Wilson nTour Racquets Review
In a one-sided affair, Henin-Hardenne used her Wilson nTour 95 to devastating effect in a 6-1, 6-1 dismissal of hometown favorite, Mary Pierce. Ripping heavy topspin shots off both wings, Henin-Hardenne looked unstoppable from the moment she stepped onto the red clay of Roland Garros.
While most of us can only dream of being able to hit the ball like Henin-Hardenne, we can at least give ourselves a fighting chance by using the same racquet. New for 2005, the Wilson nTour 95 continues the development of the even balanced Hammer style racquets that began with the Hyper Hammer 5.2. The popular 5.2 gave way to Henin-Hardenne's previous racquet, the H Tour.
Both the Wilson Hammer 5.2 and the H Tour racquets were available in two headsizes, and Wilson has continued this trend with the nTour. While one would expect the traditional midplus and oversize offerings, the nTour line actually features two different midplus sized racquets. The smaller head size features a traditional 95 sq. in. head, while the larger head size is 105 sq. in., not quite an oversize and barely a midplus. With oversize racquets classified at more than 106 sq. in., the nTour 105 takes the midplus headsize to the max. Having both nTours designated as midplus racquets is somewhat confusing, so for our review we refer to the nTours as 95 and 105, respectively.
Drawing on some heavy inspiration from the French Open, we hit the courts determined to hit with more spin more consistently. Could the nTour 95 and 105 be up to the task?
Our team was impressed by the solid feel and spin friendly response of the nTour 95 from the baseline. Brad said, "off the ground the nTour performed really well. I found that I was getting good depth and spin from the racquet. The sweetspot was very generous and the balls came off the racquet with a very crisp feel. One thing I did notice was that I was not able to keep the ball down and I felt like my shots on the forehand side were traveling over the net at a higher trajectory than normal. Also, every once in a while I would spray the ball deep or wide. I also found that I was able to hit my backhand slice very effectively with this racquet. I was able to keep the ball very low while still getting good pace and placement. Compared to the H Tour 95, I found the nTour 95 to have a bit more power and feel. To me the H Tour felt mushy and not as crisp." Also finding plenty of spin on his groundstrokes with the nTour 95 was Josh. "The Wilson nTour 95 felt good on groundstrokes. Compared to the H Tour 95, the nTour 95 seemed stiffer and felt heftier. The nTour offered more punch on forehands and backhands and was more responsive to topspin and slices than its predecessor. The nCode Technology may be the real deal, because it definitely felt "two times stronger and two times more stable", as reported by Wilson on our web site. My groundstrokes were controlled and I was confident going for some of the riskier shots I like to hit. The nTour also performed well at mid-court, where approach shots can be tough to hit. The racquet offered enough power that I wasn't tempted to hit a direct winner. I could place the ball in the corner and follow with a winner at net."
Quickly finding the groove with the nTour 95 was Don. "From the first groundstroke, I enjoyed the nTour 95. Its specs fit right into my comfort zone, providing a good balance of power, control and maneuverability, AND a stable, solid feel. It is comfortable without being too dampened or mushy. Compared to its predecessor, the H Tour, I found it to have a more solid and comfortable feel; kind of like a tight, new sports car compared to an older model that has a few rattles. This was a bit surprising, since the H Tour includes 10% Kevlar (a dampening material) and the nTour does not. On court, I enjoyed a predictable response on both sides, allowing me to generate good pace and depth with my medium-long swing. Topspin and slice were easy to generate, thanks to a fairly open string pattern. When the opportunity arose, I could take a bigger swing without fear of the ball flying." Wendi did not adjust to the response of the nTour 95 as quickly and struggled to find her range. "The nTour had a very solid feeling at impact, with great pop off the strings. It did take me a few games to get into some kind of groove, but I found it to be a decent racquet from the baseline. I was chasing down shots with good response and control, but I seemed to be hitting just a tad long. To me the nTour felt like it was head-heavy. When I found out it has an even balance I assumed I was hitting long due to the added stability factors of the nCode technology. I don't think my swing is fast enough for the nTour."
