2019 brings an update to one of the biggest selling racquet lineups on the planet. Wilson has introduced the new Blade V7 family and it brings some substantial changes to the series. Wilson removes the Countervail dampening material and replaces it with an updated version of the technology first introduced in the Clash line. This updated technology, dubbed FeelFlex in the Blade, uses strategic Carbon Mapping to improve torsional stability and power while also enhancing the flex and responsiveness of the frame. Wilson has also made the Blade slightly more headlight in an effort to improve the maneuverability. The handle also includes a long grip taper now, allowing for easier positioning of the top hand for two handed backhands. The Blade 98 V7 18x20 boasts the highest swingweight of the 98 inch models and I recently had the chance to take it through its paces on court.
From the baseline, the Blade 98 V7 18x20 hit a big ball. The 20.6 mm flat beam width provided plenty of power without sacrificing control. The beefy 330+ swingweight provided plenty of mass driven plow through on my groundstrokes. My biggest struggle off the ground was properly adjusting my timing from the swingweight increase. Thankfully, the process was faster than with the previous CV model, as the slight headlight balance increase and better spec tolerance on the new one made it easier to find my rhythm. I felt the 18x20 had a heavier more penetrating ball, while the 16x19 model had more raw speed, probably because it was a bit faster swinging. The sweet spot on the 98 inch head was ample and I didn’t see much of a power drop off on off center contact. Accuracy was very high and when I was timing the ball right, I felt I could hit any spot on the court with ease. I was able to consistently attack the lines and use the outer thirds of the court to my advantage. Spin production was more limited when compared to the more open patterned version. I didn’t have the same ability to vary ball trajectory and hit big dippers when I wanted to. There was enough spin to create reasonable margin but the racquet was at its best when I was looking for balls to flatten out and attack. My backhand slice was also impressive with this frame. It drove the ball low through the court and put opponents in difficult positions. The higher swingweight gave the 18x20 model more stability and it easily re-directed pace and absorbed big hitting.
Volleys & Serves
Net play with the Blade 18x20 was a slightly mixed bag for me. The mass of the frame made it easy to finish volleys with authority and make people think twice about leaving anything high for me. The excellent feel and precision made it easy for me to direct volleys anywhere on court. I used sharp angles and deep drives to command the net and put opponents on the run. I found this version slightly less maneuverable than the 16x19 and it was more work for me to stay ahead of quick exchanges at the net. The racquet was a little slower to respond and position when trying to handle reaction volleys. As long as I was positioned right, the racquet had impressive stability and deflected hard hit balls close to my body really well. The racquet had a more connected feel than the previous CV version and I had more success executing on drop and touch volleys than I did with the outgoing model.
Maximizing my serve with this frame required patience and relaxation. The added swingweight initially had me over swinging on my first serve in an effort to get the racquet head moving effectively. The result was a lot of missed serves and some fatigue in my shoulder. After I relaxed and let the frame do the work, my first serve percentage jumped up. The solid mass and swingweight gave my flat serve solid court penetration and enough pace to snag a free point or two. Accuracy was again impressive on serve. I painted the corners of the box easily and kept opponents off balance with multiple serve directions and patterns. My second serve was a bit vulnerable if I stayed too reliant on the kick serve. The dense pattern and higher swingweight made it a little slow through the top of contact and the result was that my kick serve was closer to their strike zones. My better option was to leverage the mass of the frame on slice serves. In the ad court, my slice serve was devastating, skidding way wide and low, opening the door wide for me to pounce on weak replies.
The feel of the Countervail used on the previous Blade model was pretty divisive. While it effectively absorbed vibration, many players felt it robbed the frame of feedback and connectedness. I found the updated version to remedy those issues. The implementation of FeelFlex did an impressive job handling vibration and shock while offering much better ball connection than the FreeFlex iteration of the technology used in the Clash line. The Blade 18x20 had a soft feel and good pocketing without being vague about what the ball was doing on the strings. The low flex and soft feel of the frame allowed me to play it in full poly without any comfort issues. Players should be able to use a wide range of string and tension options without giving up any comfort with this racquet.
Wilson’s newest version of the Blade is a solid return to form for the franchise. The 18x20 boasts finishing power at the baseline, scalpel like precision and enough maneuverability to finish points at the net. This update enhances the connected feel while providing outstanding comfort and response. Players who want a frame that can bully the ball and opponents while also executing the more refined aspects of the game will be right at home with the new Blade V7 18x20 from Wilson.
About the Reviewer: Matt Locke formerly served for 3 years as the Junior Programs & Development Coordinator for USTA-Idaho. He is a PTR certified coach and is an active USTA 4.5 League and Tournament player.