Prince Phantom 100 line roundup

Alright, so I've put on record before that subjectively, TeXtreme is so far the nicest playing material of the millennium. Well done Prince!

Also, I felt the last couple generations of Prince's lineup were well thought out - nice specs, good range of racquets. Personally I've just been missing a replacement for the somewhat hefty but friendly Speedport Tour that I've played for a few years. The racquets in the current Tour series are all a bit too light for that (see e.g. my review of the heaviest Tour 95).

While the Tour racquets already addressed the - what would you call it - maybe "classic competitive player" market, the Phantoms took a step further by offering even more a) of a classic design (at least at first sight), b) plusher feel. So how did that line turn out then?

(I know there's a Phantom missing here, didn't test in one go...)

Over the course of 2018, I've spent some court time with all the Phantom 100s. Most recently I had a chance to try number 3 of 3, the Pro. After the playing impressions, I think the line deserves a shot at a roundup...

Here's what I think all Phantoms have in common:

* Simple design (in a good sense)
* Thin and flexible beam
* Plush feeling (due to flex and material)
* Straight forward string pattern
* Proven spec combos

So what sets them apart?

1) Phantom (310g, 310mm unstrung) - friendly playing, but relatively low power ceiling. The swallowing effect of the relatively light, thin, flexy beam gets a multiplier with the big Speedport grommets. (Put a loosely strung Cyclone Tour in there and the ball will probably just drop off the racquet after impact... :P) I had enjoyed these wide grommets for a while in my Speedport Tours, but ended up replacing them with traditional grommets for more power and a more direct response. This Phantom could be for you though if you're after comfort first - coming back after injury could be one scenario. Think it would be a good coaching stick as well.

2) Phantom Pro (305, 315) - slight difference in spec, but almost the Phantom with normal grommets. Still very plush. If you're looking to compete, attempt to rip a winner here and there, and are looking for more precision, this might be the better buy of the two.

3) Phantom Pro 100P (315, 315) - specs and the boxy design are even more of a nod towards a traditional player stick, with a tad more weight and a more head light balance compared to the other two. I had expected to like this one best, but somehow the Pro felt a bit better. The Pro was also nicer to touch for the supporting (!) hand. Players who are missing "the good old frames", or those who are curious to try something other than a Babolat power racquet, would likely enjoy a demo. Even just as an experience, and/or for comparison.

Overall, all Phantom 100s are very nice racquets, of which any come with the potential to help most folks play better AND improve their craft (e.g. play more creatively, or generate power by hitting all out but doing so cleanly).

My one knock about the lineup, and what's keeping me from switching, is that there's not a hefty option, let's say in the 330 swingweight range. That could make quite a nice combo with the current design and plush feel, also getting closer to the way that pros like to set up their racquets. Maybe that's a gap in Prince's lineup? How about a more solid Phantom 100 with a straight 20 or 21 mm beam and 16 x 18 pattern? I guess I'm really asking for a TeXtreme version of the Speedport Tour :)

Regardless of this request, the Prince's Phantom and Tour racquets do deserve to sell a lot and be seen more at amateur and pro tournaments. Should be good for the industry to have Prince re-emerge and make some money to build on the advances in lineup and products. But please Prince, build them on-spec...

My latest 2 demos, the Pro and the 100P, were both relatively far off in terms of weight. The 100P stood out by being 9 grams too light. Even though I don't have access to a representative sample to determine whether Prince has lowered its manufacturing bar, IMO that's already way out of bounds. After finding what e.g. Wilson's seemingly +/- 5 tolerance can do to a racquet, I'd say you want to be as close to what's printed on the frame as possible.

When testing the racquets I tried to factor this in - and yes I think even with almost 10 grams more you won't end up producing a heavy ball with the Phantoms. The upside is that they're all so easy to play, they can get away with being off-spec much easier than most other racquets that come to mind.

The demos came from Tennis Warehouse Europe. Though I'm obviously thankful that they're offering the program, they currently seem to run it as if they don't care about the racquets (and the folks trying them). Apart from not picking representative (i.e. true-to-spec) demos in the first place, the frames were simply tossed in the box, no overgrips provided, base grips were quite worn out, one racquet came with a rubber band and the other didn't, no dampeners included, sloppy string jobs (very different tension on very similar racquets, strings not straightened, cutoffs long, uneven, and sharp), and their own tags not affixed well. That doesn't leave much positive to say, unfortunately!

While some folks believe in the "don't be gentle it's a rental" mantra, you'll find me in the opposite camp - respect and all that. So I was quite disappointed there, and it makes one wonder how other things are run at the shop. From TWE's perspective, it's also a missed sales and marketing opportunity. Probably better to spend some money and care there than in some other places...