Chris enjoyed the solid feel of the nTour 95 from the baseline. "I found the nTour 95 to offer a more solid feel compared to the H Tour 95 it replaces - it seems like this is a continuing trend in the evolution of this racquet, as I found a similar difference between the H Tour 95 and the Hammer 5.2 it replaced. Off the ground the nTour 95 felt like a much easier racquet to use compared to either the H Tour 95 or the Hammer 5.2. With the nTour 95 I was able to find more depth on my shots without any additional effort. However, I thought the racquet lacked the crisp feel of the H Tour 95. With the H Tour 95 I felt more connected to what was going on. With the nTour 95 I was hitting a better ball, but I could not feel my shots as well. I found plenty of spin on topspin groundstrokes and I was able to generate plenty of angle when I wanted to pull an opponent wide. I was also able to get plenty of hop when I wanted to push an opponent deep off the baseline."
and Overheads The nTour 95 offered plenty of pop and a solid response for our team at net. Don offered, "at net, I found the weight and almost-even balance ideal for quick volley exchanges. There was still enough mass in the head to retain a stable platform, so the racquet didn't get pushed around. I also enjoyed good touch and feel. When a lob went up I could maneuver the nTour 95 quickly and hit an effective overhead." Brad found the playability of the H Tour and the n Tour 95 racquets to be very similar at net. "Volleys were crisp and came off the racquet very cleanly. I was able to hit the ball deep and where I wanted to most of the time. Every once in a while I found myself hitting long. In comparison to the H Tour, I didn't feel there was much of a difference when it came to volleys."
Chris offered, "again, I found some nice pop and a more solid feel compared to the H Tour 95. I was able to volley deep to the baseline without much effort. Angle volleys felt controlled as long as I kept things compact. I enjoyed volleying with this racquet and think it will appeal to players who like to push forward and attack the net. There was ample power to dispatch high volleys and overheads with little effort. I found a simple wrist snap provided enough pace on the ball to get overheads cleanly away."
Wendi struggled to control the power she was finding on her volleys with the nTour. "At net, the nTour was a little too lively for me. It was stable but seemed to be stiff, too. I did not have much success controlling my volleys. I was lucky if they were in play, and placement went out the window. I found myself sticking to the baseline, almost reluctant to charge the net." Also finding a powerful response from the nTour at net was Josh. "The nTour was a little more powerful on volleys than I would have liked. Maneuverability wasn't a problem, nor was the depth on volleys from mid-court. However, the racquet didn't offer the best feel on touch volleys, and I felt I missed more shots than usual at the net. Aside from a lack of feel, the nTour was responsive in quick points and my overhead volleys were solid."
Our team enjoyed serving with the nTour 95. Finding a solid mix of power and spin was Don. "I found the nTour 95 a good serving tool. It has the 'serious' feel of a player's racquet, but with better maneuverability. The almost even balance places enough mass behind the ball to provide good power. I was able to hit solid first serves, enjoying predictable placement and good pace. On second serves, I was able to swing almost as hard as on first serves, obtaining security by trading spin for power." Chris found a similar response from the nTour 95. "I found a good mix of pace and spin. I found it easy to whip the racquet through the contact zone, resulting in plenty of spin on slice and kick serves. The racquet was a little light for repeatedly trying to serve hard and flat, and I would add some additional weight to this one to make it more fitting for my game."
Finding plenty of pace on his serves with the nTour 95 was Brad. "The nTour 95 packed a lot of punch when it came to serving. Even though I was able to get some good pop on my serves with this racquet, I did not feel like I was as accurate as I am with my Yonex RDX 500 Midplus. Slice serves and kick serves had a decent amount of spin and pace as well." Wendi found a more consistent response. "I had good consistency serving with the nTour 95. My placement was average and my pace was average. It wasn't great, though, and definitely not something to brag about. My serves kept me in the game, but didn't take my opponents off-guard."
Josh found plenty of weight on his serve with the nTour 95. "I found a nice groove on serve with the nTour 95. My first serves were consistently deep and controlled, and I was able to generate a fair amount of topspin on second serves. The H Tour offered similar control and topspin, but the difference was pace. My serves with the H Tour were much faster compared to the nTour, but not as heavy. My opponents seemed to have more difficulty returning serves I hit with the N Tour."
Return of Serve
The even balance of the nTour 95 offered our team a good combination of maneuverability and stability on return. Chris said, "I was able to return aggressively with this racquet. I found good access to spin and was able to hit some nice angle returns. The nTour 95 seemed to offer more power than a traditional player's racquet, but not so much that I felt like I had to dramatically hold back. With this racquet I just worked on keeping my backswing short and accelerating through the contact point." Also finding a good fit for her return game with the nTour 95 was Wendi. "My returns were probably my best stroke with the nTour 95. I still sensed the powerful feel, but I wasn't having any problems hitting long. I was able to control my returns with decent accuracy, and I was able to change the pace and spin."
