The Blade line has become one of the most ubiquitous frames in Wilson’s lineup. While Wilson has focused on spin in recent years, the latest version of the Blade series indicates that Wilson has their eyes on comfort this year. The new Blade sports a cosmetic in line with the Pro Staff family and introduces Countervail into the layup of the racquet. This shock absorbing technology reduces player fatigue and maximizes performance by limiting the shock transferred through the racquet to players. Wilson also adds in Parallel Drilling for improved comfort and power production. The 16x19 version of this Blade looks to strike a balance between power, spin and precision. Here’s how the Blade Countervail 16x19 stacked up when I hit the court with it.
The Blade 16x19 took me a little bit of time to get comfortable with off the ground. Even though it was the same static weight as my usual frame, the heftier swing weight and closer to even balance required me to adjust my timing a bit as the racquet was a bit slower to bring through contact. This was less noticeable of an issue than it was during my time with the 18x20 version. As I adjusted, the racquet’s 11.2oz strung weight started to showcase its strength. The frame had impressive court penetration from both sides on groundstrokes. The beefed up swing weight added great depth to my shots and drove them through the court. I could control rallies from either wing and especially enjoyed driving my backhand up the line. While this version was not as precise as the 18x20, there was still a solid level of accuracy and control. Once I had my timing dialed in, I could attack the court and hit to aggressive targets. Spin was easy to generate thanks to the fairly open 16x19 pattern. I was able to add margin to shots as needed while still being able to flatten out short balls and attack. The extra mass in the head was also beneficial when defending against heavy hitters and the racquet did a great job of redirecting pace with minimal fluttering and keeping me in points.
Volleys & Serves
The 16x19 version of Blade was a step up in net performance compared to 18x20 model. It retained the same outstanding power for finishing off volleys and making quick work of anything left high. I found this version to be slightly more maneuverable for quick exchanges. Players who play at the net consistently probably won’t find the desired quickness with this frame but it was fast enough to hold its own for the most part when I came forward. I also found the racquet to have strong accuracy on volleys. I was able to direct the ball to corners and create angles that made it challenging for opponents to stay in the point. Touch was adequate for volleys but I would have preferred a more connected feel for executing drop and touch volleys as those are important parts of my game.
Serving with this version of the Blade was a bit of a mixed bag. I expected to it to hit with a lot more pop on first serves than what I found it to have. The extra mass in the head made it feel a bit slow at the top of the hitting zone and perhaps there was a reduction in head speed that was limiting the pace I was getting. While my flat serve didn’t have the pace I wanted, this frame did still serve with a high level of control. I relied more on my spots with my first serve, moving my opponents around to create opportunities to attack on the first ball. My second serve was a strong weapon with this frame as well. The open pattern let me get a bit more action on the ball, keeping my kick serve out of the strike zone. The slice serve didn’t have the same bite as the 18x20 model but it was still effective out wide on the ad court for me.
The addition of Countervail to the Blade yielded a substantially different feel than previous models. While still a somewhat firm racquet, it played with a very muted response on contact. There was very little vibration that made it to my arm. Even though the weight distribution provided a solid feel, I would have preferred a bit more feedback from the racquet. The dampening was so extensive that it was a bit challenging for me to feel connected to the ball as it left the string bed. The feel of the new Countervail Blade will likely come down to a matter of personal preference for players. Fans of comfort shouldn’t find any shortcomings with the racquet. The string bed had a uniform feel with shots from anywhere on it feeling comfortable and smooth. Combining the dampening with a soft string choice should make this frame accessible to any player concerned about comfort.
Wilson’s latest update to the Blade boasts an impressive blend of baseline power and control. It can pound groundstrokes, create spin for extra margin and hit targets with impressive accuracy. The addition of Countervail to the layup imparts a unique, vibration free feel that may create some division with players who preferred the old Blade’s crisper response. Overall, the new Blade 98 Countervail 16x19 is an exceptionally comfortable frame that is dangerous from anywhere on court and will suit a variety of playstyles and levels.
About the Reviewer: Matt Locke currently serves as the Junior Programs & Development Coordinator for USTA-Idaho and is an active USTA League and Tournament player.