2021 Tennis Racquet Reviews for 3.5-4.5 NTRP players @ 98 or 100 sq in.

It's March and we're ready to Spring back into tennis!

Coming out of Winter, it's a great time to invest in some new tennis frames and/or fresh strings.

We've spent the last 30 days, Feb 1 - March 1, demoing 21 fan-favorite frames for 2021 to bring you this comprehensive review. Whew!

We chose the most popular frames from these top manufacturers: Babolat, Head, Wilson, Yonex.

This year, we decided to review 98 and 100 sq. inch models. Tweener and Player Frames for 3.5-4.5 players.

The La Jolla Tennis Workshop was our choice for their demo program. It's our way to support a local small business and a community favorite here in Southern California during a tough 12 months of lockdowns.

30 Days Challenge: test 20 Tennis Racquets for $20 in one month?!

Most online shops let you try 3-4 racquets for 2 weeks at $25. A local tennis workshop offers more options and some key qualities you can't get online: in-person service that cares about the small details and puts customers first. After getting feedback from a few "secret shoppers" and interviewing their staff, everyone I spoke to was very knowledgeable, helpful, efficient, and customer-friendly.

Their main highlight is an excellent demo program which is $20/month (4 weeks) to take out 3 racquets at a time for up to 5 days each. You can exchange demos as often as you like. If you buy from them, the purchase price is reduced by the amount of demo cost. I purchased two racquets and they gave me an additional $10 off for the pair. Please just mention Jacky sent you from Tennis-Bargains.

Mark, the owner is very fair and knowledgeable about the subtle differences. After my feedback, he was the one who customized a recommendation for my final racquets I'll be using in the next few years. I only switch racquets every 4-6 years, so with this important decision, I did a very thorough playtest

Jason was very good about notifying customers when a racquet on the waitlist might be available again. The La Jolla Tennis Workshop is right across from the La Jolla Library. Please visit if you're in San Diego.

How we tested and compared our 2020-2021 frames

All frame sizes tested were 98 or 100 square inches this year. All fit into two general categories:

The "Tweener" (10.5oz-11.5oz) is intended for rising juniors or players in the 3.5-4.0+ levels usually at 100 sq. inches. Extra power is given from the frame and launch trajectory.

The "Player Frame" (11.5+ oz) category is for high intermediate to advance adults at the 4.0-4.5+ levels and generally have <100 sq inches. Generally, good technique is required along with good timing.

Playtests and feedback:

In each round, we compared 3 similar models with reference string tension at around 53 lbs. Strings used were usually the recommended poly/hybrid provided by the manufacturer. The racquets were used against 3-5 players ranging between 3.5-4.5 levels of different playing styles with feedback given as the "weight of my shot" and observations from the receiving end.

All of the top frames listed below were also used in match play situations with both feeds and serves to start the point. Every 4 games, I would change a racquet and record my observations and results. Photos were taken of each racquet

2020-2021 Full Demo List

Babolat: Pure Strike 3rd gen 18x20/98/100; Aero MP/Tour; Pure Drive VS/100/Tour;
Wilson: Blade 18x20, Clash Pro, Burn 100, Ultra 100;
Yonex: Ezone 98/Tour, VCore 98;
Head: Radical MP/Pro, Extreme MP/Pro, Speed MP/Pro.

Best of Breeds

Tournament Player Frames - Yonex Ezone Tour, Head Gravity Pro
Spin-Friendly - Babolat Pure Aero, Head Extreme
Lighter, rally-friendly - Wilson Clash/Burn/Ultra, Head Extreme MP
18x20 String Pattern - Babolat Pure Stike 18x20, Wilson Blade 18x20, Head Gravity Tour/Pro (100)

Top Picks by Size and Play Style

Top Tweener 100 sq inches: Babolat Pure Aero
Top Player's 100 sq inches: Babolat Pure Drive Tour, Head Gravity Pro
Top Tweener 98 sq inches: Babolat Pure Strike, Yonex VCore
Top Player's 98 sq inches: Yonex Ezone Tour, Head Radical


2021 Tennis Racquets - Reviews and Prices

The breakthrough designs of 2020-2021

Yonex - VCore and Ezone Designs

Some of the best quality control and 4.0+ player-friendly designs for strikers. The newest versions of both Yonex lines were standouts and best sellers in 2020. We immediately understood why.

The Ezone premiered last year and is a very popular 2020 frame for the control player who demands quality and precision in their specs.

The Ezone (as featured by Krygios and Osaka) offers the classic feel and precision. For a heavier version, we also enjoyed the Ezone Tour for the added weight and plow through. We recommend trying both.