Brad would have liked a little more weight to the nTour 95 on the return. "I think that this is where the lighter weight of this racquet is exposed. Even though the higher swingweight makes it feel heavier than it is, it does not help when you are trying to return serves that are hit with a good amount of pace. Some extra weight here would have helped with stability as well as control and pace when returning serve." Finding a happy medium between power and control on the return was Josh. "Overall, the nTour 95 was a good fit for my return game. The racquet felt powerful enough to do the work on returns, but not so strong that I couldn't pound a winner against second serves. One of the advantages the H Tour has over the nTour is its lighter, whip-like feel. I was able to return a few faster serves for winners that I couldn't have hit with the nTour."
Don found the maneuverable nTour 95 allowed him to hit a variety of returns. "Being a 'tweener, the nTour 95 allowed me choices when returning serve. Against big first serves, I could use a short blocking motion and get the ball back into play effectively. On all other returns, I could generate my own racquet head speed, and hit a more aggressive return. Unlike some other 'tweeners, I didn't feel the need for any additional weight in the head."
The nTour 95 offers a more solid and stable feel than the Hyper Hammer 5.2 and H Tour from every area of the court. Off the ground we found the nTour 95 kept the excellent spin potential of the H Tour but added more stability, resulting in heavier shot making. With its even balance, the nTour walks the line between Hammer and Pro Staff style racquets. Our team found a good blend of maneuverability and stability from the 10.7 ounce weight and 330 swingweight of the nTour 95. This racquet should appeal to aggressive players looking for a spin friendly racquet that doesn't have the heft of a traditional player's racquet.
(Scores are determined by averaging individual play test scores)
We found some added power off the ground with the nTour 105 compared to the nTour 95. Enjoying his time with the nTour 105 was Don. "If I liked the nTour 95, I REALLY liked the nTour 105. It delivered almost everything I liked about the 95, but with a little more power. For my swing type, this was ideal. The slightly larger head size allowed even better topspin and slice to help control the extra power. Consequently, I could generate the same depth and pace with less effort. My only minor concern was with the racquet's maneuverability. Compared to the H Tour 105, our playtest racquet swung noticeably heavier. Static weight was .3 ounces (8.5 grams) heavier (10.7 versus 10.4) and swingweight measured 17 points higher than the H Tour (347 versus 330). I would prefer something more in the 330-335 range. Once I adjusted to the more head-heavy feel of the nTour 105, I really enjoyed it." Also preferring the performance of the nTour 105 over the 95 was Chris. "My favorite of the two nTours, I found excellent pace and spin with this one. The nTour 105 swung with more weight and I felt like I was hitting a more penetrating and heavier ball. My initial feelings were backed up by comments made by my hitting partners who said there was more weight to my shots with this racquet compared to the nTour 95. The added power had me taking a much shorter backswing than I would with my Yonex RDX 500 Mids or the weighted up Nano Speed RQ 7 Midplus I've been hitting with lately. With a shorter backswing I was able to accelerate through the ball, generate plenty of spin, produce good pace and still find excellent control. I adopted the same approach when hitting my slice backhand and on approach shots. The response off the stringbed was both more comfortable and livelier than the nTour 95. The combination of some added swingweight, a larger sweetspot and a more lively response made this racquet almost effortless to hit with from the baseline. This is exactly the type of racquet that would be perfect for an advanced player who's maybe lost a step or two over the years, and needs a more powerful racquet to juice things up a bit."
After some initial adjustments to his swing, Brad found the groove with the nTour 105. "The extra swingweight is noticeable in this racquet right when you pick it up. I would say this is one of the highest swingweights for a racquet that I have swung in a while. I found that I had to slow down my swing with this racquet compared to its 95 square inch counterpart. The extra power that you get with this racquet does not come without sacrifice, you definitely will notice a drop off in control. When I first started hitting with it I was spraying the ball everywhere. However, once I slowed my swing down a bit and shortened it, I was able to take advantage of the generous sweetspot and keep the ball in play. I found that I was not able to hit as much topspin with this compared to the 95, but I was able to keep the ball lower due to my flatter shots. My slice backhand was just as effective with this racquet as it was with the 95." Also finding she needed to adjust her swing to handle the nTour 105's power was Wendi. "The nTour 105 had a very different feel than the nTour 95. I found a livelier feel at impact and it also felt fairly maneuverable. It had a lot of power so I had to really adjust so I wouldn't hit long. I had surprising success on off-centered hits as the sweetspot seemed to be huge."
