Review • Yonex Ezone Ai 98

At first glance, I thought that the Ezone Ai 98 would prove to be the Yonex version of the Modern Racquet – a distinctive update, but without the classic feel. The Ezone Ai 98 does indeed have a very different feel from the Yonex racquets I played with regularly in the 1990's and, to a certain extent, it fits into the crisp, lively mode of many new frames. But this Yonex delivers on its promise better than some of the other updates. The Ezone Ai 98 has a bit more flex, a slightly larger sweetspot and less of that hollow, tinny feel. 

I'm currently playing the Dunlop Biomimetic F3.0 Tour, which was my favorite of the frames introduced in 2013. There was absolutely no adjustment required when I began to hit with the Ezone Ai 98. Like the Dunlop F3.0, this Yonex has a 98 square inch head with a large and comfortable sweetspot. At 11.5 oz, with a swingweight of 320, this racquet was quick in fast-paced exchanges and could also absorb and return pace when needed. For a little more power and stability against hard hitters, I would add a bit of lead tape to the 3 & 9 o’clock positions on the frame.

The soft but solid feel off the stringbed gave me consistently good depth on my groundstrokes, without having to alter anything in my swing. In fact, the harder I hit, the better this frame felt. I was able to try the Ezone Ai 98 with a multifilament string, as well as with my typical poly. While I definitely had more spin with the poly, the amount of spin I got with the multi was much better than expected. If I was able to tweak the tension just right, I could certainly play this frame strung with a quality multi or hybrid set-up.

The Dunlop F3.0 is one of my favorite serving racquets from the past few years, but the Yonex Ai 98 is right up there with it. I could place my serves with excellent consistency, good-but-not-great spin and enough power. And since I'm not a power server anyway, a frame that lets me hit the corners and into the body with accuracy is my ideal.

From my first approach shot, I found the Ezone Ai 98 to be as solid at the net as it is on the baseline. Not only is this frame very maneuverable, but I also found that I could get power or touch easily on my volleys, depending on what the situation required. I enjoyed the deep pocketing from the Ezone Ai 98 when I played serve and volley, particularly on balls contacted below the knee. 

Maybe my first impression wasn’t too far off. The Yonex Ezone Ai 98 is indeed a perfect frame for the way tennis is played today.

Review • Wilson Steam 99LS

The Wilson Steam 99LS is a life-changing experience. Having long been a 95–98 sq/in, 12oz, flexy frame kinda guy, I looked at the specs of the Steam 99LS and shook my head. No way was this a racquet for me. I'm testing this to give feedback for the players in the 99LS target market. Wrong! Not only is a frame I can play with, I don't want to give my playtest demo back. 

To my surprise, I was able to pick up the 99LS and get dialed in right away. I felt connected and able to rally with depth and pace from the first ball.  Remarkably maneuverable and a spin demon, as advertised, I found the Wilson 99LS capable of producing solid ground strokes off both my forehand and one-handed backhand. The sweet spot is large, but surprisingly controllable. I also found the LS to be much softer and less jarring than its 99S sibling I demoed last summer. 

The very first ball I served with the Steam 99LS landed in the box, just inside the service line and hopped over the back fence. While this was due in part the the ball striking the front edge of the tape on the clay court, it was only due to the massive spin from the16x15 string pattern that the ball kicked that high. While the remainder of my serves stayed inside the ballpark, hitting heavy spin or flat bombs was effortless with the Steam 99LS.  

At the net, the Steam is lightning quick and remarkably stable for a sub-11oz frame. I found it easy to put away volleys and overheads off weak shots, but the 99LS was solid even against heavy balls coming with pace.  There was enough flex and feel that I also felt confident in attempting drop volleys and touch half-volleys. 

Head Size:
99 sq. in. / 638.71 sq. cm.
Length: 27in / 68.58cm
Strung Weight: 10.2oz / 289.17g
Balance: 13.13in / 33.35cm / 3 pts HL
Swingweight: 294
Stiffness: 64
Beam Width: 22.5mm / 24mm / 23.5mm /
Composition: Basalt
Power Level: Low-Medium
Stroke Style: Medium-Full
Swing Speed: Medium-Fast

Racquet Colors:
Red/ Black/ White
Grip Type: Wilson Sublime Grip
String Pattern:
16 Mains / 15 Crosses
Mains skip: 8T 8H
One Piece
No Shared Holes
String Tension: 54-64 pounds

Review • Dunlop F4.0 Tour

The F3.0 Tour was one of my favorite frames of 2013, but just a little underpowered when I hit with stronger (and younger) players. The F5.0 Tour has the power and spin of many of the great 100 sq in, 11.3 oz (strung) frames, but is without the plush feel of the 3.0. So I was excited to hit the F4.0 Tour and see if it would indeed fit perfectly into the slot between the other two.

At first, I liked playing aggressive baseline tennis with the F4.0. I found easy access to power and spin on my groundstrokes. But it seemed that sometimes I would hit two balls identically, with different results—one would go exactly where I targeted, the other long or into the bottom of the net. It got better the longer I hit, but I never quite felt like I could relax and confidently ‘go’ for a shot. That changed when I cut out the multi-filament string and put Dunlop Black Widow in this frame. Not only did the spin increase, so did my consistency.

Serves and returns were great with this frame. Power, spin and placement on the serve was quite good, though I was a little streaky on first serves. I loved ripping flat returns or dipping topspin rollers at the feet of a net-rushing server. Volleys were the favorite part of my playtest with the F4.0 Tour. The frame was heavy enough to counteract pace from my opponent, but maneuverable enough for any reflex volley. All-in-all, a solid doubles racquet.  

Head Size:
100 sq. in. / 645.16 sq. cm.
Length: 27in / 68.58cm
Strung Weight: 11.5oz / 326.02g
Balance: 12.75in / 32.39cm / 6 pts HL
Swingweight: 316
Stiffness: 68
Beam Width: 23mm / 24mm / 23.5mm /
Composition: Graphite/Biofibre

String Pattern:
16 Mains / 19 Crosses
Mains skip: 8T 8H
One Piece
No Shared Holes
String Tension: 52-62 pounds