The excitement and buzz about the Prince Tour Diablo racquets started before anyone outside of Prince even knew what these racquets would be called. We first got a glimpse of a Tour Diablo in the more than capable hands of WTA Tour star Jennifer Capriati as she blitzed her way through the draw at the 2003 US Open. Painted all black, and with the simple words "Experimental" emblazoned on the side of the frame, tennis fans and racquet gurus were freeze-framing their TV screens, trying to get a closer look at this mysterious racquet. Questions about the all black racquets quickly started to brew throughout the tennis community. Within days, the phones at Tennis Warehouse started to ring and our Talk Tennis message board started to receive more and more questions about the Experimental racquets. Die-hard Prince fans wanted to know things like: What is the frame composition? What are the specs? What will the racquets finally look like? When will the racquets be released? When can we get demos?
On January 16th, just three days before the start of the 2004 Australian Open, Prince provided its final answer. On the Prince Web site, the final look and specifications for the Tour Diablo racquets were revealed. What we learned was that the Prince Tour Diablo is available in two head sizes. The Tour Diablo Mid features a 93 sq. inch head and is 27" long, while the Midplus has a 100 sq. inch head and is 27.25" long.
Capriati, currently using the Tour Diablo Mid, was quoted on the Prince Web site as saying, "from its performance to its looks and name, I absolutely love the Diablo. The racquet feels great in your hands and gives groundstrokes an incredibly smooth feel. Also, I love knowing that I can direct the ball where I want and can also put enough pace on it to end the point with a clean winner."
So, would we fall for the devil like Capriati? We strung both head sizes with 17 gauge, multifilament string. One racquet of each head size was strung 2lbs above minimum recommended tension, and one of each 2lbs above mid tension. The use of overgrips and string dampeners was left up to each playtester. We playtested the Tour Diablo racquets for three weeks, here's what we found out.
Our team found the Tour Diablo Mid offered a solid platform for groundstrokes. The general consensus was that the racquet played larger than a traditional Midsize, offering a generous sweetspot. Wendi's concerns about hitting with a Midsize racquet were soon dispelled, "I was a little worried about the small head size, but after about 15 minutes of play I was adjusting to it. I found nice control and decent power from the racquet when I put all my weight behind my shots. I noticed that I really had to move my feet so that I could be in position and ensure all my body weight was going into each stroke. When I was in position I hit beautifully, but this racquet did not put up with any of my laziness. If I was out of position I had some issues with power. This racquet felt maneuverable and I got some nice swing speed on my strokes, which helped when I got in a sticky situation." Also impressed with the size of the sweetspot on the Tour Diablo Mid was Don. "I loved the way this racquet felt and performed! I usually struggle with 12+ ounce, smaller headed, low power racquets. I just can't swing them fast enough to generate sufficient pace and depth. However, the Tour Diablo Mid is nicely balanced, affording it greater maneuverability than I expected. The 331 swingweight is right in my comfort zone. Another big plus for me was the open 16/20 string pattern. It provides a little additional pop (as well as spin potential). Both feel and control were superb, allowing me to take full swings, yet not having to work hard. The racquet's heft actually delivered a bit more power, which was evident when picking up deep shots off the baseline with an almost half-volley stroke. I didn't notice much of a power drop-off on balls hit high in the stringbed, either. Stability was never an issue. This is one solid racquet!"
Chris was very pleased with the Tour Diablo Mid off the ground. He said, "this has to be one of the nicest stock racquets I've ever hit with. I immediately found the groove from the baseline and felt like the racquet did not need any customization. I was hitting consistently and moving the ball around the court with ease within the first five minutes of my first hit. I was able to generate a lot of racquet head speed on my forehand, finding some good spin and weight on both crosscourt and down the line shots. I was particularly impressed with the range and accuracy I was finding on my forehand angle passing shots and topspin lobs. During matches, the variety of options I had off the forehand really kept my opponent guessing. I felt like I could hold my shot till the last second, then place the ball to my desired target. I was equally pleased when hitting backhands with this racquet. The mix between power and control felt just right. The sweetspot in the Tour Diablo Mid extends nicely into the upper hoop, and I found a very consistent feel from the stringbed. I did a side by side comparison with the Prince Original Graphite Mid, and for me, the Tour Diablo Mid was the better racquet. It had a more solid feel, the sweetspot felt bigger, and I felt like I was hitting a heavier, more accurate ball."