Either way, the Phantoms thankfully got away with all that as well, and were still fun to hit :)

Solinco Hyper-G review

I've now used the Hyper-G for the last couple of seasons in practice and 100+ competitive matches, so I thought a quick long-term review is in order:

I remember at first, I didn't believe the hype. Supposedly Andre Agassi, Steffi Graf, and active pros like Sam Querrey, Donald Young were quite excited about the Hyper-G and were using it voluntarily.

Initially, when I tried the string short after its launch, it felt like a mixture of muted and plasticky. After a few more tries later on I started getting used to it, and gave it a go at a clay court season prep tournament. Despite slow, uncomfortable conditions (wet, cold, windy), the string produced good pop and pretty sound all-around results.

Switching back and forth with the Tour Bite for a while, it was apparent that the Hyper-G by couldn't get close to the Bite's grab on the ball, but was much more powerful. Over the years, I've tried stringing up the Tour Bite very loosely to make up for its lack of power, but always felt I had trouble getting the ball through the court.

Also, the Tour Bite reaches a point where it gets tough on the arm - maybe over 22 kgs string bed tension (so ~ >24 kgs pulled). The Hyper-G stiffens up too, but maybe around 1 lbs higher, but does not hurt as much :)

Compared to the average string, the Hyper-G can produce a good amount of spin, so that ended up being the compromise for the last year.

Wilson Pro Staff RF97 with Solinco Hyper-G

The biggest positive surprise came when I picked up Hyper-G racquets that I hadn't used for months. They still played very nicely, subjectively sometimes even better than fresher string jobs. So while I cut out any other poly after 5 hits max, the Hyper-G can probably stay in twice as long. If you don't play as much and/or are not as picky, you might be happy getting it restrung once per season (so 4 times a year).

Bottom line, the Hyper-G is still in my top 3, along with the Cyclone and the Tour Bite. At the end, the orange Cyclone still wins for me since it grabs the ball better. When it comes to matchplay, you trade that off with a quickly degrading life span, both in terms of tension and ball grab. So after 2 competitive matches, it's due for a match-day restring.

How to think about price? Well, depending on the market, there seems to be a ~20 - ~50% premium compared to the Cyclone or comparable strings like the Gamma Moto. Its priced similarly to comparable Tecnifibre strings and the oldie (and for some goldie) RPM Blast... unless you're e.g. in the US. If you intend to keep the Hyper-G in your racquet for a while, your "cost per decent-feeling hit" might come out cheaper than most of the competition.

For more thoughts around strings, click the "string" label below.

You can also dive into my string jobs over the last ~10 years, including ratings and impressions, here.

Yonex Ezone DR 98 racquet review

(2018 update: added quick EZONE 98 comparison below)

I did quite enjoy hitting with the Ai 98, so have really been looking forward to try its successor. Let's jump right into it:


Length: 69 cm (measured on demo)
Frame width: 23 / 24 / 19 mm (Yonex)
Head size: 98 in² / 632 cm² (Yonex)
String pattern: 16 x 19
Strung weight: 325 g (measured on demo)
Strung balance: 322 mm (measured)
Swing weight: 324 (TW)

 Yonex Ezone DR 98 racquet for review

Thoughts on specs

Classic unstrung weight / balance combo of 310 grams / 310 mm. Otherwise harmonic package of head size, string pattern, and frame width (though the max part @ 24 mm starts to get a bit thick for a player's stick). Note the extra ~0.4 cm in length compared to the standard 68.58 cm.

Playing impressions

Not a flimsy racquet, nicely weighted and pretty stable. Frame is quite powerful. String bed is on the denser side, but still produced OK spin. Enjoyed the extra bit of length.


Had a little bit of a plank-like feel similar to the Wilson SixOne's, though obviously not as hefty. Little surprised about that given the pretty whippy specs. The Yonex Tour F 97 specs are almost identical, however that racquet zips through the air noticeably faster, but is less powerful and has a denser string bed.

2018 update: the new version, EZONE 98, has become a tad lighter (5 grams) and a tad less headlight (5 mm). When I tried it, it felt less planky, a bit more whippy, and more comfortable. While the DR98 nicely bordered on being a player's racquet (maybe except for the 24 mm part of the frame), the EZONE I played moved another step away from that, most of all because it felt less stable. So between the 2, it depends on what you're looking for.

Here's a visual that indicates where the DR 98 fits into the current spectrum:


Player type: Good modern all-court racquet, probably geared towards aggressive baseliners. Should work well for both long or short swings.

String: Would probably put a control oriented, grippy poly in there, strung at around 24 kgs / 52 lbs. Maybe something like the Tour Bite or Black Code 4S. Hybrid should work well too, would put poly in the mains - a) for spin, and b) since the frame is already quite powerful.

Closing thoughts

Really nice racquet that'll work for a lot of players, subjectively one of the 5 most interesting ones currently on the market. Unless you'd like any of the specs much different, it's definitely worth a demo. Gotta have to like or at least get along with the Yonex head shape though.

To get a better idea how this (or any other racquet) compares to what's on the market today, check out the racquet spectrum.