BLX Pro Tour Racquet Review
Who's the 2009 U.S. Open Champion?
Juan Martin del Potro, of course. Who can forget his inspired play and excellent shot making en route to dethroning the formidable Roger Federer?
His racquet of choice?
The Wilson BLX Pro Tour.
The more difficult question: Is the BLX Pro Tour a player's stick or a 'tweener?
In many ways, the answer is both. It offers the playability that an elite pro requires to be competitive, while providing the forgiveness and power an intermediate level player requires.
In the past, many Tour players seemed to favor heavier, head light sticks that offered driving plow through. Currently, it seems more Tour players are finding lighter, midplus racquets to their liking. The added benefits of power, control and maneuverability make such racquets an ideal choice for today's fast paced and heavy spin game. The pros are not the only ones to reap rewards form this kind of set up; those added benefits are also perfect for intermediate players.
Now, bringing such performance to the masses is nothing new. In fact, the BLX Pro Tour is an update to the KPro Tour. The BLX Pro Tour stays fairly close to its roots, offering the same frame shape and very similar specs. However, Wilson changed the string pattern in the BLX Pro Tour from the open 16x20 pattern of the KPro Tour to a tighter, more controlled 18x20 pattern.
On the specs front, the BLX Pro Tour dons a static weight of 11.6 ounces strung and a 332 swingweight (RDC), while having a rare headsize of 96 square inches.
While the specs seem to offer versatility for different levels of play, how would the BLX Pro Tour perform for our diverse group of playtesters? We took this stick out for a month-long play test to find out.
Groundstrokes - Score: 82
Our testers had differing opinions about how this racquet played from the baseline. For some the power was low, offering 'swing-out' control, while others felt the power needed to be harnessed.
Finding a good combination of power and control was Chris, who said, "I really enjoyed hitting this racquet from the baseline. I liked the level of power I was finding. The tight string pattern seemed to do a good job of keeping everything in check so I could swing away and play aggressively. I found I could hit all of my shots with confidence. I felt like I could sit back and rally smoothly, as well as take a big swing at the ball and still maintain control. Spin production was great, and I was getting lots of action on both topspin and slice shots."
Troy felt this control-oriented stick performed better the faster he swung. He said, "Without a doubt, this racquet is more effective using long, fast strokes. The static weight and swingweight made me feel right at home. What stood out the most at the baseline was that this racquet possesses a firm, crisp feel on impact, and it proved to be low powered and control-oriented. This racquet provided top-notch control without possessing that soft, flexible feel I get from racquets like the Head Prestige mid or the ProKennex Black Ace 93. I enjoyed the fact that I could swing freely from just about anywhere on the court. However, to generate a lot of spin and depth on groundstrokes I had to generate a lot of racquet head speed. It was easy for me to see how a racquet such as this caters to a playing style such as Juan Martin del Potro's."
Spencer enjoyed the crisp power off the ground. He offered, "The more I hit with this racquet from the baseline, the more I liked it. This update to the KPro Tour has virtually the same specs, but with a tighter string pattern. The BLX Pro Tour offers power and control when hitting groundstrokes. When I speak of power, I refer to being able to put away shots. I also enjoyed the ease of hitting the backhand slice. Directional control was nice on all strokes. I felt the tight string pattern played a big role in this department, and I was able to control the direction of the ball. Control in the depth department, however, was a little different. I didn't feel I could get as much spin with this racquet and string pattern, so I felt like I was hitting flatter, more penetrating shots. But with that came more balls sailing long. I'll also say that this stick felt very solid. I think the thicker, dual tapered beam has a bit to do with that. As a side note, I'll also say that as a fan of genuine leather grips, I was impressed with the sensation of the Pro Hybrid grip."
Granville agreed with Spencer concerning the power, saying, "This is a nice alternative to the typical performance racquet and similar in many respects to the cult classic, Babolat Pure Drive. Despite an intoxicating sweetspot and excellent maneuverability, the BLX Pro Tour offered quite a bit of power that needed to be tamed. My groundies were regularly sailing long initially. I reduced my swing speed a bit, and by the end of the match was far more comfortable with this racquet. At 10 points head light it is maneuverable enough for just about anyone. I found I could whip this racquet around and utilize the top of the stringbed for added spin."
Volleys - Score: 77
The headlight balance offered excellent maneuverability while providing enough heft to offer a stable response.
Enjoying the maneuverability and versatility at net was Spencer, who said, "The BLX Pro Tour felt quite good at net, offering a combination of head light maneuverability with a nice amount of stability. There was also a good balance of punch and feel for the more delicate placement volleys."
Troy liked the control and stiffer feel. He said, "The firm feel of this racquet was beneficial to me when at net, since I am accustomed to racquets with a stiffer feel. There was just enough mass to make this racquet feel stable and allow me to stick volleys with good pace and depth. I found myself being able to really knife my volleys with a lot of under spin, forcing tough returns for the person across the net. The dense pattern supplied me with great control, while still possessing good feel when going for the droppers."
"At about 11 and a half ounces the racquet is a bit less stable than the heavier performance/player's racquets - but that doesn't mean it is less capable," said Granville. "The large sweetspot and lighter weight allowed me to get the racquet on just about anything hit my way at net."
Chris agreed, "I was impressed with this racquet at net, too. There was plenty of touch and feel, along with enough pop to get the ball away. The racquet felt very light and fast and I never felt like I was struggling to get into position. This was a very fun racquet to volley with."
