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Friday, July 13, 2012 Racquet Review: Gamma RZR 98T

A company renowned for its strings, Gamma has been in the racquet business far longer than most folks realize. With the launch of their new RZR line, the brand seems to be making strong comeback into the racquet market.

The RZR series was introduced as part of Gamma’s innovative and intelligent “Black Racquet” promotion, which maintained an air of mystery surrounding just who was behind those monochromatic, unbranded frames. Now that the secret is out, we’ll be reviewing one of the five racquets in the line: the RZR 98T.

Specifications: The Gamma RZR 98T is the “Tour” (heavier) version of the standard RZR 98, and it packs some heft, coming in at an unstrung weight of 11.5 oz. (almost a full ounce heavier than the RZR 98). But its balance is 8 points head light, which will aid maneuverability. Beam widths are a narrow 22mm straight down the frame, and flex is a fairly soft 61 on the Babolat Racquet Diagnostic Center (RDC), so you’ll have to depend on a dynamic swing speed for power. Swingweight is a moderate 306, implying decent maneuverability. The string pattern is an open 16 mains/18 crosses, and the strings are in a recessed channel all around the inside of the frame, giving a slight larger “effective” head size. There are some other neat features we’ll discuss in the Fine Points section.

In Play: The first thing you’ll notice about the RZR 98T is its weight. Even though most of it is in the handle, it’s still a bit of a chore to get moving. However, once in motion, it’s quite easy to send the ball the length of the court with speed, and spin is simple to apply. The relatively high twistweight keeps the racquet head in-line on mishits from the baseline. It also has the tendency of most narrow-beamed racquets to lose a bit of power on balls hit toward the tip, but no more than its competition. At net, the handle weighting helps the frame remain stable and solid, even when volleying hard-hit shots. Feel is quite solid on volleys, and depth and control are excellent. The mass is evident on serves and overheads in particular as the aerodynamics, while good, cannot quite overcome the effort needed to hit a big flat or kick serve. Despite that, control and placement are top-notch.

Fine Points: The RZR Tac grip is a lot like the old Gamma Hi-Tech - firm with good edge feel and cushioning. Grip sizing is true, and the butt cap is wide enough at the bottom, although it could use a little more flare. The RZR 98T has the closest cosmetics to the original prototypes, although some would probably prefer the original’s all-black “stealth” finish. But the black, gray and white paint job manages to successfully straddle the line between flashy and demure. The bumper guard is nearly flush-mounted to the frame, which should lessen wind resistance, but leaves the string groove quite shallow. If you dig out a lot of low volleys, you’ll want to make sure your stringer has grommet sets on hand. However, as the majority of tennis these days is played from the baseline, it shouldn’t be an issue for most. The aerodynamics merit mention as the frame has, to the eye anyway, not a single flat area. Even the center of the throat has a slight angle to help it cut through the air. Gamma (and Black Racquet) has done everything possible to reduce drag on the RZR frames.
In Conclusion: Stronger players should take a close look at the Gamma RZR 98T. Good weighting and balance, along with a softer flex, allow bigger hitters to use their swings to full potential. The aerodynamic design aids maneuverability at net, but a strong swing will be needed on serves and smashes. Gamma has given advanced players a stable and forgiving frame that should reward them. If you’re considering the Babolat Aero Storm Tour, Head Prestige, Wilson Blade/Six.One series, Prince Rebel, Dunlop 200 series and such, add the RZR 98T to your demo list.


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