Last year (1999), we discussed the growth of 'tweeners as a separate racquet category (between traditional player's racquets and more powerful game improvement models). Since then, we've seen at least a half dozen new 'tweener racquets introduced - some of which have become best sellers. Based on our playtesters' responses, Prince's new Triple Threat Bandits will no doubt be added to the list of winning 'tweener racquets. Granville even exclaims, "The Bandits are the pinnacle of the Triple Threats to date."
Armed with Triple Braid weighting at 2 & 10 o'clock, as well as at the handle end, these racquets have a solid feel that belies their 10 ounce weight. Whereas a few previous Triple Threat models came across as being somewhat sluggish, Prince engineers have found a sweet combination of maneuverability, stability and comfort in the Bandits. Seven of TW's finest put both headsizes through their paces for two weeks. Here are our conclusions.
Survey says....the TT Bandit MP swings heavier and is more stable than it's 10 ounce weight would suggest. For almost every playtester this was a positive feature. Andy offers, "it just felt good. I was able to generate good pop on my groundies but never felt I didn't have control." John says, "the standard length will appeal to 'old school' players. Even though it's a 'tweener, the Bandit MP is geared to better players looking for comfort, maneuverability and enough power to neutralize one's opponent. The racquet is virtually shock and vibration-free. Even off-center hits produced little jarring."
Dan was impressed most with the Bandit MP. He comments, "I haven't found a sweeter feeling racquet that fits my full stroke in some time. The Bandit MP has an impressive blend of off-center stability while maintaining nice frame flexibility. The first 'player's-'tweener' racquet I felt confident with when hitting in the upper quarter of the stringbed. Spin control was excellent from the baseline - slice bit heavy and stayed low, while topspin was never in question. Best of all, the Bandit MP gave off little of the normal vibration found in many control-oriented racquets. It's a very comfortable, plush-feeling ride."
Granville adds, "This 10 ounce racquet plays more like an 11 1/2 ounce frame offering excellent comfort and stability while maintaining good power and control. On the forehand side, I could hit the ball early, late or just right and put the ball where I wanted to with no additional thought or effort. Topspin backhands remained the only shot offering lower power than I would like. Don continues, "it offers just enough power for my medium swing and provides the comfort I like. Balls hit up high still have good pace and there is almost no flutter or twisting thanks to the Triple Braid weighting. This 'technology' really works to enhance stability and bring the racquet's swingweight to a solid 333. It swings a full ounce heavier but is still maneuverable. Now, if it were only 1/2 inch longer..."
Conventional wisdom tells us a racquet must be balanced head-light to be a "good volleying racquet". Well, the Bandit MP is certainly an exception. Balanced even to slightly head-heavy (ours measured 3 points head-heavy), it glides easily from side to side without any sluggishness and offers rock-solid stability for a midplus 'tweener. Peter comments, "I finally found the answer to my short, weak volleys with the Bandit MP. Despite my extremely short backswing, I was able to consistently volley deep and with power. It also has enough touch to drop balls short when desired." Andy adds, "the Bandit MP offers fantastic maneuverability at net. It has enough heft, though, to allow for crisp, solid volleys without sacrificing touch or feel. I felt so confident at net that I changed my game to incorporate serve and volley...and it worked!"
Dan says, "the combination of features (lightweight, Triple Braid weighting, beam width, etc.) helped make volleys feel solid and comfortable all around. Again, not much vibration here, just a real nice feel, but with enough flexibility to be confident with placement and touch angles. Half volley drop shots and quick-handed change of direction gave me the impression I was playing with a head-light, 11.5 ounce racquet. No problem hitting overheads at any pace. Good preparation is still required, though, because the Bandit MP doesn't play like a 10 ounce racquet. Once in position for overheads, racquet head speed is easy to generate." Don offers, "it sounds canned but the Bandit MP literally felt like an extension of my arm. How many racquets are quick, stable and offer both power and touch? Even against hard-hit shots, the frame didn't twist or torque. Only thing missing for me was about 1/2 inch..." Granville explains, "when it comes to volleys, the single most important characteristic of a racquet is balance. Balance will make or break a racquet at the net and the Bandit MP passed this test with flying colors. Even at 1-3 pts. head-heavy, the combination of weight, balance and standard length made for an excellent volleying racquet (this from someone who prefers 10-12 pts. head light balance!). I could absorb all the pace from a well struck groundie and drop it 12 inches on the other side of the net, or angle it short cross court for the winner. I don't recall missing a volley while playing with this racquet."
