When Wilson released the first Clash in 2019, they basically told the world, "we're not scared to innovate," and it paid off. The Clash gained huge popularity and is now one of the best-selling lineups. This is a tough industry to gain market share in — established rackets are an easy transition from generation to generation — so cracking it wide open was impressive.
Wilson is marketing the Shift in a similar way. We have another camo-not-so-camo paint job that makes the racket pop without sharing too much of what's happening inside. Here's what I can tell you: the Shift 300 weighs 300 grams, with a 16x20 string pattern and 99 square inch head. The beam is 23 millimeters and flexes at a very high, 68 RA unstrung. I like stiffer constant beam rackets, so I was getting very excited.
I tested the Wilson Labs Shift 300 (that's what we'll call it for now) with Babolat RPM Rough 17 at 53 pounds.
The first thing that came to mind was, "wow, this racket screams Head Speed." It's a similar idea to the Speed in that it, on paper, it falls somewhere between the brand's control frame (Blade) and power frame (Ultra). Then, the head size is similar, the beam thickness is the same, and the general shape and mold are also close. The inner throat also has that slightly oval design, which makes it quicker through the air and gives it a unique flex characteristic. I like the Speed, so excitement kept building, but it didn't play much like one. It's significantly stiffer than the Speed, a bit faster (probably due to that 1 square inch decrease in head size), and quite a bit more spin friendly.
The idea behind Wilson Labs is to release a prototype, gather feedback, then release the final version. My biggest criticism is that the Shift's swingweight is too low. I've seen some reports of a 320 swingweight, but our two demos swung between 306 and 309, so I'm going with that. I found it too pingy and even a bit metallic with that low of a swingweight. It wasn't stable enough and definitely a little jarring at times.
I brought it closer to its supposed spec and added lead strips at 3 and 9. I also threw on a leather grip because I thought it could do with a general static weight increase. That transformed the Shift. If Wilson gets the swing and static weight right on the general release, we are in for a phenomenal racket.
I like starting with a racket's most redeeming quality.
On the Shift, that's the feel.
Wow! For such a stiff racket, there is lovely, crisp feedback and an extremely well-defined sweet spot. Also, because of its stiffness, It has an instant response, so when you tell it to do something, it reacts accordingly. I was so happy to feel this because Wilson's sweet spots have been trending bigger and mushier, which is great for comfort and ease of use but takes away from positive feedback. Once I was dialed in, the racket became addictive; that's a sensation you only get when the "feel" meshes perfectly with your game.
It's not the most forgiving racket, though, so it's definitely geared toward more advanced players. The racket doesn't like when you make contact outside of the sweet spot, and that sweet spot is small. You'll feel it flutter, and because it's stiff, those vibrations may lead to some discomfort; however, when I made proper contact, I didn't have any issues with the stiffness. I don't think there's much in the way of dampening tech because the feel was quite "raw," but the shape and constant beam make it flex uniformly without an awkward feel. Still, the racket doesn't feel like "traditional" graphite. There's something going on with the flex of the frame to make it feel different, but it was a very positive sensation.
You need to be on top of your game with the Shift, but when you are, you'll be rewarded with an incredibly responsive stick and you can quickly get into a zone where you feel like you won't miss.
There have been murmurs about the spin technology within the Shift.
I've heard some say that the flex of the frame is different from other rackets and that it's made to flex in conjunction with the snapback of the strings to amplify spin potential. We'll learn more after the general release, but the racket is very spin-friendly.
First off, it's quick through the air, even after customization. It's not crazy fast like some of those yellow spin rackets, but it's maneuverable and whips through contact quickly. Then, when you look at the string-to-ball interaction, there is more snapback than you might expect from this style of racket. This might be that secret technology at work, but it's still less than on actual "spin rackets."
The stringbed density is standard, even for a 16x20, so it won't hold your spin back. Now, this is a BIG reminder that we're talking about the 300-gram Shift because the same can't be said about the 315. That's one of the most closed-off 18x20s I've seen. Review coming soon.
I was anticipating this to be a dedicated "spin racket", because that's a style missing from the Wilson lineup, but it's not. The Shift is not defined by its spin, but rather just a spin-friendly racket; well-done, Wilson.
I'm glad Wilson hasn't gone all in to make this a proper "spin racket." With those, you can get lost in the wild launch angles and inconsistent responses. The Shift has a pretty high launch angle, somewhere between a Gravity MP and a Pure Drive, but the spin will naturally bring the ball down into the court, and it's always consistent.
This racket is at its best when you're hitting with topspin. By the end of my playtest, I was so dialed in that I didn't have this issue, but early on, it could get a little bit launchy when I flattened out my shots. That was even more noticeable before adding lead tape, although I'm chalking that up to an off-spec racket rather than a real playability flaw.
When you hit with spin from the baseline, the racket is so consistent. With a racket this stiff, the ball deflects off the stringbed very quickly, so there isn't a long dwell time to pocket the ball during contact. It doesn't have that traditional soft racket control but more of a scalpel-like precision.
Stability was great when I brought it up to a 320 swingweight (and added a leather grip). Combine that with its precision and crisp feel, and you have a racket that is also great at the net. When you make proper contact anywhere on the court, the ball will go where you aim it, it's as simple as that.
The Shift is stiff, with a medium-thick beam and a decently open stringbed. It has most ingredients to be powerful, and it packs a punch. It's not an uncontrollably powerful frame, but it will naturally help you generate depth and keep up when rallies get faster. That's where the racket performed best. When rallies got slower and loopier, I found that it wanted to get going again, but it didn't have that easy ability to create power out of nowhere, and if I tried countering a moonball with pace, it could feel a little wild.
Instead of calling it flat-out powerful, I will use the word "poppy." With so little energy lost on contact, it has great pop, which I really appreciated.
The Shift will be most popular amongst advanced players.
That's not to say intermediates won't like it, but the racket performs better and better the harder you hit. There was never a point where I wanted "more racket," at least after adding some weight.
It's also a racket that excels for players that play with plenty of spin. You need to control its launch, and because it's not soft, you do that with spin.
It has that precise and addictive feel when you get into the zone, which is something I know advanced players almost require from a stick before making the switch.
Will I be Shifting?
There is a definite possibility, it kind of depends on what happens with the new Auxetic Gravity line released later this month, but either way, this is a fantastic frame. Wilson has given us a modern stick with unique characteristics that make it perform exceedingly well from all areas of the court, and it's got that "feel" x-factor that helps push it over the edge for me. I hope Wilson doesn't change the Shift too much and that the final product is as good or even better than this prototype – get your quality control up a bit with the swingweight.