Josh also quickly found the groove with the Tour Diablo Mid. "This was a great racquet to hit with. Good pop. Good control. Good weight. The racquet was easy to use on both forehand and backhand sides, and I wasn't afraid to go for a big winner in a tight spot. The grip was boxier than I'm used to. It felt good and reminded me somewhat of the Original Graphite. I was surprised at the amount of pace I could generate with the racquet despite the Mid head size. The only trouble I had was hitting slice backhands. I really had to concentrate on getting my knees down and following through to drive the ball towards the baseline." Granville enjoyed the traditional player's feel of the racquet, saying, "the Tour Diablo Mid is a great feeling "classic" racquet. As expected, it is a bit stiffer and a little less forgiving than the Midplus. However, it offers some "oomph" when you need it on the dead run or are slightly out of position. The sweetspot is also very healthy on this racquet, and is comparable to most Midplus racquets. I was really able to rip my groundies at will. Deep down the line or angled rollers over the net wide were falling with great consistency. It was also nice having an open, 16 main string pattern on a Midsize frame. The extra horsepower manifested itself on high backhand slices, for example, where players are typically at their weakest. The stiffer hoop provided more power on that shot and got me out of trouble quickly."
At 12.2 ounces and 9 points head light, the Tour Diablo Mid offered our team a solid, yet maneuverable feel for volleys. Enjoying the feel of the racquet at net was Chris. "I was very pleased with the feel and control I found with this racquet. The feel from the stringbed is amazingly consistent and I always felt confident of finding that same predictable response on every volley. I was able to place my volleys equally well on both deep and short angled shots. During fast, four at the net doubles exchanges, I found the racquet very maneuverable and stable with enough pop to put the ball away on the first opportunity." Josh agreed, adding, "I found good touch and feel on every volley. The Tour Diablo Mid comes weighted nicely direct from the manufacturer, and the balance felt perfect. The racquet was also stable and comfortable enough to handle any off-center shots that occurred when I was stretched wide for a volley. The Tour Diablo was also very maneuverable. I transitioned to overhead volleys easily when my opponents miss-hit their lob attempts, and I hit a high percentage of overhead winners."
Wendi found good accuracy on her volleys with the Tour Diablo Mid. "Great control and consistency," said Wendi. "I was able to place my shots and dictate play when at net. I felt it was stable and maneuverable. Surprisingly, I didn't have any problems with off-center hits. I wouldn't say this racquet gives a lot of pop, but my volleys felt great." After heading to the net, Don decided to hold-off on his Pacific Life Open wild card application, saying, "OK, maybe I'm not the stud I thought I was when bashing groundies with this racquet. Although I volleyed pretty well with the Tour Diablo Mid, I was certainly more confident from the baseline. On the plus side, the headlight balance retains a good measure of mobility, and the overall heft allows a simple blocking motion for an effective volley. Nonetheless, I'm used to slightly larger, slightly lighter and slightly longer racquets at net. Good feel and touch though." Granville was in his element at net with the Tour Diablo Mid. He said, "'badda-bing!' Wow, crisp and precise like a scalpel! Massive enough to allow me to feel the ball actually compressing on the stringbed - the ultimate in feel and control in my mind. Get the racquet out front and let it do the work. I was delighted with the capabilities of this stick."
Our team found some great consistency on their serves with the Tour Diablo Mid. Even Wendi, who is not usually a fan of Midsize racquets, felt at home on the serve. Wendi said, "after my first ten serves I was ready to put this racquet back in the bag. Fortunately, I kept serving and was pleasantly surprised with the Tour Diablo Mid. It felt as though my serve had been waiting for this racquet to come along. Everything just flowed together. I was hitting very nice serves with more pace than (maybe) ever. My reach seemed higher and right on target for the sweetspot. More than anything, it felt like the best motion; it just felt right." Don also found the Tour Diablo Mid to be a good fit for the rhythm of his serve. "Serving was something I looked forward to each time I played with the Tour Diablo Mid. I was able to get into a good groove, using the racquet's weight and balance, and a rhythmic serving motion. I never felt like I had to use a lot of arm to serve hard. I just stayed loose and the results were very positive. Whether hitting a flat, first serve up the middle, the kicker to the backhand or slicing out wide, I felt confident hitting every type of serve. Even my opponent commented on how heavy my first serves were."
Chris also quickly found the groove with the Tour Diablo Mid, needing no adjustment time from serving with his regular racquet. "The biggest plus when serving with the Tour Diablo Mid was that everything felt very consistent. I was getting a lot of spin and weight on second serves. I was hitting with plenty of pace without worrying about missing my second serves. When hitting first serves, it was pretty much the same story. I was able to be very accurate with this racquet and found my targets on a consistent basis. The amount of power I was getting on first serves was very comparable to my Yonex MP Tour-1 Mid. I felt very comfortable serving with this racquet, and did not need to make any adjustment switching between it and my Yonex."
