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Friday, May 13, 2011 Lightweight Control: Prince EXO3 Tour Team Look

EXO3 Tour Team 100Earlier this year, Prince finally released a suitable replacement to the popular Ozone Tour with the EXO3 Tour 100, which was available in both an 18x20 and 16x18 string pattern, similar to the Head YouTek Speed MP series. Considering that some of their most high profile players had either not switched to the EXO3 technology or were simply using repainted versions of their older frames after 2 years, it was nice to see that their newest Tour 100 was good enough to convince some players to switch. Notable pros officially using the EXO3 Tour series include David Ferrer, Juan Carlos Ferrero, and Daniela Hantuchova, among others. Another model, the EXO3 Tour Lite, is endorsed by Sam Querrey. Interestingly, the initial Tour release included frames weighing a mere 9 ounces unstrung, and 11.1 ounces unstrung, with a large gap between. That gap will be filled with the release of the EXO3 Tour Team 100, which weighs 10.2 ounces unstrung, giving it similar specs to the new Babolat Pure Storm Team GT and Head YouTek IG Speed Elite. It also shares the open 16x18 string pattern of the heavier model.
This appears to be a growing trend as racquets continue to get lighter, and lighter (much to my chagrin), that many typically control oriented properties are combined with light weights. Oddly enough, this trend was really started years ago, but is just recently starting to pick up, as the original Babolat Pure Storm and Wilson Hyper Hammer 5.2 MP (the predecessor to the current Tour BLX), both offered thin beams, midplus headsizes with strung weights under 11 ounces. One key feature of these lighter weights is that the balance moves much closer to evenly balanced or sometimes even slightly head heavy. Thanks to our friends at Prince, we were able to have access to one of these new Tour Team 100 frames before they were released. For testing purposes, it was strung with Prince Lightning XX Spin 16 at mid tension (58lbs), and came in with these specs.

100sq. in
16x18 String Pattern
10.6oz (strung)
2 Points Head Light
316 SW
60 RA
EXO3 Tour Team HeadThe surprising thing about this frame to us is that the stiffness came in at 60 on our Babolat RDC, which seemed odd due to the fact that the heavier Tour 100 models showed stiffness readings of 50 and 54. Either way, the stiffness on the EXO3 frames all tend towards the softer side of frames in today’s age of stiff as steel Babolats and Wilsons, and this one is no exception. After some initial testing, I would have to say that this frame has plenty of potential for the right player. The midplus head and thin beam give the racquet plenty of control, and the EXO technology is very noticeable with the large sweetspot and soft feel. The moderate weight of this control racquet did make it fairly easy to maneuver and accelerate through contact. The just slightly head light balance resulted in a higher than expected swingweight, which offered very good stability from the baseline, something I typically worry about with lighter racquets. Despite having plenty of resistance to twisting, the frame did not have the same plow through effect that I am used to enjoying.
Overall the racquet was good from all areas of the court, and would be a very good fit for someone looking for this kind of frame. The EXO3 Tour Team joins a list of other 100sq. in. frames in the Prince line up, such as the EXO3 Black, Black Team, White, and White Lite. The Tour Team will offer more control and comfort than the Black or White thanks to its thinner beam and softer flex, making it appropriate for players with longer swings. While it lacked weight for my more ancient racquet preferences, the performance was definitely there, and with a bit of modification, it holds so much potential.
If you are searching for a control frame, but don’t want to swing around a club for those 3 set matches, go ahead and give the EXO3 Tour Team a try. It offers plenty of control, comfort, and stability, but in a nimble package.


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