In olden days, when most tennis racquets were still made of wood, I could sometimes sneak a Bances or Te-Amo onto the practice court when the coach wasn’t around. I argued that smoking a cigar while hitting tennis balls helped my stamina. Today, there’s no smoking and few wood racquets on tennis courts. Technology has moved quickly over 40 years. Jimmy Connors played with a steel racquet. Arthur Ashe swept Wimbledon with a space-age blade made of a blend of graphite, tungsten, titanium and Kevlar.
Since racquets are more durable, larger and lighter, manufacturers need something new to sell. That’s where Wilson Sporting Goods comes in with the latest “Ultra Performance Tennis Racket.” The Ultra promises “effortless power on all shots from anywhere on the court.” All the same power is necessary, but control is paramount. Your shots still have to land inside the lines. The Ultra helps there too.
With the Ultra 100 Countervail, the ball seems to stay on the strings a bit longer. This is “dwell time,” and Wilson explains that its grommet system compresses at impact, what it calls a “Crush Zone.” That, with the “Power Rib” design that adds stability and stiffness, should increase power, spin and accuracy. Wilson offers a study that found 40 percent more control from the Ultra.
The Ultra’s balance is excellent, if a bit too head-light for my style. I found I swung through the ball too fast and so I put a little lead tape on the head, but I do that with all these feathery axes. For me, the most important feature of the Ultra is the vibration damping to which “Countervail” refers. It’s a patented material directing “the ball’s energy within the frame instead of the body.” That study recognized a 30 percent reduction in “vibrational energy” from the racquet. That means my arm doesn’t get as tired. Advanced players will appreciate this. Beginners will like the power. Hit a two-handed backhand? You’ll dig the customizable handle.
All new racquets require adjustment. String the Ultra a little tighter as it tends to transfer energy into your shots. You might find you can shorten your strokes. That’s good for older players like me who have lost some reaction time.
The Ultra comes in six versions from 97-inch to 110-inch head sizes. Prices start around $189. No strings attached. Practice-court cigars sold separately.