Also enjoying the consistent feel of the Tour Diablo Mid was Josh, who said "I hit first serves consistently and precisely with this racquet. The Tour Diablo Mid packed a heavier punch than its low power level rating suggested. I'm not sure how much the GraphiteExtreme technology affects the composition of the racquet, but I got so much more out of it compared to the NXG Midsize, which was easily my favorite racquet that we've playtested thus far. The string pattern is a bit more open on the Tour Diablo Mid, which could be the main reason I had more pace on my serves." Granville also felt that he was "getting more pop on serves," adding, "I really liked the crisp and decisive feel. Good kick on the slices wide. Serving with this racquet just makes you want to rush the net as a follow-up. A serve and volleyers dream stick. No complaints whatsoever."
The Tour Diablo Mid just might be the racquet that changes your thoughts towards hitting with a Midsize racquet - it did for many of our team members. On the return, the Tour Diablo Mid turned in another solid performance, offering a good mix of stability, maneuverability, control and power. Chris continued to enjoy hitting with the Tour Diablo Mid, saying, "I felt comfortable going for my shots with this racquet. I always felt like I knew where the ball was going and the feedback I got from the racquet was excellent. I could immediately tell how sweet I had caught the ball, whether it was going to drop short or find its target. The amount of feel I was getting really helped in doubles play, as I could easily gauge whether to come in and be aggressive behind the return or hang back and wait for another opportunity. It didn't matter whether I was blocking, chipping or driving my returns, the racquet just felt right on." Wendi was also enjoying hitting returns. She said, "this racquet was great to return with. Again, positioning was everything. When I was in position, I felt as though I could put the ball anywhere. Great control and a tight feel. I had great results from both my forehand and backhand sides. My backhand is usually stronger, but with this racquet my forehand may have taken the lead. It was a nice feeling to be confident in my forehand. The Diablo Mid has definitely caught my attention. I will be out with this racquet again."
Don found he could really go for his shots with the Tour Diablo Mid. "Usually, I find myself limited to blocking back serves with heavier racquets like the Tour Diablo Mid. Once again though, the headlight balance allowed me to take a swing at many serves. When I was forced to block back the big, first serve, the ball still had decent pace. The real bonus was the ability to guide the ball, almost at will. I found good stability here, too." Josh was so happy with the Tour Diablo Mid he is contemplating making the switch. He said, "my returns were deep, consistent and had a fair amount of pace. The racquet seemed to do most of the work for me, as I was able to return several wide serves that I normally wouldn't get to. Even the off-center returns felt good. I thought Prince did a nice job with the NXG Series, but the Diablo Mid is on an entirely different level. Almost everything about this racquet felt good, and I could see myself using it on a regular basis." Granville found the stability offered by the racquet on returns to be a big plus. "The racquet can do a lot of the work for you. Play it safe and hit the defensive block shot cross court or down the line, or hit out and apply some early pressure. The racquet provides the goods, leaving the returner to do anything he/she wants to do with the ball."
With two of our playtesters saying they would be happy to walk up to a tournament check-in with a couple of Tour Diablo Mids in their bag and another thinking of switching to it, you can imagine that we became pretty attached to this racquet during testing. The Prince Tour Diablo Mid is one of those rare player's racquets that packs enough pop, while still having a major emphasis on feel and control. Even in the hands of our 3.5 NTRP level tester, the Tour Diablo Mid provided a pleasing hitting experience. So in this case, El Diablo offers a good deal. And the best part is, you don't have to sell your soul in order to get it.
(Scores are determined by averaging individual play test scores)
The Tour Diablo Midplus offered our team members a lot of control when hitting groundstrokes. The Midplus also seemed to yield a little more power on slow swings compared to its Midsize brother. Enjoying the generous sweetspot of the Tour Diablo Midplus was Wendi. "From the baseline, the Tour Diablo Midplus was very solid. I didn't have the power issues that I was having with the Mid when caught out of position. The bigger headsize helped me with off-center hits and when I was pushed deep. I was able to generate some good topspin and the control was outstanding." Don was happy to find the appealing specs of the Tour Diablo Midplus to meet his expectations on court. Don said, "on paper, the Tour Diablo Midplus is a better fit for my game. Indeed, it was easier to maneuver, while still delivering a solid, consistent and comfortable response. I liked being able to make quick changes when necessary, or hit a 'buggy whip' forehand on the run. The slightly lighter weight made this possible. Ironically, I felt the Mid had a bit more power than the Midplus, mostly due to its weight. There's just more behind the ball. This was most noticeable when hitting defensive shots. Nonetheless, I liked the feel and quickness of the Midplus, and would choose it for match play. The added sweetspot and livelier stringbed was a good fit for my medium-fast swing."
