Rec. Strings:: Synthetic Gut w/Duraflex 16
Prince launched the Prince 03 Hybrid Tour in August, 2006. The racquet features O3 Engineered Technology, but with a small difference. The O-Ports on the Hybrid Tour are situated at three and nine o'clock on the perimeter of the frame to increase racquet head speed and provide more spin and power for the advanced player.
Cosmetically, the Prince O3 Hybrid Tour's metallic orange and black frame makes for a distinctive look on the court.
Prince informed me that extensive testing was carried out by players on both the men’s and women’s tour in the racquet’s development phase. The result is definitely a racquet for advanced players looking for extra maneuverability without compromising their ability to hit a big, heavy ball.
Californian Sam Querrey is the most recent player on the men’s tour to make the switch to Prince’s 03 technology. In late 2006, Querrey made the switch from the Prince Tour Diablo to the Prince Hybrid Tour in order to generate extra racquet speed and take advantage of the Prince Hybrid Tour’s larger sweetspot. In doing so, he joins the fast improving Shahar Peer, a top performer on the women’s tour, and Lisa Raymond, one of the world’s best women’s doubles players, both of whom also use the Prince 03 Hybrid Tour.
The first thing that struck me was the weight of my shots off the ground. At 11.5oz unstrung and a power level of only 775 on Prince’s power rating system, I was expecting to play with a racquet that was a lot more subdued off the ground. I was wrong.
I was able to generate all the racquet speed I required in order to hit my regular topspin forehand, but two things surprised me:
1). The weight of my shots.
2). I found it to be a little temperamental.
The 03 Hybrid Tour allowed me to hit a really heavy ball. For a relatively heavy racquet, when it comes to swing speed, the Prince 03 Hybrid Tour handles like a much lighter frame. It’s great for big, heavy spins, which require a fair amount of racquet speed to hit successfully.
However, when I flattened my shots out, I found it difficult to maintain a predictable length.
With my backhand slice, a shot requiring much less swing speed than heavy topspins, I wasn’t as accurate as I normally am, but I’m not quite sure why. I don’t know if the 16x18 string pattern or the 95sq" head size were a factor (I normally play with the 03 16x19 and 105 sq"), but it definitely took a little getting used to the range of this shot.
For touch shots, I found the frame maneuverable and agile. Due to its large sweetspot, the Prince 03 Hybrid Tour has a reasonable feel to it, irrespective of whether you prefer a heavy or light racquet. However, having said that, this racquet is not meant for players who like to use deftly placed angles and drop shots.
Overall, it’s a racquet for big hitting, advanced players who like to rely on tremendous racquet speed to generate extra spin and pace.
Around the net, the Prince 03 Hybrid Tour performs well. It’s solid and powerful. Unlike off the ground, where I experienced a little loss of accuracy with harder, flatter shots, I had no problem directing my volleys to where I wanted them to go.
I particularly liked the fact that the racquet is head light. This gave me the maneuverability I needed for any reflex shots or anything requiring improvisation when I was stretched out wide.
The only slight criticism I have is that, as with touch shots from the back of the court, the Prince 03 Hybrid Tour doesn’t have quite the same "feel" as some of the other frames I’ve tested. But many of those frames don’t produce the same weight of shot as the Hybrid Tour.
SERVING AND SMASHING
No problems here. Big servers will like this racquet. The combination of a head light, but relatively weighty frame translate to fast, heavy serves. Likewise with spin serves. It was easy to hit swinging slice serves or big kick serves, but it requires someone reasonably strong to do so.
RETURN OF SERVE
I found the racquet better for returning second serves than first serves. With more time, I was able to hit with relatively better control and accuracy on second seve returns. When returning first serves, if I tried to hit hard without much spin, my shots tended to go longer than I expected. I felt that the ball “trampolined” on me a little.
When I resorted to blocking the ball back off big first serves, there was no issue; the racquet behaved pretty much as I expected.
The Prince 03 Hybrid Tour is designed for hard hitting, aggressive all-court players who like to use a decent amount of topspin off the ground, and who like the feeling of a relatively heavy but head light frame.
It’s definitely not a racquet for junior or intermediate level players as it has a sensitive string bed, requiring players with a thorough understanding of a racquet’s behavioral characteristics to get the most out of it.
For me, the racquet’s particular strength was that it produced such a heavy ball without much effort. On the other hand, this strength was a little offset by the Hybrid Tour’s slight unpredictability when hitting flatter shots off the ground.
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