The VCore line (red) is actually just a small adjustment made to the mold of the Ezone to allow for a bit more spin and a little less stiffness.

VCore adds slightly more spin potential on a slightly more forgiving frame in terms of stiffness. I felt the Vcore 98 was superior in class among the other 98 frames.

The Vcore 100 felt too light and lost a lot of the magical qualities in the 98 that we were so impressed with.


Head Racquets - Extreme, Gravity, and Radical

The Pro and MP lines are worth trying for each. Head has the most variants among all the manufactures. Every player should be able to find a weight and balance in their wide range.

The Head Gravity Tour and heavier Pro models offer the 18x20 pattern on a 100 sq. inch head that we have missed since the Liquidmetal Instinct days.

We recommend getting the 2019 colors (shown on the left) at a discount if possible. It is the same as the 2021 version, except with different colors but you should save at least $60!

In past demo reviews, I have enjoyed the Head Speed, Radical as well as Instinct models for tournament play successfully for over 10 years. The improvements this year were the most noticeable on the Extreme and Radical lines. Players should appreciate the newly updated improvements.

The control and comfort on all Head racquets with the latest generation were very apparent. They have consistently made some of the softest frames with the lowest stiffness ratings (RA) of any manufacturer that allow the body many more hours of hitting per week.

Most Arm-friendly

Wilson Clash

Pros: Lots of flex. Perfect for the baseline rally. Most arm-friendly frame with a RA rating of 55! Most frames have 60+ RA. Anything above a 65 is considered stiff. The Clash Pro offers slightly more weight.

Cons: Against fast serves and strong volleys, the flex on these frames can work against you. Many players have added lead on the frames.

Head Gravity

Pros: The heavier Pro version feels very solid with amazing plow-through yet in an 18x20 closed pattern and a 100 sq. inch head size with a thinner 20 mm beam.

The Tour model is slightly lighter and more spin-friendly. It has a larger sweet spot than most other 100 sq. inch frames due to the "teardrop" shape.

Cons: Slightly less maneuverable at the net with the higher swing weight. Must have good preparation and technique for quality shots.

New Edition of Best Sellers (Babolat):


Babolat Pure Aero (the new 2020-21 "Banana" yellow)

Babolat's Pure Aero (endorsed by Nadal) continues to wow fans. It keeps all the classic Rafa spin and looping abilities. The one downside is that you may burn through more strings. The spin potential from wider center mains and potential to snap strings quicker.

But if the spin game and loop shots are your game - there is nothing better. Paired with RPM Blast, it creates easy access to spin, power, and depth.

Simply choose the weight that is most appropriate for your swing and abilities (Lite < Team < Base < Tour).

Babolat Pure Strike (3rd Gen in Red and Black)
Pure Strike has added a bit more weight and better plow through with slightly more dampening technology to help with stiffness.

I used this racquet in the Project One-7 (2nd Gen) version for almost 4 years. The reason I needed to switch was because of shoulder pain last summer. It was aggravated with a stiff string with a thicker gauge poly strung too high.

Babolat Pure Drive (Metalic Blue) - the 2021 versions felt very solid and the Tour is one of the most improved lines for Babolat. In the past, I did not particularly like the Pure Drive hitting style even since the Roddick days.

I also tried the VS 98 version but it requires a much faster and full swing with lots of racquet head speed. I typically generate a topspin shot for most groundstrokes.

However, after trying the new Pure Drives 2021's, I was clearly impressed by how well it accommodates hitting a flatter ball and has a lot of control through contact. Rumor is that the swing weight can be slightly higher than the specifications. If you want a true Tweener, then make sure that your racquet is in the right weight and balance.  The metallic blue color scheme also impressed other reviewers.

Frame Stiffness and Injury Prevention - Frames and Strings

A word to anyone with pain, try to use as thin of a string as possible and lower the tension a few pounds. By the time you lose tension enough to restring, the mains should be nearly breaking too. If your strings last forever and you have arm problems, I would suggest putting in fresh strings at a thinner gauge. 

During this past covid year, many tennis players are fighting inflammations across the body which are being magnified. Let the strings and frame take the shock. My prescription is still to get plenty of Vitamin D and lots of rest. With more vaccines rolling out rapidly, every day is getting better, and it's getting better all the time.

I admit it's getting better (better)
A little better all the time (it can't get no worse)
Yes, I admit it's getting better (better)
It's getting better
Since you've been mine 
- Beatles (Getting Better)

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