Spring finally feels like it's here in Maryland. Things are finally starting to thaw out and temperatures are getting up into the 50s at last. I know I've had enough of winter and I'm more than ready for spring. Gamma is ready too, with several new racquets and some intriguing new strings. I got a chance to test out one of the new racquets—the Gamma RZR 98M—and put it through its paces on the court.
Now, some Gamma fans may remember that Gamma released a RZR 98T last year. Naturally, the next question is "What makes the RZR 98M different from the RZR 98T?" Although both racquets have a 98 square inch head, the RZR 98M is significantly lighter, more maneuverable, and a bit more forgiving than the RZR 98T. That isn't to say that the RZR 98M is necessarily a lightweight racquet; it still weighs in over 11 ounces strung so it offers plenty of heft for fairly advanced, all-court players.
After a brief warm up with my regular racquet—a Prince EXO3 Rebel 95—I grabbed the RZR 98M and started to hit from the baseline. Initially I had some trouble adjusting to the racquet and many of my shots were sailing well long—and I mean well long. The RZR 98M is actually a very flexible frame, so I was a little surprised at the amount of power I was getting. I think some of that feeling was because the 98M's lower swingweight allowed me to accelerate through the strike zone more than I'm used to. In any case, I always expect some adjustment period when trying out new racquets and after 15 or 20 minutes of hitting, I started to find the range and enjoy the racquet a bit more.
Along with fairly easy swing speed and power, the RZR 98M offers plenty of spin potential. Although the Gamma RZR 98M doesn't have a wide open string pattern like some other racquets on the market, it's no slouch in the spin department. The 16x18 string pattern is still pretty open, allowing plenty of string movement and snap back while the RZR 98M's moderate weight and headlight balance make it easy to whip through the strike zone for plenty of spin whenever you need a little extra. I strung it up with Gamma's new Glide™ Hybrid with Moto and my forehands and backhands were landing deep in the court with lots of heavy topspin.
At the net, the Gamma RZR 98M felt maneuverable and I was able to quickly get the racquet in good position even on tough volleys. It is a relatively headlight frame, so I was a little concerned about how stable it would feel when volleying balls with lots of pace, but the RZR 98M felt solid and stable thanks to its solid static weight. As expected, volleys hit off-center did cause the racquet to torque some, but that's pretty common no matter what racquet you use.
The Gamma RZR 98M really seemed to be at its best when I stepped up to the line to serve. I felt like I was blasting first serves and—more importantly—I was still able to pick my spots and move the ball around the service box. Second serves came off the racquet with enough pop and consistently landed in the box with heavy spin and plenty of kick. My partner confirmed, saying that my serves were coming in with more pace and spin than usual.
I really liked the Gamma RZR 98M, but personally, I'm not sure it's quite for me. I generally prefer very traditional-feeling, heavy racquets with very little power and the RZR 98M just seemed to lack a little bit of heft—of course, that's strictly my opinion. All that being said, modern tennis seems to be shifting more towards lighter, faster racquets and I think the RZR 98M is a fine racquet that fits nicely into that paradigm. I can see lots of talented, younger players enjoying this racquet and I think it's still an accessible frame for advanced players who are a little older too. The frame is very flexible, so if you're looking for a racquet that will be easy on your arm, the RZR 98M is a good candidate for that as well. So, if you're looking for a new racquet to warm up your game this spring, definitely give the Gamma RZR 98M a try and let us know what you think!