You might be wondering: "why does blue mean power?" And your confusion is valid.
In truth, only real tennis nerds who geek out about gear and every technical detail will understand. But that's why I (a tennis nerd who geeks out about gear and every technical detail) am here to explain.
Thirty years ago, Babolat helped revolutionize tennis when they released the first Pure Drive.
In a world of thin beamed, heavy, dense string-patterned frames, the Pure Drive was powerful, spin-friendly, and above all, much easier to use.
It quickly gained popularity, especially with junior players, as it complemented their new, modern style of play. Over the years, other brands followed suit and released their versions of power rackets. For whatever reason, each new power racket came out in some sort of blue—probably to keep things easily distinguishable.
Along with the colour, these rackets have other specs in common.
Each racket on this list has a thick beam, undulating between 23, 26, and 23 millimeters—at least within a very small variance of that spec. They all have a stiff flex (above 66 RA), a 16 x 19 string pattern, and a 300-gram weight. They are maneuverable, forgiving, and extremely powerful, at least for rackets that still reward a competitive players' game.
Here is a comprehensive breakdown of what makes each power racket unique.
Babolat Pure Drive 2021
What better way to start than with the original.
The Babolat Pure Drive broke the mold and continues to lead the way in terms of playability, popularity, and technological advances. Having lost count of every Pure Drive ever released, I can confidently say this is one of their best.
Stiffness is one major drawback of playing with power-style rackets. It's a double-edged sword.
On the one hand, the high RA helps in generating power and spin. On the other, it's notorious for creating uncomfortable vibrations and a jarring feel. With the 2021 Pure Drive, Babolat has dampened the vibrations and softened up the graphite in strategic locations throughout the hoop, effectively eliminating the discomfort issue. It remains true to its power DNA while feeling softer, more comfortable, and more connected to the ball than in the past.
The Pure Drive dominates the tennis industry in sales, and I can understand why. It's easy to use, rewarding (especially from the baseline), and has that magical "Pure Drive feel" that pushes it beyond many of its competitors in terms of playability.
Wilson Ultra v4.0
Wilson is a massive tennis brand, so it's surprising that none of this tennis giant's power rackets have ever been that popular.
The Steam and Burn did well, but couldn't compete with rival brands. The previous three Ultras were good, but didn't offer anything special in terms of playability or feel and the v3.0 proved that to a tee. It was light and stiff, with a thick beam, so on paper it had all the ingredients for a great power frame. It just didn't have anything special, and nowadays, if you want to compete, you need that x-factor.
With the release of the Ultra v4.0, Wilson have improved the feel, comfort and maneuverability of the frame. At 73 RA, the Ultra v3.0 was the stiffest on the market, and didn't feature any dampening technologies. This made it jarring and sometimes even uncomfortable. The Ultra v4.0 has a softer flex (70 RA), but also features FORTYFIVE braid of graphite. This technology - now on every current Wilson racket (ok technically not on the RF97) - not only dampens unfriendly shock, it also improves feel and connection to the ball.
Wilson also improved the aerodynamics of the frame on the Ultra v4.0. The throat is molded to be more aerodynamic, something we see on many power and spin rackets today. It makes the Ultra more whippy and quicker through the air, which helps generate more racket head speed and spin.
The end result with the Ultra v4.0 is a racket far more complete than its predecessor. Better feel, more comfort and spin, and only slightly less power, puts this frame firmly in the conversation with the very best in this category. Well done Wilson.
Yonex Ezone 100 V7
If we were to take an "odd one out" off this list, it would be the Ezone. Why is that? It has a different beam profile to the other three rackets on this list, with a thinner throat that flexes more and provides a less direct power return. It also has a very narrow frame design in the hoop, enhancing its softer feel. That said, Yonex markets the Ezone as their easy-to-use, most powerful racket in brand, so we'll call it a power racket.
As you might expect, the Ezone 100 is the most controlled frame on this list, with the longest dwell time and point-and-shoot response. It is still remarkably forgiving; Yonex rackets all feature an isometric head shape that elongates the main strings and gives each racket a bigger sweet spot. The Ezone is also one of the more spin-friendly power rackets on the market. It has an open 16 x 19 pattern, and the aerodynamic frame helps it whip through contact and respond best to modern western groundstrokes.
It might not pack the same punch as the other frames on this list, but it's probably the most well-rounded.
Dunlop FX 500
Over the years, Dunlop decreased in popularity because they failed to make competitive, modern tweener rackets. They went through a rebrand in which they maintained their traditional players' frames but also got with the times and released a powerful line, the FX.
The FX 500 is Dunlop's most recent powerful offering and, by far, the best.
It's as powerful and forgiving as one would expect from a frame branded in this category. What makes the FX 500 unique is its unconventional string pattern. While 16 mains and 19 crosses might sound standard, Dunlop has significantly tightened up the string pattern in the sweet spot. This gives the FX 500 a solid feel and makes it remarkably controlled for a racket with so much power.
This control has helped the FX 500 carve out a niche with competitive players. They can press on the gas, knowing their balls won't spray into oblivion, but also reap all the benefits of the extra crack they can get from a power racket.
This adaptive string pattern design also helps make the racket very forgiving. When you hit outside the sweet spot, the string pattern is more open (the density has to open up somewhere), resulting in a more springy, forgiving sensation that helps push shanked shots farther into the court. No one hits perfectly every time, so a system that helps control good shots and improve bad shots can benefit everyone.
Tennis purists can scoff all they want at the popularity of "power frames" but the fact of the matter is they are here, and they are here to stay.
While they haven't rendered all other frame designs obsolete, they have played an important role in modernizing tennis, and creating the hard hitting and heavy spin game we see today.
Everyone can benefit from certain features of a power racket, and if you've never tried one, demoing our fleet will give you an even better idea as to how they play. If you know what you want, check them out online or in-store.