, "I enjoyed volleying with the 1500. My forehand and backhand volleys had good power, control and placement." Dan adds, "I was able to manipulate spin and touch angles to a much greater degree than originally anticipated. The open string pattern helps with bite and control. Short, compact volley strokes will benefit best at net. My overheads had more than enough power and the racquet's maneuverability made getting into position an easy task." Mark especially liked volleying with the 1500, saying, "it's maneuverable enough to get to most balls and has enough mass to retain its stability. I could finesse low and half-volleys or put away the high volleys. Even mis-hits were very easy on my wrist and elbow." Drew opines, "the racquet is highly maneuverable and certainly has adequate power to put away volleys. I had good directional control of volleys but depth wasn't quite as precise. Overall, I'd consider it a very good volleying racquet. It was easy to set up for volleys, and they could be hit with good placement and power."
Serving with the 1500 is similar to hitting other shots - good maneuverability, power and, of course, spin. Dan says, "the 1500 unloads like a cannon on serves. If you have the capability for big first serves, this racquet will bring out your best. However, second serves were equally impressive. I was able to generate at least 20-30% more kick and spin that with most other racquets of similar weight and balance. Clay courters may find this particularly useful in harassing opponents on serve." Mark concurs, adding, "my kick serve really had a lot of movement. The power/spin combination of the 1500 is ideal for hitting the big kicker." Don continues, "even if my flat first serve didn't go in, I had increased confidence on my second serve and was winning a higher percentage of points.. This racquet also makes it easy to throw in the change-up on first serves - slice into the body or out wide."
The 1500's maneuverability also makes it possible to be aggressive on serve returns. Drew offers, "on returns, the racquet is quick enough to take a fairly robust stroke. I had my best results when I stayed aggressive on returns. Blocked or slice returns either stayed too high or sailed long. Similar to groundstrokes, I felt I was rewarded for going after my returns." Mark had a different opinion, saying, "it was easy to slice the ball deep with good control when I just wanted to keep the ball in play and on returns. I could also be more aggressive and attack the net behind a hard, low, slice approach shot and/or return. You don't have to take a big swing to generate power and spin. However, it's not necessary to baby the ball either.. A smooth, moderate swing was all it took." Dan adds, "returns felt crisp and powerful, even with a tight stringbed. The 1500 will benefit those who play against fast servers. Short, compact swings get the ball to its target against a big serve. Against slow or wide serves, the ability to generate massive topspin was there, allowing for a full swing without fear of flying."
Miscellaneous (touch, out-of-position) shots were another area where the 1500 excelled for most players. Ron comments, "I experienced the greatest degree of control, placement, touch and feel with lobs, drop shots and slice backhand returns." Dan adds, "feel was outstanding, especially the more I was able to hit with the racquet. Once I realized its boundaries and limitations, the results in 'touchy' situations were beyond expectation." Don concludes, "what impressed me was the racquet's stability, despite it's relatively light weight. I could pick up a return blasted at my feet, hitting a solid half-volley deep in the court or retrieve one of Dan's wide slice serves, completely out of position, and hit an effective return." Drew was a little less impressed, saying, "defense isn't this racquet's strong suit. When stretched wide, the power and maneuverability allow for a decent shot, but it's difficult to hit winners when out of position."
The Ultimum RQ Ti-1500 Long is an easy racquet for many players to use. Those who will find it most appealing are probably 4.0-5.0 all-court players with medium to medium-fast swings, although there will be plenty of pure baseliners and serve and volleyers who are also going to like this racquet. The 1500 offers a little more power and stability than most 'tweener racquets, including the Ultimum RQ Ti 1700 MP & OS, but still provides enough control to keep it from being considered a game improvement racquet. Players seeking slightly more power than control, good spin potential, maneuverability and comfort in a larger-than-midplus headsize will be hard pressed to find a better racquet than the Ultimum RQ Ti-1500 Long. Just ask Anna.