|Wilson Blade 98 18x20 Racquet Scores|
With this update, Wilson took the already popular and great playing Blade 98 18x20 and made it even better. Each playtester noticed similar, yet improved, performance over the previous model. A new braided graphite-basalt layup in the frame contributed to a plusher feel and improved responsiveness, allowing our testers to be even more connected to the ball as it left the strings. We also found the sweetspot to be slightly more generous and forgiving, and we experienced less twisting on off-center hits. Although the tight string pattern provided some incredible precision, it also inhibited our ability to produce tons of topspin on groundstrokes and kick serves. All in all, this very impressive update is perfect for the player looking for a traditional-feeling frame with some modern power and forgiveness.
Our playtesters really enjoyed the Blade 98 18x20 from the baseline and found it to be an improvement over the previous version. However, a couple testers felt they had to try a little harder than normal to generate pace and spin. Granville found the Blade 98 solid and comfortable, and a natural fit for his game. He said, "When first hitting with this Blade 98 I was impressed with its soft flex and comfort. The ball sinks into the stringbed like my sporty VW Karmann Ghia slips into my garage -- like it belongs there. The brassiness is greatly diminished when compared to the previous iteration due to enhancements like the parallel drilling, I suppose. I also like the fact that I can really swing away with little concern of hitting long."
Andy, who has played extensively with the previous version, also preferred this updated version. He compared the two, saying, "I felt incredible precision with this racquet from the baseline. I felt like I could consistently put forehands and backhands wherever I wanted in the court with good power and easy depth. Like the previous version, the tight string pattern and small spin window makes it a little difficult to generate heavy topspin. However, I thought this update was a little more forgiving off-center and didn't twist as much when I made contact outside of the sweetspot. I felt in total command of all my groundstrokes throughout the entire playtest."
Troy appreciated the control and stability but wished for a bit more spin potential. He explained, "My favorite aspect of this racquet from the baseline was the pinpoint precision. The dense string pattern had me feeling completely dialed in when hitting the ball close to the lines. I found the combination of a lower static weight and a healthy swingweight provided a fast but stable feel on groundstrokes. My backhand slice was knifing through the court with good depth, and this racquet provided great directional control. The only downside I had with this racquet was that I would have liked a bit more weight to help with put-away power. I was also craving a bit more spin potential on topspin shots because I've become more used to the feel of a 16x19 string pattern since I've been using the RF97."
While the Blade 98 18x20 doesn't necessarily fall into her personal wheelhouse, Michelle still enjoyed the precise feel. Like the other playtesters, she preferred this model to the previous version. She explained, "I enjoyed this update to the Blade 98 18x20, but, like the model it replaces, this racquet just isn't suited to my game style. I don't usually do well with 18x20 string patterns or racquets with lower stiffness ratings. I never really loved the previous version, but I did find this update to be a better option. Power and depth just weren't as readily available as I like from my racquets. I wish there was a bit more plow through because I felt I had to really provide a lot of my own power any time I was trying to be offensive. I almost feel like that classic feel is lost on me since I prefer stiffer, more powerful frames. I noticed a bigger sweetspot in this update, and I did appreciate the fact that I felt like I was getting more power out of this racquet and better access to spin. A great update, just not the racquet for me."
Volleying with the Blade 98 18x20 was one of the highlights of the playtest for our team. Our playtesters loved the precise and responsive feel the Blade 98 had to offer. Michelle had access to her full array of shots as she approached the net. She said, "This could have been my favorite spot with this racquet. Volleys were very precise, and it was easy to pick my target and execute whether I was accessing my touch game or being more aggressive. The racquet was stable, and I felt comfortable blocking back hard hit balls. I could do a lot with this racquet at the net. Its maneuverability made it easy to carve out touch shots, which aren't always my forte."
This racquet performed as well as any racquet for Troy at the net. He explained, "Once again, I was loving the precision and feel of this racquet when I came to net. The combination of maneuverability, above average stability and a plush feel made me feel right at home with this racquet. It provided a lot of response when hitting drop volleys and short angles. If this racquet had some added weight in the handle to provide a more head light feel, I think it would be right up there with the RF97 and Six.One 95 in the volley department."
Andy also enjoyed virtually every aspect of the Blade 98 18x20 at net. He praised, "The super responsive feel and exceptional precision had me feeling in control of my volleys. I thought the feel was softer and plusher -- thus improved -- over the previous version. Maneuverability was good, and it was easy to get the racquet in position during quick exchanges. Stability was improved over the previous version as well. No real complaints here!"
Rounding out the group was Granville, who said, "This racquet felt sharp and crisp at impact and quite maneuverable. At a weight of just 11.3 ounces I can't quite call it a scalpel, but it was still a very comfortable and precise racquet at the net."
Our playtesters continued to appreciate the level of precision and maneuverability the Blade 98 18x20 had to offer, but most of them wished for a bit more easy power and spin. Troy explained, "I enjoyed the precision and maneuverability when serving with this racquet. When I hit flat first serves down the middle I was getting some added pop from the easy maneuverability. I was hitting my targets with good precision and finding nice control with the dense string pattern. The downside for me was that I wasn't finding as much spin compared to the RF97 that I have been using as of late. I also would have preferred some added weight. I found that my timing was slightly off on second serves since I've been serving with a much heavier racquet lately."
Michelle said, "I just didn't have enough power to really hurt opponents with my first serve. On the other hand, I could be really precise, and I found great access to spin and kick. I keyed in on staying consistent and taking a bit off my first serves."
