"More forgiving, crisper and will certainly complement a wider variety of players". R&R's Luca Berg dishes everything you need to know about the new Yonex EZONE 98.
The Yonex EZONE 98 racquet has become the Japanese brand’s most popular, and most iconic frame, at least in recent history.
Endorsed by some of its most charismatic touring pros (Naomi Osaka and Nick Kyrgios), the Yonex EZONE 98 has the exposure, but more importantly, has packed in legendary performance into a constantly evolving line of rackets.
There have been a number of successful EZONEs throughout the years, each with its own unique feel and characteristics. The Xi 98 was a stiﬀ, powerful, laser beam of a racket, while the Ai and DR were soft, plush, more controlled sticks. The previous EZONE (v6) brought the line back to popularity combining stiﬀness with comfort through vibration dampening technologies. The line’s DNA lies in controlled power. However, Yonex has never feared drastically changing the design from one racket to the next to achieve that goal with a diﬀerent outcome. While reviewing this v7 EZONE, we will often refer to previous rackets from the line as it is important to compare this unique frame to old designs to get a better understanding of how it plays.
The EZONE has always been a racket that must excel at ground strokes to be a success. Marketed as a sort of tweeners’ tweener, the EZONE 98 colours between the lines of a traditional 100 square inch, forgiving, powerful frame with a thick beam and a traditional small head sized, constant thin-beamed controlled stick. The EZONE has a thick beamed hoop with a remarkably thin beamed throat making its ﬂex distinct from any other frame. It remains stiﬀ and forgiving thanks to that hoop, while pocketing the ball incredibly well and providing dwell time generally associated with players’ frames, due to that ﬂexible throat.
With the newest v7 EZONE, Yonex has, like with their VCORE Pro line, thickened up the beam by half a millimetre throughout its entire proﬁle. This makes the v7 EZONE distinctly more powerful than its predecessor. On both forehand and backhand wings, the v7 pushes the ball noticeably farther into the opponent’s court. The racket also feels quite a bit more stable, and the sweet spot easier to ﬁnd. While the v6 was in no way a ﬂimsy frame, the v7 seems to have that magical bit of put away power that generally comes from a much heavier racket; when you decide to accelerate, it won’t hold back in crushing the ball.
Thickening the racket was a bold move from Yonex. A purist might assume the v7 will lose a bit of the ineﬀable “feel” that came with the EZONE’s ultra-thin throat, however, the newest version is somehow more connected to the ball. At ﬁrst, I thought Yonex did away with the Vibration Dampening Mesh (VDM) advertised on the v6, however it still features. My guess is that they signiﬁcantly improved the technology, which has made this EZONE feel less mushy and more crisp than the predecessor, while remaining soft and comfortable. Yes, this means that Yonex has managed to make this EZONE more powerful, and also more controlled; a clear oxymoron in the world of tennis.
While the sweet-spot of this EZONE is bigger than it has been on generations past, I did notice this version to be more jarring and uncomfortable outside of the sweet spot. Compared to the v6, which remained soft and comfortable on oﬀ-centre hits, this one sent more vibration and ﬂutters throughout the frame when contact was poor. Depending on the user’s level of tennis, this could be considered a positive or a negative. While some players beneﬁt from more forgiving dead zones, advanced players will prefer the negative response they receive from hitting the ball poorly, a response that forces them to remember where the sweet spot is, or suﬀer the consequences.
This edition of the EZONE continues to be a precise instrument at the net. Its 98 square inch head remains quick and the thicker beam makes it more forgiving and easier to punch through the ball. YONEX has also marginally increased the swing weight of the v7. Our tests showed a consistent +7 in swing weight points when compared to the v6. Its higher swing weight also contributes to its increased stability and put away power both at the net and from the baseline.
While it may be ever so slightly less maneuverable, we actually believe that this increase is an all around improvement, as it brings the racket closer to its swing-weight sweet spot. What do I mean by that? The previous EZONE felt a bit light through the air and at contact considering the pace of ball it was meant to counter-punch. This one, not so much.
Serves and Returns
The EZONE has always been a pleasure to serve with. It crushes the ball signiﬁcantly harder because of its much thicker hoop than those rackets in its head-size class. Serving is a motion that, when perfected, is more linear and repeatable than any other shot in tennis. Because of this, the most important component of a racket, when determining its serve potential, is quite simply its power level. The “feel” and “precision” are less important than its sheer strength.
Because this racket is heavier and thicker than its predecessor, it is quite simply all around better at serving. Returning is a similar story. Because of its higher swing weight and thicker proﬁle, this EZONE can return more pace from the opponent’s serve than almost any previous racket in the line.
This edition of the EZONE builds on a racket in the v6 that saved a ﬂoundering line after the v5’s attempt at “worst sequel ever” in response to the legendary DR 98. There has been some murmur in the tennis community that this is the second coming of the DR, and I must say, I disagree. (Yes, I too had to bring up that racket such is its resounding success.) The DR was softer and plusher but signiﬁcantly more diﬃcult to use, and quite a bit less powerful. This edition is more forgiving, crisper and will certainly complement a wider variety of players; a more than worthy frame to sustain the EZONE’s avid following.
To try this frame, head to Rackets & Runners and ask about our demo program, or buy yours now.