Tonight was the first live action with The Natural racquet. As promised in the previous entry, I am going to use this blog as as a diary to fully document my personal journey of discovery with this racquet.
The night began with my teammates laughing hysterically at the silly looking racquet. I could have cared less, because someday that racquet is going to whoop all of them!
During warmups I was able to rally decently. The two-handed forehand remained awkward and very low powered. The weather was cold so that impacted the liveliness of the ball, but the two-fisted forehand was definitely low powered and short. We did not warm up long and immediately launched into doubles action.
As I began live action doubles I noticed less control than with my trusty Black Star, but this was to be expected. I was able to hit some solid backhand returns, but forehands remained an issue. The forehand is my weakest wing and so far The Natural racquet was doing nothing to improve it. In fact, it was worse.
Serves continued to surprise me with the amount of pop I was getting. Definitely more power than any racquet I have used, with the possible exception of the Pure Drive. The only problem, and it was definitely a SIGNIFICANT one…was the grip. Remembering to switch the grip after serving was a chore, and not one that I achieved well. I only remembered about 40% of the time. Using the racquet to volley and hit ground strokes with the same handle position as serving produces wildly uncontrolled results for me. In my case the racquet must be flipped immediately after serving in order to have any hope of control. It will take time to learn to do this, definitely not second nature.
My MxD partner grew concerned that playing with The Natural Racquet would negatively impact my play this weekend. I went back to my Black Star for a set. She was right…it felt a bit strange after using The Natural all night, but I was able to adjust. I was surprised by how awkward my racquet felt initially, but I adjusted and we won. She was happy. Glad I switched.
A teammate arrived a bit later into the session and I moved over to hit singles. My opponent is an EXCELLENT singles player and while rallying with him I went to one hand on the forehand side. To my shock, amazement and delight I was hitting better forehands than I have hit in quite some time. Control, pace and depth were all there. I was thrilled with the results with one hand. My two fisted backhand was solid, maybe a bit less than with my regular racquet, but close. The forehand, however, improved significantly. Volleys were respectable and much easier than I expected.
Then we began playing dingles, a game where the serve and volley is prevalent. In the context of dingles, the racquet lost some magic. Serves were good, but I constantly struggled to remember to switch the grip after serving resulting in some wild second shots. On return of serve and coming in, I was better, but felt strangely out-of-synch. My game relies on precision and I wasn’t finding it with the racquet in dingles. More practice is needed. I eventually switched back to my Black Star to finish out dingles and get ready for our weekend match.
I ended the night very pleased. The racquet played soft and absorbed shock well, even with a full poly-based string setup in cold temperatures. I ended up discovering that a single handed forehand worked well for me — a vast improvement over my forehand with a single handled racquet. Overheads were few and far between, but they were problematic as was the process of switching grips after serving. I am certain both can be overcome with additional practice. The power and consistency I found in rallying with the singles player gave me great optimism about the future potential of this racquet. There are still many kinks to work out, but I really enjoyed the feel it offered and the strong rallies. Points, especially the shot following the serve and to a lesser extent the return of serve require more work.
So there you have it…the good, the bad and the ugly. For a first live session the racquet exceeded my expectations and I am eager to continue leaning how to use it. It is not yet ready to make an appearance in a live match. It’ll need a few more practice session before it’ll be ready for use to take out a real opponent. Bottom line, I hadn’t experienced this much fun and joy in testing equipment in a long time and I see a lot of potential for this racquet in the context that I want to use it as well as quite a few others.
Guts and Glory Tennis plans to make this racquet available to our customers. The racquets will retail for $200 online. We will offer FREE custom stringing with the purchase using any string or hybrid from our WeissCANNON or MSV family of string products. If you are interested in purchasing The Natural tennis racquet, please contact us. We will offer special incentives for our local and established online customers. We plan to have demos available in the coming weeks for local customers. Be watching for future updates as we continue to chronicle our experiences with “The Natural” tennis racquet.