By Robert Martin
(January 2, 2012) As the game of tennis becomes more about combining power and spin, the range of tweener frames will continue to grow, while the days of the heavy, small-headed racquets continue to dwindle away. The pace that players are able to hit with and still keep control over the ball has simply progressed to a point that is difficult for many to compete without some equipment help.
To that end, Wilson designed the Juice 100 BLX, a more powerful brother of the Juice Pro BLX, with a larger head at 100 square inches as well as a lighter weight at a modest 10.7 ounces unstrung. In addition to the larger head size, the string pattern has been opened even more than the typical Wilson pattern with a 16x18 string pattern, increasing the amount of bite that is possible on the ball.
The Juice 100 is not a simple change from the former Pro Open BLX, as the beam geometry is entirely different, especially in the throat area. Instead of the classic round tube design, the Juice uses a hybrid rounded box type of beam.
While the rounded beam is great for power, it produces a muted feel and a lot of power, making it ideal for hard-hitting topspin baseline players. For the players that move in more than the one time to shake hands, the Juice could be the answer.
In order to offset the firmer feel, Wilson added the Amplifeel technology which replaces a portion of the foam handle pallet with graphite and basalt plates for a purer feel. Honestly, I did not notice the Amplifeel much unless you count a general lack of feel and vibration.
Since this type of frame usually responds well to polyester in the mains, I reversed my usual hybrid and strung Yonex Poly Tour Pro 1.25mm and Tecnifibre X-One Biphase 1.24mm at 25/26kg.
Juice 100 BLX
Head Size: 100 Square Inches
Length: 27 Inches
Weight: 10.7 Ounces Unstrung
If Wilson was going for versatility from the baseline, I do not think they achieved it with this frame. If you have a natural western forehand and like to hit with a lot of topspin, give this frame a try, but if not, check out the Steam 100 BLX instead.
I naturally have a standard semi-western grip and try to hit on the flatter side, which helps get some extra pace and depth, but that did not work as well with the Juice. If I focused on hitting with excessive topspin, I could hit with my usual pace and the resulting shot had a bit more weight to it.
The exchange for the extra weight was that I began to hit closer to the server line, giving the opponent more time. The times I had the opportunity to blast hard forehand, It was important for me to hold back on trying to flatten the shot out and instead hit the hard topspin.
The effectiveness may not have been different as most of the shots resulted in an easy volley, but it did give opponents that one extra chance. Slice stayed low and I could hit some angles, but it definitely felt like I had to take a full cut and hit a lot of spin to get the ball in play with this frame.
On the volley is the only placed a noticed a difference from the Juice in comparison to the general tweener frame. The frame had a softer feel and could hit depth easily, but more importantly, there was a higher level of touch than I expected.
I do not really believe that the Amplifeel system does anything appreciable, as the difference in feel is either impossible to tell or so small that it could be due to the specific frame being out of spec. Regardless, it is there, and the Juice 100 BLX does give some options at net, a good thing if Lopez is going to be using it as the less time he spends at the back of the court slicing the backhand the better off he will be.
I was not surprised by the results, but left disappointed with this frame. Typically, these tweener frames are able to serve huge, but this one was creating so much spin that I was losing significant pace. The spin did make controlling the ball very easy and created some high kicking second serves.
By mixing up the pace and spins, I kept most of my opponents off balance and got weak replies that I could put away quickly. As with many Wilson frames, shots hit in the upper part of the hoop fell short with little pace and disastrous results.
In a way, Wilson was spot on with the marketing of this frame, labeling it as a “Power and Spin” frame, because it lacked in other areas. It was excellent from the baseline if you can wail on every ball with topspin, but the power can cause the ball to sail if you don’t get the spin.
While initially appearing similar to the Steam 100 BLX, the two are definitely intended for different swing paths and styles. The Juice especially will appeal to the power baseline that hits with a lot of spin and uses it to dictate points while the Steam is a more versatile all-around frame for flatter strokes.