The nTour 105 offered our team a solid response and enough power to finish off the point at net. Quickly finding the groove was Chris. "Again, I found this one a very effortless racquet to hit with. The lively response made mid-court and shoelace volleys easy to punch deep. High volleys were easily dispatched with a short and compact stroke. The flip side was if I didn't keep things compact, then I had a tendency to over-hit. When going for a soft touch or angle volleys, I found enough grip on the ball to add a little slice and put the ball away. As with the nTour 95, i found plenty of power to put overheads away. The larger sweetspot of the 105 also made it slightly more forgiving. Even overheads not hit entirely clean usually had enough pace to get by my opponents." Brad found the nTour 105 to play with more heft at net compared to the nTour 95. "I found this racquet to be less maneuverable at net compared to the 95. It felt a bit hefty and was hard to get the racquet into position when volleying a harder hit ball. However, when I was able to get the racquet into position, my volleys had good pace and placement."
Struggling to find the groove at net with the nTour 105 was Wendi. "The 105 had a little too much power for me at net. My confidence at net didn't improve with the 105; my volleys seemed to be all over the place. The stability was good but I still found myself on the baseline most of match." Hitting some deep, penetrating volleys at net was Don. "Despite its heft, the nTour 105 is still light enough to maneuver easily at net. The larger head makes volleying even easier, and I found myself hitting deep, penetrating volleys. Very few balls got past me, and I had touch on short angle and drop volleys. The nTour 105 wasn't quite as quick on overheads as the H Tour 105, but this was a minor issue."
Our team found excellent access to spin when serving with the nTour 105. Said Don, "Similar to an Oversize racquet, the nTour 105 is more adept at generating spin than pure power. While I could hit decent pace on first serves, I found it more effective to hit slice or topspin serves. I don't think I double faulted once with this racquet." Brad found the nTour 105 to be more like its 95 sq. in. sibling. "Serving with this racquet was very comparable to the nTour 95. I found my slice serves to be a bit more effective with this racquet due to the more open string pattern."
Finding plenty of pace on her serves with the nTour 105 was Wendi. "My serving with the nTour 105 improved as the playtest went on. I was definitely getting some good pace and response off the strings. My placement wasn't excellent, but I was able to move my opponent around a little." Chris was impressed with the all around performance of the nTour 105 on serve. "I found plenty of pop and good access to spin...need I say more? I was hitting some good kickers with this racquet and I was impressed by the amount of pace I was generating. Flat serves down the centerline came off the racquet with good pace. I found this one very impressive all around on serve."
Return of Serve
Our team found the nTour 105 to offer plenty of pop on the return of serve. Hitting a good mix of drive and chip returns was Don. "I returned well with the nTour 105, but had to keep my swing in check. Against big, first serves a simple block or chip yielded good results. When I had more time, I could take a bigger swing, but I had to make sure I applied enough spin. Otherwise, the ball would sail. Great doubles racquet!" Brad would have liked a little more weight for returning serve. "Again, I felt that is was the one spot where I noticed that the racquet was under 11 ounces. It would have been nice to have a bit more weight to help with stability on returns. Most players should not have a problem unless playing against someone with a very big and heavy serve."
The power of the nTour 105 had Wendi holding back a little on her returns. "Returning with the nTour 105 was very similar to the 95 with a little more power to tame. I had some trouble with my opponent's short second serves, and didn't take advantage of my opportunities. I don't know why I was so hesitant, but I couldn't put them away." Also finding plenty of pop on the return was Chris. "This racquet packed some pop on the return. As long as I remained disciplined enough to take a very short backswing, I was able to be very aggressive and go after my shots. If I started to swing with my usual reckless abandon, I quickly got into trouble with the nTour 105. I found enough weight and pop to effortlessly chip and block returns deep. Spin was easy to generate on both slice and topspin returns, and I had good success returning low to serve and volley opponents."
The larger and more forgiving sweetspot, coupled with a more powerful response made the nTour 105 the more popular of the nTour racquets with our team. We found this one to offer a very stable response on faster swings, while still being light enough for fast reaction volleys and returns of serve. Stronger players may find they either have to shorten their backswing or string this one at the high end of its tension range to harness some of the power. Effective from all areas of the court, the nTour 105 should find a popular following among both singles and doubles players looking for a little extra zip and spin on their shots.
(Scores are determined by averaging individual play test scores)
Review date: June 2005. If you found this review interesting or have further questions or comments please contact us.
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