I'm beginning to like these comparisons. Putting two frames, shoes, or paddles head to head is an excellent way of comparing each playability characteristic to explain which one could be better for who. I've wanted to compare the EZONE and the VCORE for a while now because when I first got back into tennis, I couldn't figure out the difference between the two. Still, over the last four years, I've appreciated the unique experience either line offers. They've helped me understand that two rackets could be similar on paper but not in practice.
With the VCORE's big makeover on this generation, the two frames are more different than ever. They are fantastic rackets in their own right but differ significantly in spin, power, stability, control, and feel despite their near-identical specs.
Both rackets weigh 305 grams, have a 16x19 string pattern, and 98 square inch head. The VCORE flexes at 62 RA unstrung while the EZONE flexes at 64; keep those two numbers in mind as we get into feel.
Feel and ease of use
First of all, both these frames have a relatively muted response. Vibration Dampening Mesh is Yonex's dampening material of choice, and it does a great job of making them both comfortable, but it's just a bit too overpowering for my taste. That said, feel is very much subjective, and while I don't think it's as good on either frame as it is on some other rackets, it's something you'll get used to over time.
Let's go back to the frames' RA ratings mentioned earlier. Comparing these side by side, strung with the same poly at the same tension, I can't believe the VCORE is technically softer than the EZONE. For several reasons, it feels like a stiffer racket.
The EZONE's sweet spot is significantly bigger than the VCORE's. It is a much more user-friendly frame with a relatively large sweet spot for a 98; the opposite is true for the VCORE. The VCORE has a much smaller and more punishing response than the EZONE. If you're not making perfect contact, it can be pretty wild, which is down to this new shape.
Yonex brought the VCORE's sweet spot farther up the racket with this new squared-off top portion of the head. That means that when you swing the racket, more weight is concentrated farther up the frame, which makes the transfer of energy from your hand to the contact point more difficult to control.
Having a sweet spot this small makes the racket more difficult to use and makes it feel a little harsher because it's more jarring outside the sweet spot. This is probably why the VCORE felt stiffer than the EZONE, but also why it has a more crisp and well-defined response when you do hit it right.
Ease of use is undoubtedly the most significant differentiating factor between the two frames. The EZONE is one of the easiest 98s to swing, while the VCORE requires you to play a specific style and always be on top of your game.
Why does the VCORE require you to play a certain way? Because to control the racket's wild side, you must play with some level of high spin. This more open string bed and high sweet spot won't work for those looking for pin-point flat precision.
With that said, and after a short adaptation period, the racket will excel at control for a modern spin game. Because this sweet spot is smaller, it's also more precise, meaning when you make proper contact, you'll naturally have a better feel for where the ball goes.
The VCORE 98 is a modern spin racket in the truest sense. Check out this article for a better definition of the genre and an overview of three of the best modern spin rackets at the store, but what you get here is a racket that gives you great control over where you drop your spinny groundies in your opponent's court.
The EZONE has a much more "traditional" control profile. It may not be as good as some of the constant beam 98s and 18x20s, but it is much better than the VCORE for a wider variety of shots requiring control, especially flatter hitting. The sweet spot is lower down the head, so it has a more forgiving swing pattern, and with the more closed-off string bed, a lower launch angle as well. It won't have that same wild response, so not only will it be better for control, but it will also be easier to control.
Power is where things get interesting between the two rackets because both have great power for 98 square-inch frames, but their power profiles differ quite drastically.
Power can be a little bit confusing in tennis. Is it pace on the shot? Is it easy depth? Well, why not both? These two rackets typify the different styles of power – easy depth on the EZONE and extra pace on the VCORE.
The EZONE has easier access to depth because of its bigger, more forgiving sweet spot and easier swing pattern. You don't have to swing this racket as hard to send the ball farther into your opponent's court. Because the VCORE is harder to use, it requires a faster stroke and better contact to access its power. When you do, though, it's an absolute rocket launcher.
With the VCORE's weight distribution and sweet spot higher up the racket, you will have more leverage over your shot in the sweet spot, so when you get a hold of this ball, you can launch it with tons of power. Because of this unique design, top end power on the VCORE is probably the highest of any 98 I've tried.
The proper "spin racket" here is the VCORE 98 — at least, that's how Yonex is marketing it — but in practice, both frames have excellent spin potential.
With that more open string bed, higher launch angle, and added leverage, the VCORE just edges it for me, but it is very close. The EZONE has a more aerodynamic shape, and because of that more standard frame design, it's quicker through the air. It's a more whippy racket, so you should be able to generate more racket head speed on contact for spin, but the VCORE does have a bit more spin tech in its arsenal to bump it a little higher.
It's also worth noting that as gimmicky as the Silicone Oil Infused Grommets on the VCORE might sound, they do an excellent job of amplifying string snapback, and you can feel the strings moving more freely within the grommets.
Who are they for?
There's one playability characteristic I have waited to compare until now because it will help me hammer in the point that the VCORE is an advanced player's frame while the EZONE is more intermediate to advanced. That's because stability is so much higher on the VCORE that if you're looking for that racket that will stay rock solid against better, harder-hitting players, the VCORE is the one for you.
Yonex didn't just stop in the head when they completely remodelled this version of the VCORE. They also reshaped the throat and nailed what they wanted to accomplish with that redesign. Something about the flex in the VCORE 98's throat is so solid that, at times, I thought I was playing with a racket 15 grams heavier. Not because the racket felt heavy but because it was an unmovable object when I was dialed in. I do want to stress that the VCORE's sweet spot is small, and when you do make contact outside of it, the racket will flutter, but when you dial in your shot, it has world-class stability and solidity, which is why so many professional players are switching to the frame.
Pros find the sweet spot 99% of the time, so whatever inconsistency issues the VCORE might have outside the sweet spot is more or less irrelevant to them. When you combine the top-end spin, power, and control with that incredible stability, the VCORE is a racket that becomes incredibly rewarding in the right hands. I struggle with its demanding side a little too much to call it my racket of choice, but I completely understand how it could become a legendary frame for many.
With that said, the EZONE will still reward you as a 98 should, but it will be easier to use at a lower level and less rewarding than the VCORE during hard-hitting.
Like I said before, the EZONE and the VCORE prove that two rackets could look similar on paper but play very differently in practice. Head shape and overall racket design is a "spec" many overlook when determining whether a racket might fit their game style. Still, it might be one of the most essential characteristics and potentially worth an article of its own in the future.
Remember that if you want to demo the EZONE or VCORE 98, visit us in-store, or you can check out both rackets online.