Chris found a strong emphasis on control with the Tour Diablo Midplus from the baseline, saying, "although the amount of control I had was excellent, I would have liked a little more weight and zip on my groundstrokes. I tended to hit my cross court shots too short with this racquet, occasionally dumping them in the net. I did not have this problem when switching back to the Mid, where I found my usual weight and depth of shot. After making a slight adjustment, I was having more success with the Midplus, but still struggled a little when returning a ball that was hit deep to me with little pace. When my opponent hit deep with pace I really enjoyed counter punching with this racquet. Its light weight and maneuverability is a real plus on low pick-ups and half volleys from around the baseline. When I had more time to set up I found it easy to generate a lot of spin. I was able to move the ball around the court and find some nice angles. I found a lot of useful spin for lobs, and I hit some nice topspin lobs off both the forehand and backhand sides." After a slight adjustment period, Josh got down to some consistent hitting with the Tour Diablo Midplus. "I found more success using an eastern forehand grip and taking the ball low with this racquet," said Josh, adding, "when I used a semi-western grip the spin was great, but my shots tended to fall short. I found a better groove once I relaxed a bit and concentrated on my follow-through." Granville enjoyed the response he got from the racquet, saying, "the Tour Diablo Midplus offers a lot of feel. Soft enough to feel the ball and the racquet meet, strong enough to give you crisp feel and response. It makes the right sound too, "Thwap." I was hitting with good depth and pace and remarkable accuracy. The Tour Diablo Midplus seems to sit squarely on the fence between power and control. There was more power than I thought I could put on the ball when hitting out for a winner, while I also had enough touch to feather the backhand slice deep crosscourt or down the line. I will add that at times the racquet seemed to give me a cleaner hit, offering just that extra bit of pace. The extra pace made the difference between a clean winner down the line and my opponent grabbing a reaction volley or just getting the racquet on it. Every trip out was really a pleasure with this racquet."
The headlight balance, large sweetspot, thin beam, and maneuverable feel of the Tour Diablo all combined to produce a slam dunk performance for our team at net. Don continued to enjoy his time with the Tour Diablo Midplus when he moved up to net, saying, "this was a fun racquet at net. It was quick, yet stable, and I felt I could get to almost any ball. I was able to hit deep, penetrating volleys or pull back, and execute the dropper. Retrieving overheads seemed easier, thanks to the racquet's mobility." Wendi also found the Tour Diablo Midplus to be a good fit for her net game. "This racquet was fun at net. I found the feel to be very responsive off the strings and it provided me with great touch. The maneuverability was a definite bonus, the racquet felt so comfortable in motion. Good control and deep volleys, as well as great touch volleys were the highlights of the Tour Diablo Midplus."
Chris found the Midplus up to the task of handling heavy hitting opponents. Chris said, "I volleyed well with the Tour Diablo Midplus. It felt very maneuverable at net and the sweetspot was generous. I found the racquet to be solid, even when up against a strong passing attempt, and I never felt any undue racquet twisting or torque. There was just enough punch to put away high volleys, but I mostly enjoyed the control I was getting. I had some good pick-ups from returns hit low to my feet and found some nice touch for angles and volleys to the open court."
Josh found some good maneuverability and feel at net, saying, "the Midplus is very maneuverable and I was able to hit a few nice drop volleys at different angles. However, I missed the comfort and stability of a heavier racquet." Granville said, "solid, crisp and maneuverable, with a buttery feel, this racquet has all the elements of a performance classic. Simply getting the racquet in position to contact the ball offers terrific feel and response. A 4.0+ player will find all the ammunition he/she needs to face almost any opponent."
The open 16/18 string pattern of the Diablo Midplus offered good access to spin as well as a lively, yet controlled feel. Enjoying the feel of the Midplus on serve was Chris. "I'm not sure if it was the larger headsize, the lighter weight or a combination of both, but I was really able to crank some solid first serves with this racquet. I was generating nice racquet head speed and enjoying a little extra pop, which accompanied my faster swing. I rarely try to beat my opponent with pure pace on the serve, but I was having such good results with this racquet that I was quite successful going for the heater. There was one point in particular when I hit an ace down the 'T' which was easily the most satisfying serve I've hit in the last 18 months." Josh found more control than power on the serve. He said, "compared to the Midsize, I was able to generate more spin on my second serve. Serves were easy to control and I could kick the second high and wide to open up net opportunities. My first serves felt average. I had to put every ounce of my body behind each first serve to match the pace I was hitting with the Midsize." Wendi was as happy with the Midplus as she was with the Mid, saying, "I experienced most of the same results with the Midplus as the Mid on my serve. I just wanted to keep serving. Great motion and I felt like the racquet cut through the air well. I found enough pace on my serves to get me excited. I was able to place my serves with consistency. On my overheads I was very successful, and again, the Midplus felt great to swing."
