Prince O3 White Racquet Review
When Maria Sharapova stepped onto the Melbourne courts for the 2006 Australian Open she was wielding a new stick. Joining a growing list of Prince sponsored players making the switch to O3 racquets, Sharapova pulled the O3 White out of her racquet bag.
According to sources at Prince, Sharapova tested the O3 White in a few exhibition matches to make sure the racquet matched her game before heading into the first Grand Slam of the year.
"As soon as I picked up the racquet it felt right", said Sharapova in a statement released by Prince. "I played with it for only a few days before I knew that O3 could make my game better."
Currently, Sharapova is the most visible player to swing the O3 White, but many elite level players were involved in the racquet's development.
"As we've introduced new racquets to the O3 line, we have incorporated a lot of player feedback in the process", said Doug Fonte, president of Prince. "With more than 20 men and women on the pro tour playtesting the O3 White, we've discovered it's a true player's racquet, because it offers enhanced power levels, with reduced torque, and a soft feel."
Anyone who has hit with an O3 racquet is familiar with the dampened feel these racquets offer at impact. While the result is extremely comfortable, not every player likes such a dampened response. To offer the player the choice of a dampened or more feedback response, Prince offers two throat grommets with the O3 White. The racquet comes with the stock, soft rubber throat grommet installed. A hard plastic throat grommet, designed to offer more feedback and less dampening is included with each racquet.
With significant development efforts and pro tour backing behind the O3 White, we just had to hit the courts ourselves and have some fun with this latest O3 offering.
With the soft throat grommet installed, our team noted some excellent comfort with the O3 White. When blasting groundstrokes and tearing up the WTA Tour, Sharapova prefers the O3 White with the hard throat grommet. For the most part, our team agreed, finding additional feel and control from the racquet with the hard grommet installed. Noticing a distinct difference in the feel of the racquet going from soft to hard throat grommets was Josh. "With the soft grommet, the O3 White is a comfortable racquet. Forehands and backhands both felt smooth, rhythmic and effortless. I found plenty of control and pop and was able to generate enough spin to put some weight behind various shots. The O3 White has a nice head-light balance that allowed me to whip through forehands and take balls early for angled shots. On the backhand side, I was comfortable swinging away on sitters and slicing drop shots crosscourt. The racquet changes personalities when the hard grommet is installed. The feel is less dampened and offered better feedback on well struck and mishit balls." Also enjoying the comfortable feel of the O3 White was Jon. "The O3 White with the soft grommet offered a somewhat muted feel on groundstrokes. This was nice as I am coming off an arm injury and this was one of the few racquets that did not cause discomfort. The hard throat piece generated more feel, but was not as comfortable. I did not feel the hard throat piece added any control or power, just better feel and more vibration. With either grommet, the O3 White felt more powerful than my regular Dunlop Muscle Weave 200G. The open string pattern was great, and I found it easy to generate topspin."
Catherine found the response of the O3 White to be very user-friendly. "My groundstrokes felt very solid with this racquet. I really loved the way it played. I could feel that the sweetspot was big and my slightly off-center shots were still working out well. I managed to get some good topspin with this racquet, too. Many of my high, deep shots were still falling just inside or on the baseline. The difference in feel between the hard grommets and soft grommets on this racquet was surprising. I always put vibration dampeners on my racquets because the pinging sound without them really distracts me while I'm playing, so I thought I'd like this racquet better with the soft grommet over the hard grommet. There really was a big difference in the feel of this racquet, but I actually liked it better with the hard grommets. I just felt much more in control, and much more aware of the interaction between the ball and the racquet with the hard grommet." Granville also found the O3 White a solid choice for deep hitting from the baseline. "From the first strike of the ball it was apparent this was a very forgiving racquet with the soft grommet. I could feel the ball sinking into the stringbed and then rebounding comfortably during contact. And, while I think the softness of this option is a plus, I could not find a crisp shot anywhere on the stringbed. I'd probably bump up the tension and choose a stiffer string to remedy the feel with the soft grommet. The hard grommet provided a noticeable increase in crispness to the stringbed. While I enjoyed the soft grommet for the comfort, the harder throat grommet gave me the feel I look for. Given the choice, I prefer the hard grommet. With either grommet installed, I could hit out and found the response to offer a nice safety net - it was difficult to hit the ball long. I'd say this is a very good racquet for the all-court competitive player looking to tone down the power. It is light enough for just about any level player. Combined with the head-light balance, it is a racquet for a very wide spectrum of players."