The Bandit MP offers the traditional feeling of a standard-length player's racquet, along with the maneuverability of a 'tweener. Dan comments, "the 'plush' feel dampened some of the raw power I look for in a player-oriented racquet, but not by much. The trade-off came in the form of spin control. Slice and kick serves had action hard to find in frames at this weight. I was getting approximately a foot more jump on my kick serve deliveries." Peter adds, "great power and maneuverability on serves. I had surprising success with my kick serve, as I was able to put more speed on the ball than normal. Still, I wouldn't confuse it with a player's racquet; there isn't enough flexibility to really hit through serves or overheads." Don offers, "I served well with the Bandit MP. On first serves, I felt confident hitting the hard, flat ball up the middle, as well as slices out wide. Second serves were penetrating with good spin and kick."
The Bandit MP's lightness allows for taking a swipe against most serves without being late. Against big servers, the Triple Braid weighting provides adequate stability for blocking the ball back into play. Peter comments, "my returns really benefited from the generous sweetspot and shock/vibration damping." Dan says, "the Bandit MP's stability and lack of torque was impressive for withstanding the punishment of hard-hit serves. It increased my confidence to step up and take the ball early. The strongest point for me on returns, though, was being able to effectively chip and charge against second serves. My slice approach shots stayed low. This bodes well for doubles players and chip/chargers where good 'bite' is critical."
Andy was less impressed on returns, offering "this is one category where I felt I needed a larger hitting surface. The head just seemed too small and I had trouble controlling my returns unless I met them just right." Don adds, "the racquet was impressively stable against even big serves and I was able to chip and charge against many second serves with good results. Still, the racquet head seemed small for me and I did mis-hit a fair number of returns."
The Triple Threat Bandit Midplus is a unique racquet. Although we categorize it as a 'tweener, it will appeal to players seeking more control than power in this category, along with stability and comfort. Best suited for 4.0-5.5 all-court or serve/volley singles players and aggressive doubles players. If you're looking for a lightweight, yet stable, standard length, 95 square inch racquet, we encourage you to check out the Triple Threat Bandit Midplus. Even players used to swinging heavier sticks may find the Bandit MP appealing, as Dan explains, "I think I've finally found a sub-11 ounce, head-heavy racquet that I could switch to but still feel like I'm swinging something solid and weighted. That's saying a lot for someone who has played with a 12-12.5 ounce racquet his whole life."
(Scores are determined by averaging individual play test scores)
With many racquets, the mid or midplus version is the shining star, while the oversize is relegated to backseat status. This is not the case with the Triple Threat Bandit. In fact, a few of our playtesters found the oversize preferable to the midplus in most performance categories.
The Bandit OS offers the benefits of a 110 head and 27.5 inch frame, while retaining maneuverability and control. Andy begins, "groundies felt fantastic with this racquet! The Triple Braid and Sweet Spot Suspension System produce an extremely comfortable ride. It was beefy enough for me to control my shots with ease and I had full confidence, whether hitting deep or going for short angle shots. It has a nice, big sweetspot that makes groundstroke feel solid. I experienced little, if any, torque when hitting off-center. The open string pattern provided great spin potential to harness in the racquet's power."
Peter adds, "it offers great power from the baseline and the open string pattern helps considerably in generating topspin and slice. However, it didn't have the kind of touch I prefer. My dink and drop shots were ineffective with the Bandit OS." John says, "I was able to generate good power and depth by taking a smooth, moderate stroke. Increasing my swing speed resulted in a bit more power but also more errors. Mis-hits were and even those shots didn't result in much discomfort or frame twisting. The 110 square-inch head is complimented by Sweet Spot Suspension and Triple Braid weighting to make this racquet comfortable and stable." Dan comments, "good power and spin but control was lacking some for my wide, full swing. The Bandit OS better suits players with medium swings. The open string pattern provided good ball bite. Hitting thick topspin and slice was as easy as it was fun." Don offers, "it didn't have the bulky feeling of many oversize racquets. Good combination of maneuverability, stability, power and control. The open string pattern is great for spin but will be killer on strings for hard-hitting topspinners. I liked the extra 1/2 inch of length - it fit the oversize head perfectly."
