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R&R Tennis Racket Awards 2023

We round out 2023 with our awards highlighting the best products of the year. What rackets came out on top?

R&R Tennis Racket Awards 2023 Featured Image

It's been another fantastic year for tennis rackets, with big releases coming from all of the major brands. It seems things are constantly improving in this industry with a great variety of modern technology, classic feel, and unique playability all on offer somewhere on our racket wall. We're spoiled for choice, which makes this award ceremony fun, but also tricky.

As with any award, there will be some amazing rackets that aren't honoured here; perhaps even your own frame won't make the list. By no means does that make it a "bad" racket. 

We're covering specific categories, and to be the best, it has to be a great overall racket, but it also needs to be amongst the top 3 in that category. Take the Radical MP, for example. It's a fantastic frame but isn't outstanding in any particular characteristic, so it's probably not going to crack "the best" for spin, control, or power.

With all that said, let's get straight into the first award.


Best Racket for Spin

Let's start with spin because it'll help me explain that we're only covering rackets that came out in 2023. While the current Pure Aero 100 is technically the Pure Aero 100 2023, it came out in September 2022, so unfortunately, it's not eligible.

Not to worry, the Aero is great, but so is the best spin racket of the year, the Wilson Shift 99. Wilson has been killing it with innovation for the last several years, and the Shift is their most recent foray into just that.

Spin rackets have traditionally been extremely spin-friendly but also wild, overly powerful, and lacking any classic control. Instead of using the technology that has made spin rackets notoriously inconsistent, Wilson developed a new graphite layup — Vertical Bending — meant to increase snapback without sacrificing control, and it works wonders.

The Shift 99 is extremely spin-friendly; however, with its constant beam, 16x20 string pattern, and 99 square-inch head, it also has an element of precision and control that is uncommon for a true spin racket. That well-rounded playability cements it as first place for this award.

Also, we're not in the business of handing out participation trophies, but we'll make an exception for the 2023 Vcore 100 because it's also such a great spin racket. The redesign was a breath of fresh air from the previous one, and it only missed out by the slimmest of margins.

Best Racket for Comfort

Comfort is not something we talk about enough on this blog, yet it can make or break a racket. Moving forward, we'll put more emphasis on this characteristic, but for now, we're going to talk about the best racket for comfort in 2023, the Head Gravity MP

The Gravity MP is light (295 grams), thin (22-millimetre beam), and soft (59 RA), and all of those characteristics help make a frame comfortable. Adding Auxetic to the racket's throat made it even better for comfort as it added flexibility without sacrificing stability. 

That low static weight is what pushes this frame to the top of the comfort charts, though. Usually, soft, thin frames need more weight, which can make them challenging to swing and increase strain on the muscles, but that isn't the case here.

One thing to note with the Gravity is that it originally came out in 2019 — around the same time as the Wilson Clash — so there were logical comparisons between the two frames. They are very similar in terms of comfort, but the Gravity MP pulls away in most other metrics, making it an all-around better frame. Control and feel are maybe even more impressive than its comfort, and it's also a great platform racket for customization if you want more stability. 

Best Racket for Power

Ranking rackets based on power has always been difficult for me because power is generated through swing speed, and generally, the most powerful players play with very low-powered frames. That being said, there are some great rackets that help you add a bit of zing to your shot, and the best one in 2023 is the Yonex Vcore 98.

This will be our "hottest take" of the article, especially because the Vcore 100 exists, but I prefer the 98. The 100 is undeniably more powerful, but it's also significantly more "wild," which means that it doesn't induce the same confidence when you want to flatten out your shot and go for big, powerful winners.

Each of the Vcores (95, 98, 100) became more powerful with the redesign, and the 98 strikes that perfect balance of great power-generating potential and easy access to depth with good control and precision.

Best Racket for Control

The best racket for control in 2023 is the Head Auxetic Gravity Pro, which also happens to be my favourite racket of the year.

I've said enough good things about this racket, so I'll try to be brief, but go check out our full review and our Top 5 Rackets for Control if you want to learn more.

The Gravity Pro has an 18x20 string pattern, a constant 20-millimetre beam, and super soft flex, so in terms of directional control, it's about as good as it gets. Then, you look at the 100 square-inch head and think there may be an issue because a bigger head usually takes away from control. That's not the case on the Gravity Pro; the bigger head doesn't take away from any of its precision and adds user-friendliness, power, and spin that you don't get from something like a Prestige.

You may notice we juxtaposed power with control, and that's because both of the winners in these categories also perform well at the opposite characteristic — the Gravity has good power, and the Vcore has great control. There was once a time when rackets were so specific in their playability that if they were good at one thing, they were probably awful at the opposite, but these two frames prove that in 2023, that's not necessary.

Best-looking Racket

Before we crown our best overall racket of the year, we're going to shift gears to a more fun award. While "best-looking racket" won't have anything to do with playability, we believe that a frame's paint job can help immensely with its popularity because first impressions are so important.

Brands have realized this, and there is stark competition regarding frame design, but the best-looking racket of the year has to be the Yonex Percept 97. The previous Vcore Pro had an, astonishingly ugly, retro/tropical look to it, so the update was refreshing, and that's not just because it's mint green.

When we first saw it in pictures, we weren't sold, but then, we fell in love with it when we saw it in person. It's an understated paint job but not "boring" like some other designs. It looks professional, and the matte finish adds a premium touch.

It's also worth pointing out that the improvement in paint job reflects the significant improvement in playability compared to the Vcore Pro 97 that it replaces. Feel and control are the primary beneficiaries and we couldn't be happier. If there were a "most improved" award, the Percept 97 would be a clear winner.

Best Racket of the Year

Once in a while, a racket comes out, and it completely shakes up the industry. In the 90s, it was the Pro Tour 280; in the 2000s, the Aero Pro Drive; and now, it's the Babolat Pure Aero 98. Look at the ATP Top 10, and you'll see that two of the best young players use the current Aero 98.

The Pure Aero 98 is so special because it combines top-tier elements from each category – spin, control, and power – into a highly polished and totally unique package. There are other "modern player's rackets," but none feel as solid, spin-friendly, and powerful as the 98.

Combining the classic aero beam design with a 98-square-inch head makes so much sense; it's the perfect racket for the modern player. Alcaraz and Rune represent the 98s player base to a tee; they play with tons of spin but also love to go for huge shots that require a solid string bed and powerful response.

If that sounds like you, give it a shot because it's quite the racket.

That's it for our racket awards this year!
As I mentioned earlier, we've been spoiled for choice, and I'm sure it will be a similar story next year.

If you want to demo any of the rackets listed above, you can visit our in-store or check them out online.

Happy Holidays!


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