Prince EXO3 Black Review Part 2

My recent two hitting sessions were against a heavy, cold wind.  I was quite pleased with how the frame held up against the wind.  Here are some pics of the racquet, courtesy of Tom Coyle (Hilton D/FW Lakes).  The EXO3 Black is shown by itself and compared right next to the O3 Speedport Black (both with the exact same string job).

EXO3 Black is on the right, Speedport Black on the left (with the blue grommets).  I have to keep the pic sizes small for the blog.  Contact me if you want the full-size images.

The racquet has the same 16×19 string pattern and head size as the O3 Black.

Here is a side view.

Yes, that’s me – sorry, we were going low-budget on this production 🙂

Now, here’s the frame straight on.

And last, the two side-by-side.  BTW, the EXO3 Black is shown with the stock grip; the O3 Speedport Black has an overgrip.

Sorry about the left hand over part of both frames, but it was *very* windy when these pics were taken, so it was pretty difficult to keep the two racquets steady for the camera.

Prince EXO3 Black Review Part 1

This is the first in a multi-part review of the Prince EXO3 Black.  I’ve hit with this racquet four times with my standard stringbed of Pro Hurricane Tour 17 on the mains and VS Team Gut 17 on the crosses.  I previously used an O3 Speedport Black, although have been hitting with the Black Team for many months while recovering from an arm injury.  I’m still not back to 100% on the arm/shoulder, so I feel this is a good condition to report on any wear/stress caused by the new frame.

Here are the racquet specs, right off the frame

Head Size: 100 sq. in

Length: 27 in.

String Pattern:  16×19

Unstrung Weight: 10.8 oz

Unstrung Balance: 12.6 in

Swingweight: 295

Power Level: 975

Grip: Prince Resi Pro

Stiffness: 72 (from the internet)

Strung balance appears to be a few points head-light.  Although the EXO3 Black clearly feels heavier than the O3 Black Team, the swingweight is such that it’s pretty easy to get the racquet to the ball.  I do experience some timing issues and that’s just a matter of me getting used to the frame.

My style is all-court (1hb) and what I never do under any circumstances is stand several feet behind the baseline and trade mondo-topspin groundies with the young whippersnappers.  I like to step up, take the ball on the rise, and hammer it back deep and hard.  For that, you need a rock-solid frame and the EXO3 Black delivers with flying colors.  I can’t describe how much I like the solid feel at impact.  I can stand closer to the baseline and take half- or three-quarter swings at deep balls and pound them back with complete confidence.  It was a bit hit-and-miss with the prior frame.

Speaking of feel and response, I got a dramatic upgrade on volleys.  I never liked being at the net with the Speedport Black Team, despite the excellent maneuverability of the stick.  With the EXO3 Black, I can’t wait to get there 🙂

Serves are a bit different.  I’m taking more of a half-stroke motion, starting with the racquet raised in the air.  The EXO3 Black needs a bit more work to generate the same service speed.  However, I noticed that I hit my spots with more regularity.  I suspect that the previous frame was more susceptible to slight twitches in forearm or wrist motion.

I was quite pleased with the arm-friendliness of the heavier, stiffer frame.  As expected, stroke timing is a bit different.  When balls are being hammered to you by a pro or a 4.5+ player, tiny fractions of a second really matter.  The first two sessions, I noticed some slight soreness in the front of my shoulder near the chest.  It faded pretty quickly.  By the fourth session, I didn’t notice much at all.  With the Speedport Black Team, I had a problem with the head-heavy frame and a responsive stringbed at lower tension.  Even sweet-spot impacts at very low racquet speed (like a drop shot) had some perceptible low-frequency vibration (the type a damper does not inhibit).  Nothing but solid feel from the EXO3 Black.  I should note, however, with this particular hybrid string job at lower tension, I prefer the feel of the frame with the small EXO3 vibration damper that comes with the racquet.