Not surprisingly, volleys are a strong suit for the Bandit OS, as evidenced by Andy's feedback. "I had a lot of fun with the oversize head at net. Maneuverability is excellent and I had no problem meeting every volley out in front. The headsize, coupled with the mass provided by Triple Braid weighting, enabled me to pack a pretty big punch behind my volleys. Deep volleys were a natural with the Bandit OS but I could also execute the tougher 'cute' angle shots every now and then." Peter adds, "this racquet offered good punch from the net, requiring virtually no backswing to keep nearly every volley deep. Control and touch for me, though, were limited so some volleys were unpredictable." Dan comments, "although I felt some loss of touch and feel (in comparison to the midplus), the tradeoff was increased power. It didn't take much to get the ball deep in the court to set up the put-away volley or overhead. I found utilizing the racquet's spin prowess provided the control needed for placement. Touch and hard-to-hit angles met with a success that few oversize longer racquets are capable of." Don offers, "nice blend of maneuverability and stability. I enjoyed the option of either blocking back hard-hit shots or manipulating easier balls with spin and touch. Great doubles stick."
Like many oversize racquets with open string patterns, the Bandit OS provides more spin than pure power when serving. Dan explains, "much like my groundstrokes, I had to scale down my fast swing speed and add more slice and/or kick to keep my first serves in the box. If you're seeking a racquet that can deliver monster amounts of spin on serves, this is it." Andy adds, "the 'beefy' nature of the racquet, combined with 1/2 inch of extra length, allowed me to really pick up the pace on my serves. I did have to reign in my first serve a bit, adding more spin to pull the ball into the service box. This was no problem with the open string pattern. I won quite a few points on second serves, too. Deep, heavy topspin and slice came naturally to the Bandit OS."
John says, "I wasn't able to generate as much power on serves and overheads as with my regular stick. I'm used to a little longer racquet and just was not able to get the pop I'm used to. Spin serves, though, were easy to hit and I found myself utilizing more 'english' than brute force, with some success." Peter concludes, "although I could generate decent power and spin on my serves, it lacked the maneuverability I like."
Returning serve with the Bandit OS will reward compact-medium stroke players the most. Block returns are especially effective, due to the racquet's oversize head and Triple Braid weighting. Andy comments, "I had nothing but confidence with my returns. The harder the serve, the better! Once again, the stability and head-weight, combined with the Bandit OS's fantastic maneuverability, contributed to an overall comfortable feel. Very little torque on off-center hit. As long as I could get my racquet on the serve, I knew I was in good shape to hit a solid return!" Dan says, "I found defensive slice returns had excellent bite and control. Compact to medium swing types will find best success when returning hard-hit deliveries. Bigger hitters can take their cuts but, again, spin control is the key if you're going large on returns."
Approach shots can also be hit effectively, either with slice or driven with pace. Andy loved hitting approach shots, saying, "my approach shots were ON with the Bandit OS! Great spin, along with good control. I couldn't ask for two better attributes in a racquet to fit my approach game. The solid feel allowed for super depth, whether it was a slice backhand down the line or a reverse cross-court forehand drive. My confidence skyrocketed with the Bandit OS and I looked to jump on any short balls that came my way!"
Prince has successfully threaded the needle with the Triple Threat Bandit Oversize, making a 10 ounce, oversize racquet with adequate stability and comfort, that isn't too head-heavy. It is also different enough from other Triple Threat models to stand alone. The Bandit OS will be most attractive to all-court or serve/volley 4.0-5.0+ singles players who have compact-medium swings. Doubles specialists will find it ideal for fast-paced net exchanges. If you fit these player types and are shopping for a new racquet, you should definitely consider the Triple Threat Bandit Oversize.
(Scores are determined by averaging individual play test scores)
Granville: 5.5 all-court player currently using a Wilson Pro Staff 6.0 85.
Dan: 5.5 all-court player currently using a Gamma Diamond Fiber 9.5 MP.
Don: 4.5-5.0 all-court player currently using a Yonex Ultimum RQ TI-1700 MP.
Drew: 4.5-5.0 baseliner currently using a Wilson Pro Staff 6.0 85.
John: 4.5 all-court player currently using a Prince Triple Threat Bandit OS.
Andy: 5.0 all-court player using a Wilson Hammer Ti 4.4 Midplus.
Peter: 3.5 baseline player currently using a Dunlop Tour Pro +1.0 Midplus.
Review date: September, 2000. If you found this review interesting or have further questions or comments please contact us.
All content copyright 2000 Tennis Warehouse.