Finding the O3 White effective for both offensive and defensive hitting was Chris. "I found this racquet to be very comfortable off the ground with either grommet installed. There was some nice pop, but nothing uncontrollable. The stringbed seemed to grip the ball well and I found easy access to both topspin and slice. I favored hitting topspin with this racquet, as it was very maneuverable - allowing me to take a good rip at the ball. I found plenty of spin on slice shots, and liked the added feel of the hard grommet when trying to either float the ball or find a short angle. When ripping the ball with topspin, I would be happy using either grommet, but as soon as I hit a slice or touch shot I favored the added feel I found from the hard grommet. When forced to play defensively with this racquet, I found enough pop to keep the ball deep. The sweetspot felt generous and I felt like I could trade topspin groundstrokes all day."
At net the O3 White proved to be maneuverable and offer a nice blend of power and control. Our team showed a strong preference for the feel of the racquet with the hard grommet when volleying. Finding a generous sweetspot and good maneuverability was Granville. "The weight and balance make this a very maneuverable racquet at net. The hoop being 100 square inches gave me a nice margin for error on shoestring volleys. While very comfortable with the soft grommet, it did lack the crispness I prefer. Tightening the string tension a few pounds might create a more crisp response with the soft grommet. With the hard grommet, I thought the crisp response was more pronounced. I am again reminded of the nice balance of this racquet and with the harder grommet, I found the feedback gave me a bit more confidence in my targeting." Catherine continued to enjoy the response of the O3 White when moving up to net. "My volleys felt great with this racquet. I felt this racquet gave me the perfect amount of control to place my volleys where I wanted them, while still having enough power to turn those well placed volleys into winners. Again, the larger sweetspot helped me keep off-center hits from going wild. With the hard grommet installed, I really got the feedback from the racquet to help me adjust in order to hit nice deep shots."
Chris found a large sweetspot and plenty of comfort from the stringbed. "I found this racquet to be maneuverable and offer some nice pop at net. Again, the racquet felt very comfortable and the large sweetspot helped when I was caught deep or stretched wide. The racquet felt quite dampened with the soft grommet - too dampened for my taste. With the hard grommet installed, there was a huge difference in feel. I was finding better consistency and accuracy on angle and touch volleys. With the hard throat grommet, I felt like I had a better sense of each volley the instant it came off the strings. That type of feedback was missing with the soft grommet." Finding plenty of control on his volleys with the O3 White was Jon. "I liked the control of the racquet at net. I did notice a slight lack of feel with the soft grommet and I know many players like a lot of feel at net. Volleying was the only instance where I was glad to have the hard throat piece installed. The added feel was welcome over the muted feel of the soft grommet. My shots were probably not affected, but I just felt more confident with the hard throat piece at the net."
Josh enjoyed the maneuverability of the O3 White at net. "If the O3 White with the soft grommet had a weakness for me, it would be at net. The racquet didn't respond well on touch shots, and I had a tougher time returning low passing shots. Again, the ball was easier to feel with the hard grommets. Those who prefer to play up front should consider using the hard grommet. With either grommet, the O3 White seemed to undergo a personality change between the baseline and net. Control was lacking, the power a bit much and stability wavered. I simply had a tough time getting in a serve and volley groove with the racquet. Despite the problems at net, the O3 White is comfortable and maneuverable, which is a positive for doubles players looking for an advantage during quick exchanges."
