The Wilson Blade 104 is one of seven current and very successful rackets in the Wilson Blade range. That’s spearheaded by the Wilson Blade 98 (used by Milos Raonic) and the Wilson Blade SW104 autograph countervail, used by tennis queen, Serena Williams.
In fact, this range is so successful it is the most popular racquet range in the tennis industry. In general, the Blade range is centred around spin and feel but being a modern racquet, offers plenty of power as well. They’re also easy on the arm and provide a good range for all levels of tennis players.
The seven current Blade’s vary in head size, string pattern, weight and length. So, if you like the feel of the Blades, try a few more as you might find one that’s even better than the previous or one more suited to your game.
So, what does the Wilson Blade 104 have to offer?
The most striking difference of the Wilson Blade 104 is that it’s 27.5 inch. Long. You’re probably thinking, why is this the most striking aspect of the racket? It’s only half an inch longer than a standard racquet?
Well, the answer is, there really aren’t too many commercially popular extended length racquets, especially ones that are user friendly.
Extended length racquets are all the rage in the hidden geeky world of tennis. Which pros use extended length racquets? Why do they use them? Does it help the serve? Do you get more speed on the forehand?
If you’ve scrolled through discussions on reddit and or tennis forums, you could be quite easily fooled into thinking that having an extended length racquet is the difference between winning the over 35 men’s doubles down the local club and winning your first ATP match.
When we come back down to reality, an extended length racquet is going to give you more leverage. This could give you a better trajectory on the serve, slightly more power on groundstrokes through increased range and a better wingspan at the net.
However, as with everything, extended length racquets have their downfalls; the increased length makes it harder for manufacturers to balance weight effectively. A little head light and you lose all power, a little head heavy and you’re breaking your arm on each shot.
So, what about the Wilson Blade 104?
The Wilson Blade 104 is a racquet that does not compromise the Blade family’s renowned touch and feel for its additional length. It is slightly head light which is to be expected given the slightly enhanced length and it boasts a swing weight of 318 which is plenty heavy enough to get some decent power.
When it comes to the look, this Blade showcases the same simplified, sleek black look with green bands that sit at the centre of the racket. I’m a big fan of this look but if I compare it to the Wilson Blade 104 2015 look, I am a little disappointed.
The string pattern of 18x19 and frame stay the same as previous generations but there have been some additional technological enhancements. The first is the Wilson countervail technology, which I am personally a huge fan of.
The countervail tech is a carbon layer inside the frame which dampens the vibrations your arm feels through the racket on impact without affecting the control the racquet gives you. It also maximises your power potential whilst reducing fatigue and increasing your muscle recovery time.
It also features parallel drilling which further dampens the response of the racquet on impact and helps to increase the sweet spot of the racquet, something I always feel is a slight negative on Wilson racquets.
Lastly, the racquet includes a braided basalt material which is strong but stretchy. This increase the racquets flexibility allowing the ball to stay longer on the strings at point of contact which increases the amount of control you have and increases your string potential.
We’ve covered a lot of technical jargon so far so let’s get into how it felt!
Groundstrokes – 8/10
A couple of weeks ago I tried the Wilson 98 16x19 racquet, which is slightly heavier, and I struggled to get topspin, especially on my forehand.
This time, with the Blade 104, I felt a little a more give on the racquet when trying to generate a lot of spin on my groundstrokes.
I was able to get over the ball quite well, but I didn’t feel as comfortable as I did with the Blade 98.
The head light aspect of the racquet makes it really easy to swing, but for all the hype around the extra length and the power it can generate, I was left a little short of what I’m used to. I do use a Babolat Pure Aero Tour, so power is in abundance normally. But despite that, I was still a little disappointed.
Although the power didn’t meet my expectations when I was really swinging, it was surprisingly easy to generate power off a low swing speed. This made me think this racquet would be ideal for a club player looking for an all-round racquet or a tennis coach who has to hit balls all day.
The muted aspect the new Blades give you as a result of the countervail technology could still be felt but not quite as much as on the Wilson Blade 98. Some people don’t like this feel and I can completely understand why; at first it really does feel quite different to what you’re probably used to. But for me, I really don’t mind the slightly muted feel at all, and on the Blade 104 I would say this muted feel was not as intense as it was on the Wilson Blade 98.
On my backhands, I was able to generate more spin than I did with the Wilson Blade 98, but I didn’t feel the control I felt with the 98.
Overall, I was able to generate good spin, and received adequate control and medium power, but I didn’t enjoy it as much on the groundstrokes as I did with the Blade 98. However, I’d say this is a brilliant racquet for any tennis coach as it gives you everything you need and is really forgiving. It also has minimal vibrations passing though the racket.
I would give the Blade 104 an 8 out of 10 for groundstrokes. I was impressed with the ease of power on slow swings but disappointed when I really went for a hard shot. Meanwhile, the racquet gave good feel and control.
Volleys – 7/10
I was really excited to try out my volleys with the extended length racquet. I can honestly say I’ve never tried one before. Given I’m just under 6 foot, I thought it might be a good idea to incorporate a slightly extended racquet into my main racquet of choice.
But for all the excitement, the Blade 104 felt, well, like a normal racquet! The volleys were most certainly no different than with any other racquet – meaning they weren’t very good!
I felt a reasonable amount of control on the volleys and the ever so slightly muted feel of this blade series felt great on the volleys again. But once again, I was left thinking the Blade 98 was a better fit for me.
For me the Wilson Blade 104 gets a 7/10 for volleys.
Serves – 8/10
The serves were the only shot I felt a difference as a result of the extended length and I could only feel it on my kick serves.
I must admit I was experimenting a bit as a result of the racquet on my second serve. I figured, with an extra half an inch, I would try and hit down and across on my kick serve a little more instead of wrapping my racquet up and round the ball as I normally do to try and make sure I get it over the net but still generate some kick.
In short, it worked! Whether it was the extra half inch or the fact that maybe I don’t need to worry about the net as much as I do, I was unsure. But I gained a little more speed on my second serve and it kicked slightly more as a result.
With regards to the first serve, I didn’t feel any more confident about consistency as a result of an increased reach. I jump quite a bit on my first serve so when I miss it, it’s not normally a problem of trajectory and more so an issue with the coordination of the stroke.
As a result, the extra half inch didn’t make too much difference to me.
With regards to the general spin, power and control on the serve, it was as I expected – very good. The Blade 104 is really a brilliant all-round racquet and you could do a hell of a lot worse than to choose this racquet as your main racquet of choice.
I felt comfortable mixing my serve up between hard flat serves, slice out wide, and topspin and the power I could generate was decent. If you’re looking to hit your fastest server of your career every time you step up to the line, then this probably isn’t the racquet for you but if you want a strong combination of power, control and feel then give it a go.
I would give the Blade 104 an 8/10 on serve.
Conclusion – 8/10
I would strongly advise this racquet for tennis coaches. If you’re playing all day every day, you can generate a good amount of power without really doing anything and this does not detract from the touch and feel the racquet gives you.
In addition, you can really feel the difference the countervail technology gives you with regards to the impact you receive on every shot. So, if you’re wanting to coach for a long time this is not only an investment in a good racquet, but it’s also an investment in yourself and your body.
Overall, I would give the racquet an 8 out of 10. I wouldn’t choose it as my main racquet of choice because I like to get more power out of my big shots and I personally liked the Blade 98 better with regards to feel. Having said that, I was able to generate more spin with the Blade 104 compared to the 98 which is a definite advantage. If you want an all-round racquet, this could be the racquet for you.
Review by: Lawrence “Larry” Palmer