Don quickly found the groove with the Tour Diablo Midplus, saying, "I enjoyed serving with this racquet almost as much as with the Mid. I could swing it faster, but didn't feel I was hitting as heavy a serve as with the Mid. Still, I liked the slightly lighter weight over a long playtest session, and could hit even better slice and topspin serves." Granville found the Tour Diablo Midplus to be comparable to his regular racquet on serve. "This racquet is comparable to my venerable Wilson Pro Staff 6.1, offering great feel and adequate power. No extra MphÕs on the "heaters" but plenty of spin potential and accuracy to put the ball on target. The soft flex gives a very nice slice, and the racquet is well-weighted for a follow-up volley."
For the most part, our team found a good blend of maneuverability and mass from the Prince Tour Diablo Midplus on returns. Chris found the same great response from the Tour Diablo Midplus when returning serve as he had when counter punching from the baseline. Chris said, "this racquet worked well for me on the return. I found I could use the pace provided by the server and concentrate on placement and consistency. The racquet felt very maneuverable, yet it didn't get pushed around - even when returning a heavy ball. All of my returns were working well with the Tour Diablo Midplus. Off the backhand side I was able to float the ball deep with slice, or if I had time, drive the ball with topspin." Wendi said, "the Tour Diablo Midplus was very solid on the return. It is so maneuverable that it just feels right on every swing. I was able to catch my opponent off guard by coming back with a well placed, hard return."
Granville found such a solid connection with the Tour Diablo Midplus when returning that he could even tell what the racquet was thinking. "It's always a great feeling to know your racquet wants to get the ball back over the net," said Granville, adding, "such is the case with the Tour Diablo Midplus. It is massive enough for the reflex returns to get over the net, stable enough to give you the best chance at a return when you are stretched wide, and soft enough to allow you to really hit out when the offensive opportunity presents itself." Josh found better results going for more of a defensive return with the Tour Diablo Midplus, "I had a difficult time returning serve consistently with the Midplus," said Josh. "I practically had to kiss my biceps on every follow-through from the forehand side to muster a deep return. I reverted to slicing every return on the backhand side to ensure depth and control. I definitely started the majority of my return game on the defensive." Having a better time returning was Don. He said, "returning serves with the Tour Diablo Midplus provided more options than the Mid. I was able to take a backswing against almost all serves. I really enjoyed returning second serves, where I could wind up and be aggressive without fear of the ball flying. When I was forced to block back a rocket serve there wasn't as much stability or power as the Mid, but I just focused on chipping low so the ball didn't sit up for my opponent."
Such is the consistent response of the Prince Tour Diablo Midplus that in most situations our team found plenty of room for creative shot making. Offering a generous sweetspot and a spin-friendly string pattern, our team found a consistent and controlled feel for baseline rallies. When moving up to the net, our team found a good blend of maneuverability and feel, combined with enough mass to punch away a winner. While the Tour Diablo Midplus brings a lot to the table straight from the cover, the 11.7 ounces strung weight leaves plenty of room for customization. As is, all-court players should definitely take the Tour Diablo Midplus for a test drive.
(Scores are determined by averaging individual play test scores)
|Chris||5.0 baseline player currently using a Yonex MP Tour-1 Midsize. Chris uses a full-western forehand grip, has a fast swing style and hits a one-handed backhand.|
|Josh||5.0 all court player currently using the Wilson ProStaff Original 85. Josh has a long, loopy swingstyle, hits with a one-handed backhand and a semi-western forehand.|
|Wendi||3.0 player currently using a Babolat Pure Control Plus. Wendi is a steady but aggressive player who hits with a semi-western forehand grip and a two-handed backhand.|
|Don||4.5-5.0 All court player currently using a ProKennex Kinetic 7G. Don is an aggressive player with a medium to fast swing style, using a semi-western forehand grip and a one-handed backhand.|
|Gran||5.0-5.5 all-court player currently using a Wilson Hyper ProStaff 6.1 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.|
Review date: March 2004. If you found this review interesting or have further questions or comments please contact us.
All content copyright 2004 Tennis Warehouse.