The RF97 Autograph is a beast of a racket for the average player. Its weight makes it hard to get up and moving, but once you do it'll plow through anything like a freight train.
I've been running this at 45 lbs on soft poly for a while now, and wanted to experiment what lowering tension feels like.
I'll be using the same soft poly - Solinco Tour Bite Soft 17 but drop it down to 40 lbs so we'll get a straight forward comparison. It's only an 11% drop but is an area of tension I haven't explored yet - but we're willing to try.
Would it be a too mushy and lifeless feeling on the soft poly and launch sky high? Or would it deliver a plush and powerful experience and come alive?
Let's mount this on the NEOS and find out!
1. Deep pocketing feel
On the indoor clay courts and a can of fresh balls the initial impression on warm up is WOW I like the extra pocketing feel, reminds me of a natty gut feel. Except with the felt ripping bite we all love with Tour Bite strings.
The weight of the RF97A increases this deep pocket-ey feel as the racket isn't disturbed by the ball impact and plows through, putting an extra stretch on the strings and translates into deep pockets.
2. Huge huge power in the sweet spot
We already know TB Soft delivers power, and we also know lowering tension increases power. So when hit clean right in the sweet spot with a full stroke was an amazing feeling and experience - like a plush trampoline launching without a harsh impact feeling.
It just felt so good. Especially on the serve, it's just free pop!
3. Spin - with tail
With lower tensions also comes greater spin as the string stretches more for a bigger snap back. The real difference in spin was noticeable in the 2nd half of the balls flight as the ball would get sucked back down into the court with authority.
What about the bad? There has to be some downside right?
1. Launch angle
I was worried about launch angle but honestly it wasn't a noticeable increase from 45 lbs. You still have to be careful with technique and not open your chest and racket face, but it really wasn't an issue.
Launch angle will become more of an issue after a few weeks of hitting as the strings lose elasticity and don't snap back the same.
2. Have to hit with a full stroke
With power comes responsibility and because it has more power, you can't hit too flat because it will sail long. You can't be tentative and truncate the stroke, it'll hit the back wall. You have to maintain the full topspin stroke swing speed and be careful to not over flatten it. The extra power needs to be realized in heavy spin - not hitting the back fence.
if you run lower tensions you are going to have to string more often - it's the price you pay for comfort and performance. The tension loss will begin to show it's face after a few weeks and the strings will be starting to move around on the bed and not snap back.
So will I keep the lower tension setup or bump it back up? For now I LOVE the low tension so I'm staying here. The free power on serve, extra comfort, extra heavy balls is definitely worth the tradeoff in longevity and playability.
But not everyone is able to restring that often - so for the average player I'd say 45 lbs is a safer benchmark to have great power benefits but extend the playability for a few more weeks.
So are you a lover of that pockety feel or are you more a of a crisp kind of player? Let me know your thoughts!