Stock grip feels really good, although I’m not sweating much in the colder weather.  For most racquets, I can’t wait to apply an overgrip.

I’ll post another review as soon as I have pics.  I don’t own a digital camera, so I have to find someone to take the pics for me.  I want to compare the EXO3 Black to the Speedport Black in the same pic.

More Hybrid Tests

I’ve been conducting ongoing hybrid tests on my Prince Speedport Black Team.  The incumbent is Babolat Pro Hurricane Tour 17 on the mains and NXT Tour 17 on the crosses @57.  I tried ALU Power Rough on the mains and had to work a bit to get the tension right.  Seemed like the best approach was to drop the tension on the mains as is widely recommended and string the crosses a few pounds higher than the mains (depending on how much tension loss you expect on the crosses).  You will have to work a bit to get the right combination.  Seemed to provide a bit more control, but I didn’t get quite the response I liked with the other combination.  Interestingly, the ALU Power Rough did not seem to provide any more spin than the Pro Hurricane Tour.

My current combination is Pro Hurricane Tour 17 on the mains and xCel Power on the crosses.  Upped the tension to 58 to see if 57-58 is really the upper bound.  I hit extensively on the ball machine (indoors) on my recent Houston trip and at first the response was a bit flatter than my previous favorite.  After 2-3 full rounds on the ball machine, I started to get the response I wanted.  Get the tension right and this is looking to be a potent hybrid for this particular racquet.  On restringing, I’m going to stick with 57 and it seems like it takes this hybrid a bit of ‘break in’ time, whereas I was ready to play with the Pro Hurricane Tour/NXT hybrid immediately after it came off the stringer.

Prince OV-I

OK, I’m going to get all my product reviews out of the way this week.  I had been wearing the Prince T-20, which was a pretty decent shoe.  I was impressed with the stock insole, so as the T-20 began wearing in the heel, I went to a store and tried on the T-22.  Not bad at all.

That same day, I read the Tennis magazine October shoe review and noticed the OV-I.  Very good reviews.  Considering that the actual retail price is about $89, when I looked at composite score per dollar, it was right at the top.

Turns out my pro shop has them in stock, so I tried on a pair.  I normally wear two socks because my feet are a bit narrow and I like the extra cushion.  The stock width seemed fine with my two socks, so I decided to give the shoe a try.

Immediate impressions were that the shoe was very, very solid and it had a light feel.  Next impression was that the stock insole was not nearly as comfortable as I was used to from Prince.  Once I replaced the insole, the shoe felt great.

Break-in time seemed like 2-3 hours of average practice/play.  The more I got used to the shoe, the more comfortable it felt.  Whatever claims they make about traction (at least on hardcourt) are really true; felt like I could stop on a dime.  If only the rest of this old body were as responsive as the shoe …

Initially, it was hard to make any conclusion about the ventilation claims, but last night gave me my first real indication.  I started praticing at 4:30PM.  Eventually picked up a doubles match that went three sets.  Returned home just after 7:45PM (it’s a five-minute drive home), pretty much drenched in sweat.  My wife commented on how I looked like I had been swimming.

My socks weren’t even damp 🙂

For 89 bills – yeah, that was a great buy!

Prince Speedport Black Team and Flash

I’m really enjoying my new racquet – a Prince 03 Speedport Black Team.  The racket is light and very maneuverable.  Still deciding on the right strings and tension.  I like playing Babolat VS Team 17, but you can only play with gut a limited time in the Texas weather (and I like the 17-gauge strings which wear quicker anyway).

I was initially unaware that you could customize the color of the Speedport string inserts, as shown here,

As I’m still experimenting with strings, different color combinations makes the racquets easy to distinguish (I currently have two), especially if I have both temporarily strung with the same brand but at different tensions. And, it gives the racquet a more personalized touch (other than colored overgrip).

At least I can order the customized inserts (they’re pretty cheap) and have them replaced at the next restringing.

Pretty cool use of Flash on the Prince site 🙂