- Jon Levey
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Serve-and-volleyers and American men in the top 10 are a couple of things that are becoming increasingly difficult to find on the pro tours. From an equipment standpoint, the 95-square-inch frame fits quite easily on that list. With heavy topspin baseline warfare being the order of the day, larger faced racquets with bigger sweet spots and additional surface area to put more work on the ball have become much more desirable. But every once in a while, a frame like the Prince Textreme Tour 95 comes along to remind us all that, just like the occasional dash to net after a slider out wide, a midsize frame can still be relevant and plenty effective.
The Prince Tour 95 lineage has always been noted for its friendly response at contact and precise shot-making. The Textreme edition continues that tradition with a few notable departures. Gone are the EXO3 ports that gave the frame a supremely cushioned feel; conventional grommets and their more traditional feedback return in their place. At just under 12 oz. it’s also slightly lighter, with the string pattern opening up from 18x20 to 16x19, giving the frame more spin-potential and extra pop. The addition of Textreme is designed to create better torsional stability at impact -- it still leaves the racket with a rather flexible stiffness rating (60), but it feels crisper and plays firmer than expected from such a grade.
All these enhancements add up to a more powerful Tour 95, but it’s more of a boost than a surge -- with a full swing and clean contact there’s enough mass and inherent punch to deliver ample pace to serves and ground strokes. While the frame has a nice sweet spot for its head size, it’s still limited and off-center hits are noticeably punished. But being able to take big cuts without worry is what the audience for a thin-beamed, control-oriented midsize is looking for.
And commanding shots is something the Tour 95 does exceptionally well. The adjective often gets thrown around when describing precision frames, but this racquet is indeed surgical. I found it particularly adept for rolling angles and producing biting slice backhands to move my opponent around the court. I had much more success when I favored patience and tactics over brute power to bust open a point.
And once I did, I took every opportunity to move forward to net, where the frame perhaps shines brightest. The head-light balance results quick handling to get the racket in proper positioning and there’s just enough backbone to defend hard-hit passes. This is also where the addition of grommets really comes to the fore as the feel and feedback leads to great touch and control. I could see this stick fitting like a glove in the hands of accomplished doubles players looking for a classic-feeling frame.
However, the demands of this type of all-court performer might not be for everyone. If a more user-friendly, baseline-centric approach is what you’re looking for, the Textreme Tour 100T presents an attractive landing spot. At just under 11 oz., it’s easier to swing and with a larger hitting surface there’s more margin for error. It’s slightly firmer, but still plenty comfortable and far more flexible than most of its brethren in the tweener category. Along those lines, where many at this weight class can be overly powerful, what I really appreciated about the 100T was it still maintained a respectable level of control.
Some of that restraint comes from the heavy amount of spin the 100T can apply to the ball. It’s probably not the spin monster that the previous Tour 100T was -- the EXO3 ports on that model gave it a little more string movement -- but it’s certainly no slouch in that department. (Conversely, having grommets improves the muddled feedback that hampered net play in the prior model). It’s highly maneuverable, encouraging significant whip with the racket face; coupled with the16x18 string pattern, the result is serious topspin. And since the frame is so comfortable, you can string it up with an edged or firm polyester to take full advantage of the attribute.
The one drawback was, because it’s a little light, some of those spin shots lacked enough penetration. It wasn’t an issue on flatter shots where the high swing speeds produced the necessary zip, but there was the occasional occurrence of a topspin groundie or kicker sitting up too short. On the bright side, the stock weight and head-light balance of the 100T make it a prime candidate for customization. Adding some lead tape and a leather grip could go a long way to increasing the weight of shots and the frame’s overall stability for more advanced play.
But as is the 100T has a lot to offer intermediate competitors. It’s one of those frames that may not be exceptional at any one thing, but does everything well. It feels comfortable without being dead or mushy and has a favorable balance of power vs. control. It also packs plenty of spin potential and has enough touch for capable net play. If the biggest fault you can hang on a racquet is that it has no major faults, that’s a frame worth considering.