Wilson is starting out 2016 intent to give players a host of new racquet choices this year. The company has moved on from the Juice frame and introduced the all new Ultra family. The Wilson Ultra 97 is frame that looks to create a stronger blend between power and control than its predecessor. The smaller head and unique triangular beam shape combine to create a fast feel. The racquet now uses High Performance Carbon Fiber for a former, more powerful response. Wilson has also replaced the Amplifeel handle with the new CushionFoam for improved vibration dampening and comfort. I recently hit the court with this new model and here’s a look at how it performed.
The Ultra 97 played with power and speed off the ground. The 11.4oz strung weight and 25mm dual taper beam gave the frame ample power on both forehands and backhands. The head light balance also made it very easy to whip the frame through contact, adding extra pace to my shots. I tend to hit high in the string bed and noticed a good size drop in power outside the center. The racquet also played a bit harsh when contact was made toward the sides of the string bed. Directional control was impressive for a racquet of this type, especially when I kept my swing speed high. It played with much better control than the previous Juice line. I was able to swing aggressively and pick targets closer to the lines with confidence. Spin production was on par with what I expected from the 16x19 pattern. I was able to create solid margin on my backhand which is usually a good measure for me of the spin potential of a frame. I would have liked a bit more swingweight for stepping into short balls and flattening them out but the fast feel still made short work of most balls. Stability was fairly solid with it only displaying some wobble against really big hitters. Defense was another strong suit as the maneuverability allowed me to get the frame through contact quickly when on the run.
Volleys & Serves
Aggression at the net is rewarded with the Ultra 97. The quick swing and healthy weight made attacking floaters a breeze. I was able to drive high volleys through the court from both sides. Directional control was a little weaker at the net as the frame had a bit of hollow feel. Trying to direct my volleys usually ended in floating the ball or pushing it out. Touch volleys also took some adjusting to the feel in order to execute reliably. In quick exchanges the racquet shines again as it was easy to whip into position. The stability at the net was again solid and I was able to fight off hard shots and extend points consistently.
Serving with the Ultra 97 again showed the improvements is has over the previous Juice line. The Juice was a much more brute force server whereas this racquet did a good job of blending the two. It accelerated through contact well and I was able to create ample racquet head speed for pace on my first serve. The directional accuracy allowed me to move the serve around the box and keep my opponents guessing. Spin production for my second serve was also healthy. I had good action on my kick serve. My slice serve got out wide on the ad side but I would have liked a little more weight to help keep it low.
The Ultra 97 played with the crisp feel and response one should expect from a modern baseline oriented frame. The sweet spot seemed a bit low and the frame had a loss of power and feel outside the center of the string bed. The feel took some getting used to in order to execute touch shots from the back of the court but I eventually found my rhythm and mixed them into points more frequently. The CushionFoam did a good job absorbing vibration although it seemed about the same as the previous Amplifeel system. Arm sensitive players should be able to manage any potential comfort issues with a softer string choice.
Replacing a popular frame line like the Juice is never an easy task. Wilson shows they are serious about creating a better balance of power and control with the Ultra 97. It plays with easy speed and power while providing improved control for all court play. Players who want to be able to dominate from the baseline and attack aggressive areas of the court should plan to take the Ultra 97 out for a spin.
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.