Serves - Score: 78
Much like hitting groundstrokes with this stick, our testing crew's viewpoints were mixed when it came to serves.
Granville found plenty of power when serving. He said, "It's the serve where I find the BLX Pro Tour complements my game the most. I was getting a bit more power on my serve, and I was hitting one bouncers against the back wall. Here again, I was utilizing the upper stringbed to get over the ball, generating more spin and pulling my opponent farther out of the court than usual on the deuce side. In doing so it opened up a well positioned first volley or the inside out forehand to the other corner."
Experiencing excellent spin and control was Chris, who said, "I served well with this racquet. At first I was wondering if it had enough power, but as I continued to test it throughout the month, I was finding enough pace on my serves. What impressed me the most, though, was the spin and subsequent control I found. Again, the racquet felt very light and fast, and I think that really helped me maximize spin. I felt very confident moving the ball around to various targets on both first and second serves, which enabled me to keep my opponent guessing."
With neither Troy nor Spencer having spectacular power on his serve, the racquet wasn't as effective on serve. Troy said, "Because I don't have a huge serve, I don't feel that I benefited from this racquet as much in this category. I didn't feel as though I had as much variety as I typically do with my own racquet. The aspects that make this racquet low powered and not so spin-friendly wouldn't allow me to create as much spin on my typical lefty slice serve."
Spencer echoed his thoughts, stating, "I felt average at best when serving with this racquet. The very dense stringbed seemed to hinder any extra spin. Placement was good while power was decent. I just couldn't get a whole lot of action on the ball when trying to mix up pace."
Serve Returns - Score: 75
The light and fast BLX Pro Tour felt very responsive on returns of serve. Troy took a page out of Granville's playtest dictionary to describe the racquets 'scalpel-like precision'. "Control was key for me when returning serve. I found myself pinpointing spots on the court, which helped me place the ball to my opponent's weaker side in singles or away from the net man in doubles. I had to adjust my returns, aiming deeper in the court due to the lack of power. I found the scalpel-like precision of this racquet to be very beneficial when playing doubles, keeping the return away the person at the net and allowing me to get into the point and close out at the net. Control shined on returns, but power was lacking."
Finding this category to be the strongest for his play was Chris. "My favorite shot with this racquet was returning serve. I felt like I could really stay on the gas and take a good cut at the ball. Most importantly, the tight stringbed offered plenty of feel and control so I could keep bigger shots on target. The light and fast feel allowed me to whip the racquet around and get lots of spin and pace."
Spencer had to tame the power of this racquet by keeping his swings more compact. "With the extra power I found in this stick, I felt I had to peel back my swing a bit on returns", said Spencer. "I didn't feel like I could get away with taking an aggressive cut without a lot of balls flying long on returns. In turn, I felt myself giving up on offensive returns and feeling more comfortable chipping or slicing returns to start the point. As with groundstrokes, I liked the directional control but wasn't getting the consistent depth inside the baseline."
Being able to take advantage of being aggressive was Granville. "If you are an aggressive returner you will like this racquet. It was easy to handle and maneuver against all but the biggest servers. The tubular shaft offers great rigidity and strength, which translates into power. If you are a defensive returner, a bit more mass would help with stability."
Summary - Score: 80
Though our playtest team had differing opinions in many of the categories, they would all agree that the BLX Pro Tour has plenty to offer. The weight of the racquet is manageable while offering a good amount of stability. At 96 square inches the head size isn't large, but the sweetspot has a forgiving feel with good pop. Different styles of play made characteristics of this stick appealing to different playtesters. Our testers who hit with more spin loved the control they found, while our flatter hitting testers found more power. All in all, the BLX Pro Tour offers plenty of performance and certainly has something to offer most players. Overall, we found it to offer a nice blend of characteristics, making it a versatile offering within the Wilson BLX line up.
Chris "I really liked the mobility, spin, control and feel I found playing with this one."
Spencer "The solid feel and put away power. I'm also a fan of the Pro-Hybrid Grip."
Troy "When strung with a poly or poly hybrid this racquet allowed me to take huge cuts at the ball, while finding a ton of control. For the fans of a dense string pattern, they don't make them any denser than this. I thought it has a good handle length for two-handers."
Granville "The weight and balance specs were right where I like them. The Pro Hybrid grip feels good - not too soft with good tack. It feels similar to a leather grip with a tacky overgrip on it. It may be the first and best grip of its kind in that respect."
Chris "Not much. It was an enjoyable hit for me, and I don't think I'd change anything given the opportunity."
Spencer "The lack of topspin and lack of depth control."
Troy "I would have liked more power from the racquet, especially when serving and returning."
Granville "I had to adjust my game to be competitive with it - it felt more powerful than I'm used to."
Wilson Pro Tour BLX Scores
(Scores are determined by averaging individual play test scores)
Chris: 5.0 All court player currently using the Volkl Power Bridge 10 Mid. Chris uses a full-western forehand grip, has a fast swing style and hits a two-handed backhand.
Troy 5.0 lefty all-court player with a full Western Forehand and a two handed backhand. Troy currently plays with the Wilson K-Blade 98.
Granville:5.5 all-court player currently using a Wilson K Factor Six-One Tour 95. 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.
Spencer: 4.5 Baseline player currently using a Wilson K-Blade Tour. Spencer uses a semi-western forehand grip, and hits with a one-handed backhand.
Review date: May 2010. If you found this review interesting or have further questions or comments please contact us.
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