Our team enjoyed serving with the O3 White. The racquet offered some nice pop and easy access to spin, giving our testers plenty of serving options when they stepped up to the line. Finding some solid pace and spin on his serves was Chris. "This was a nice stick to serve with. I found good pace and plenty of spin. I was finding my targets most of the time and was happy with the directional control of my serves. The O3 White felt maneuverable and I was generating some healthy racquet head speed, resulting in nice pace and spin." Jon found the racquet to compliment his kick serve the most. "The O3 White is quite spin friendly, this was especially noticeable on my kick serve. On hard flat serves, I had trouble keeping the serve on target. The O3 White had quite a bit more power than my Muscle Weave 200G, and it took some time getting used to it. When going for spin, I was able to generate a lot more pace with this racquet and a much more aggressive kick."
Josh found plenty of pace serving with the O3 White. "This racquet has plenty of pop for first serves, which enabled me to squeeze a few aces past opponents. My second serves had a fair amount of kick and I didn't lose much pace compared to first serves. As with groundstrokes, the O3 White is really comfortable on serves and I did not experience any fatigue in my shoulders during match play." Also enjoying the comfortable response of the O3 White on serve was Granville. "I was very comfortable serving with this racquet. It seems to pass through the air a bit faster and cleaner, which really allowed me to get on top of the ball. Targeting was very true and comfortable."
The O3 White continued to impress our team on the return. Hitting her returns with confidence was Catherine. "The control I had with this racquet gave me confidence to go after medium paced serves and make offensive shots out of my service returns. I liked that I could swing fast and aggressively at the serve without the ball going way long." Also taking a good cut at his returns was Granville. "I enjoyed returning with this racquet. I could take the offensive and drive the ball with little worry of hitting long. The stringbed was lively enough to allow me to defensively block the ball with good control. I did notice a lack of response when returning slightly off-center, more so than I would expect."
"I was pleased with my return game using the O3 White", said Josh. "It was another racquet that handled the brunt of the work without much effort from me. My crosscourt returns were solid and deep, and I found success slicing returns when I was put on the defensive. I had some trouble returning down the line, which has always been one of my favorite shots. I didn't miss the lines by much, but enough to force me to play more conservatively. I actually preferred the dampened feel of the soft grommet when returning serve. The soft dampeners led me to believe all of my returns were hit well, which was great, but not necessarily true. Regardless of what my mind was telling me, the net effect was that I was playing more freely and I was less critical of a weakness in my game." Finding some nice angles when returning serve was Chris. "The racquet's maneuverable feel really came through on the return. I was able to return aggressively on all but the toughest serves. I was finding good racquet head speed and the spin friendly stringbed helped my angle and deep aggressive returns land inside the lines. I especially enjoyed hitting my two-handed backhand return with this racquet. I was finding plenty of pace and some great angles. Lately, I've been working on really going after my returns rather than floating or guiding them, so grommet choice wasn't as much of an issue. I mean, how much feel do you need when you're trying to rip the felt off the ball?"
Perhaps having the best results returning with the O3 White was Jon. "For me, returning serve was the strongpoint of the racquet. The O3 White has a large sweetspot and it is very forgiving. I had the most fun when swinging away with this racquet on forehand returns. The O3 White does generate good power and most of the time a nice short backswing and good follow through were more than adequate to generate good pace. The open string pattern allowed me to get a little more aggressive with my shots, knowing the topspin I was finding would help keep the ball in the court. The hard throat piece added feel when returning serve, but I preferred the softer throat piece. Most notable was the vibration, which was otherwise muted with the softer throat piece. Control and power seemed similar."
Prince proves again that it is only good to have holes in your game if those holes are O Ports. Players familiar with the soft and dampened feel of O3 racquets will find the same response here. Those looking for a crisper feel at impact need only string the O3 White with the optional hard throat grommet. From all areas of the court, we found a generous sweetspot and easy access to spin. The O3 White proved to be very maneuverable and it was easy to find the racquet head speed needed for aggressive baseline hitting. Players from the 3.5+ to advanced level who like to play aggressively from all areas of the court should definitely take this one for a demo.
Review date: April 2006. If you found this review interesting or have further questions or comments please contact us.
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