Granville thought the power level was good, but not great. He said, "I was surprised to get to 100 mph with this racquet due to its soft feel and flex. I was especially pleased with the control I felt, although I'm still looking for a racquet that can get me an extra 10+ mph on my serves."
Having the best results when serving was Andy, who was hitting his spots consistently and with good power. He praised, "I know I'm starting to sound like a broken record here, but I really did feel in complete control of all my serves. Flat, slice, kick -- it didn't matter! I could hit all my spots consistently with pace and spin. The tight string pattern allowed me to hone in on small targets and hit them over and over again. A more open string pattern may have allowed me to generate even more kick on my second serves, but that's really the only critique I could think of here. Top notch!"
The maneuverability and solid, precise feel allowed our testers to swing away with confidence when returning serve with the Blade 98 18x20. Andy felt completely dialed in, and he raved, "The precision, maneuverability and feel allowed me to return with full confidence. Punch returns were easy to hit since there was plenty of weight in the hoop. Stepping in and taking the ball early with a full swing was just as fun and easy. I do prefer racquets with a slightly rounder head shape for a little more forgiveness, but once again, it's hard to complain too much about the performance of this exceptional update."
Troy was also returning effectively, but he wished for a bit more heft for punching back chip returns. He said, "I found easy maneuverability and good stability when hitting serve returns with this racquet. The blend of maneuverability and a plush feel gave me the confidence to be aggressive on returns. The pinpoint precision was great when I needed to direct the ball away from the net man in doubles. My favorite shot was my two-handed backhand return because I could drive through the ball with ease. The shot where I was craving a bit more mass was the backhand slice return. With this shot being more based on feel and less on racquet-head speed, I find racquets such as the RF97 and the Six.One 95 to be more favorable."
This racquet got Granville's recommendation. He said, "I was able to really swing away and go on offense early. It's just light enough that I'd encourage others looking to step up their game to give this racquet a try."
While it may not be her personal preference, Michelle could still appreciate the Blade 98 18x20's attributes on her returns. She said, "It's no secret that I like racquets with higher stiffness ratings, and that flexible racquets just aren't something I gravitate toward. With that being said, this wasn't my favorite racquet to return with because of that flexible feel. This is just my personal preference -- not a bad thing at all! I can appreciate the softer, more flexible feel, but it just isn't the feel I enjoy. I was still able to attack and hit my targets, but I just didn't feel as effective."
Granville - "The weight and balance are in my sweetspot (not too heavy, not too light), and the plush feel is an upgrade over the previous model."
Andy - "The Blade 98 18x20 has improved feel and stability over the previous version. There's an excellent blend of modern power and forgiveness with traditional precision and feel. It's awesome for flattening out your shots!"
Troy - "I found pinpoint precision, good stability and a plush feel. Add some weight and I could definitely consider switching to this racquet."
Michelle - "I really appreciated the control and precision from this racquet, especially since those are areas I can struggle with in my game! I love the new cosmetic as well!"
Granville - "It's just a bit too light to really pound my serves and get some extra MPHs."
Andy - "The dense string pattern and small spin window make it a little difficult to generate heavy topspin from the baseline."
Troy - "I would add weight in the handle to provide a more head light feel, although this is more of a personal preference than a knock on the racquet."
Michelle - "This update feels solid all around, it just doesn't match my game. I don't feel it's fair for me to name anything since I think this update plays better than the racquet it replaces!"
Granville - "This new Blade 98 18x20 owns that ethereal space between the Head Prestige and the Wilson Six.One. While less stiff and more comfortable when compared to the Prestige, it has a similar 'strike' as the Six.One.
Andy - "The previous version was my racquet of choice before my recent switch to the Yonex EZONE Ai 98, so in Granville's now infamous words, this playtest was 'just like kissing an old girlfriend'! It had the same blend of attributes that I loved in the previous version, but the feel is slightly softer and plusher, and it's more solid when you make contact off-center. I really liked the previous version (enough to make it my own for over a year), but I think I like this update even more! A couple other comparable racquets include the Yonex EZONE Ai 98, Head Graphene Prestige Pro and Babolat Pure Control Tour."
Troy - "I used to play with the KBlade 98, and this newest version feels much more plush and stable in stock form. This racquet still possesses a lot of the traits that Blade 98 users love about this line of frames. This racquet is a prime example of the modern player's racquet, along with racquets like the Yonex EZONE Ai 98, Head Graphene Radical Pro, Babolat Pure Strike and the Volkl V1 Pro."
Michelle - "Compared to the previous Blade 98, I found this update to have a bit more power and spin, which might be due to a bigger sweetspot."
(Scores are determined by averaging individual play test scores)
Granville: 5.5 all-court player currently using a Babolat Pure Drive 107. Granville is an aggressive player who uses an eastern forehand grip and goes continental on everything else, hits with a flat swing and a one-handed backhand.
Andy: Open level all court player with a semi-western forehand grip and a two handed backhand. Andy currently using a Wilson Blade 98 18x20.
Troy: 5.0 lefty all-court player with a full Western Forehand and a two-handed backhand. Troy currently plays with a Wilson BLX Six.One 95.
Michelle: Open level baseline player with a semi-western forehand and a two handed backhand. She currently plays with the Babolat Pure Drive Roddick.
Review date: December 2014. If you found this review interesting or have further questions or comments please contact us.
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