Prince EXO3 Graphite 100
Prince EXO3 Graphite 100 Racquet Review
- Power Level: 775
- Length: 27.0"
- Headsize: 100 sq in MidPlus
- Cross Section: 19mm
- Weight: 11.1oz / 315g unstrung
- Balance: 13.0in / 33.0cm 4 Pts Head light
- Swing Weight: 300
- Rec. Strings: Recoil
Having played on the Tour with the Original Prince Graphite (and before that the Prince Woodie), it was great to be one of the first pros to test the 2009 version of Prince's all-time classic frame.
Let me tell you what I thought of it…
From the first ball, even though we're talking about making comparisons with a frame that I used to make a Wimbledon final 25 years ago, and even though the head size of 100 sq" is 10 sq" smaller than the 1st generation Prince Original Graphite, the Prince EXO3 Graphite 100 evoked a sense of vague familiarity.
The unusual combination of 1978 and 2008/9 technology made this racquet exciting to test. The relative stiffness of the frame (compared to the Prince EXO3 Rebel 95), the distinctively soft feel of the ball on impact, and its easy maneuverability, are the distinguishing characteristics of this racquet; however, the incorporation of the EXO3 technology -- the Energy Bridge and the Energy Channel -- have added a significant element of control and "feel" that the 70's version didn't have. Not being a fan of compromise, I asked myself if this merging of the old with the new is a major leap forward in racquet technology, a tiny step, or just a compromised version of what was perhaps the most revolutionary racquet in tennis history.
Is this a "better" racquet than the Prince Original Graphite? Is it even possible to provide an objective answer to this question? When you get down to it, choosing the tennis racquet that's right for you is an individual decision. What you've got to determine is whether a racquet's characteristics suit your particular game, whether it feels comfortable in your hand. The best I can do is let you know how the Prince EXO3 Graphite 100 felt in mine.
I tested it immediately after playing for approximately 30 hours with the Prince EXO3 Rebel 95, it took me a while to adjust. For some reason, even though I played for years with leather grips, I initially found the Calkskin Leather Grip difficult to hang on to. I much preferred the traction of the Rebel 95's new (in my view, the best replacement grip on the market). But once the racquet felt completely secure in my hand, I really started to enjoy playing with it. Make no mistake, this is a player's racquet. It's fast through the air, comfortable to play with, spin friendly, and definitely made for players who like to generate their own pace.
Prince, the company, has a habit of producing racquets that are unique. This racquet (and, for that matter, the whole EXO3 line of Prince racquets) is no exception. In the Player category of racquets, this is a double-edged sword for Prince as, generally speaking, the better the player, the less likely that player is going to change -- or even consider changing -- to a different racquet. The reason for this is that advanced players have defined and refined what they like in a racquet in a process that takes years. And when you have a progressive company like Prince that produces racquets that aren't remotely like anything else on the market, it's an uphill battle converting the advanced player to a very foreign feeling frame. The typical reaction to something that has nothing much in common with what you're used to is to put it down after hitting with it for five minutes, and then never pick it up again.
However, once an active-minded, serious player recognizes the potential that truly innovative technology offers him or her becomes hooked on a frame like the Prince EXO3 Graphite 100, there's no turning back. Yes, the Prince EXO3 feels different from anything else out there, but it's versatile enough to appeal to all sorts of game styles, from the baseliner to the serve-volleyer, and everything in between.
What I found most difficult to get to grips with was the soft feel of the racquet head that I don't associate with graphite frames. And although I preferred the Prince EXO3 Rebel 95, I liked the combination of precision and solidity that this racquet offers. The Energy Bridge technology in tandem with the Stabilizer Bar makes for an incredibly stable racquet to volley with.
Further, the racquet's adequate heft, and, in particular, large sweet spot eliminates any possibility of twisting in the hands of a competent volleyer, even when facing an opponent with the baseline game of an 800lb gorilla.
SERVING AND SMASHING
As with groundstrokes and volleys, serving and smashing didn't present any problems whatsoever.
With serving, at 11.6oz (strung) and ample swing speed, the racquet produces plenty of power and spin. But don't rely on the racquet to do the work for you. This is definitely not a frame for players with anything less than a first class serve.
RETURN OF SERVE
This was an indecisive area for me. Initially, I couldn't decide whether the racquet was better for full blooded drives or for a more conservative approach. However, the more familiar I became with the handling of the racquet, and the more I got used to how the ball behaved off the strings, the more comfortable I became with my shot selections. The more I played with it, the more opted for a drive rather than a block or slice return.
With this frame and the Prince EXO3 Rebel 95, Prince have made a serious entrance into the Players category of racquets. The Prince EXO3 Graphite 100 different than anything out there, but this is also it's strength. Prince's biggest obstacle is going to be converting advanced players from the familiar to the distinctly unfamiliar. Although it took me longer to get used to this racquet than anything I've tested in the last few years, I didn't find any flaws or the imposition of any limitations on my game. Although I personally preferred the comfort and the playability of the EXO3 Rebel 95, I was very impressed with what this frame offers to a wide range of advanced players.
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