Babolat finished 2013 strong with the release of the Play Pure Drive—the world's first ever connected racquet. I personally think that Play technology might be one of the most revolutionary things to hit the tennis world in many years, so I'm not sure what Babolat can pull out of the hat to top that, but they've got some good stuff on tap for the upcoming year.
Babolat has already scheduled a mid-January release for a totally new line of racquets targeted towards advanced players. The new Pure Strike frames have been garnering some positive attention thanks to their traditional feel and low-power, high-control design. The Pure Strike is currently available for preorder in three configurations: a 100 square inch head with a 16x19 string pattern, a 98 square inch head with an 18x20 string, and a Tour version with an 18x20 string pattern. The Pure Strike 100 is the lightest and the Tour is the heaviest with the Pure Strike 18x20 falling in the middle.
To make things even sweeter, Babolat has rebooted their popular Pure Control franchise for 2014. The Pure Control is currently available for preorder in two different setups—a lighter "standard" model that weighs in at about 10.9 ounces strung, and a heavier Tour model that weighs around 11.8 ounces strung.
Last year, HEAD updated most of their racquet lines to incorporate the super material Graphene but they saved the update to the legendary Prestige line for 2014. Like the other Graphene frames that HEAD has released, the super-light and strong material has allowed HEAD to optimize each frame's weight distribution. Scheduled for release in mid-January, the all-new Graphene Prestige frames are currently available for preorder. In addition to a technology update, the new Prestige line includes several new configurations that make this traditionally player-oriented line more accessible for players at other levels.
After putting some financial difficulties in their rearview mirror, Prince bounced back in 2013. They released updated versions of the classic Prince Graphite and Prince Response and debuted their new Extreme String Pattern (ESP) technology that helps players achieve maximum spin. For 2014, Prince has over a dozen new offerings already available for preorder—many of which also update some fan favorite racquet lines like the Hornet, Warrior, White, Silver, Red, and Blue.
Like Prince, Wilson introduced spin-friendly string patterns dubbed Spin Effect in 2013. For 2014, look for them to add Spin Effect on more frames, including their breakout Juice lineup and the classic Pro Staff series. Both lines are getting updates for 2014, with at least one racquet in each line featuring Spin Effect. Both lines have also been expanded with some new configurations—a lighter 100 square inch version of the Pro Staff, for instance—in order to reach a slightly wider audiences.
Here's another interesting tidbit for Wilson fans: We've heard that Roger Federer will be using a new prototype frame at the Australian Open this year. Wilson is keeping a tight lid on all the details, so all we know is that it has a 98 square inch head. In any case, if Roger commits to the new frame, I'd expect Wilson to roll it out to consumers as soon as possible so they can make the most of Roger's remaining racquet-selling years.
Volkl has already started releasing their new Super G racquet line for 2014. In terms of technology, Super G is grommet technology that allows greater string deflection and provides some dampening, so it isn't the flashiest offering you'll see in 2014. Even so, Volkl always delivers with reliable, quality racquets—I've tested plenty of them and rarely been disappointed. When paired with Volkl's typically flexible frames, the soft, dampening Super G grommets should continue to make Volkl a top choice for anyone suffering from arm pain or discomfort.