Wilson Blade 98 18 x 20 CV Specs
Head Size: 98in²/632cm²
Length: 27in / 68,5cm
Weight: 11.3oz / 320.34g
Unstrung Weight:10.7oz / 303g
Balance: 33.27cm / 3 pts HL
Unstrung Balance: 32,5cm/ 6 pts HL
String Pattern: 18 Mains / 20 Crosses
Larry did a playtest with the 16 x 19 version of the Wilson Blade 98 a few months back and I was lucky enough to also have a little try of it. As Larry’s review says, it really is a great racket. I don’t know if it quite deserves the 9 out of 10 he gave it for volleys, but he can be one to get a little bit carried away!
In theory, this Wilson 18 x 20 Blade 98 should suit me even more. I’ve always played with a more closed string pattern, and I like quite a deadened feel from my rackets. It’s pretty similar to the specs of the racket I use, so there shouldn’t be too much of an adjustment period and I’ve been extremely impressed with the Countervail technology in the past.
The Blade 98 weighs in at 303g, but don’t be fooled, it has a much bigger swingweight of 328. This means you get many of the advantages of a heavier racket, whilst having the manoeuvrability of a lighter racket. For me, this is the best of both worlds; manoeuvrability and control.
With a 328 swingweight this racket should be pretty solid on contact, but if you’re someone who craves control, the 18 x 20 string pattern gives it that extra bit of feel. It will make it a little bit harder to get easy spin and power, but if you’ve got a fairly developed game, you shouldn’t have too many problems.
The Blade 98 is repped on tour by Greek sensation Stefanos Tsitsipas among others and is a very popular racket with all standards of players. If anything, the 18 x 20 string pattern might make it a little bit harder for lower level players to use, but for players with advanced strokes, it should offer a great combination of control, power, and manoeuvrability.
This latest version of the Blade feature Wilson’s signature Countervail technology, as well as Parallel Drilling, both of which combine to give the latest Wilson rackets great levels of comfort. Indeed, Larry is a big sceptic when it comes to racket technology, but even he was pretty enthusiastic about the Countervail.
Having played with the 16 x 19 before, I pretty much knew what to expect from the Wilson Blade 98 CV 18 x 20, but I took it out nonetheless to see what it could do for me!
Groundstrokes – 9.5/10
The first thing you notice with this stick is the wonderful feel. The balance of the racket is just right, and it feels wonderfully smooth on contact. The contact feels light, yet you feel like you’re putting huge power through the ball. All this leads to an excellent level of playability; you really feel like you are minimizing the pressure on your joints and muscles and could keep on playing forever with it.
Control wise, this 18 x 20 Blade 98 CV is another step up from the 16 x 19 Blade 98. The strings have quite a different effect on the ball at contact point with this racket. With the 16 x 19 you get a slightly higher trajectory on your shot, but you also have a bit more movement in the strings to bring the ball back down. With the 18 x 20 it’s the other way around. The natural trajectory is a bit flatter, and it’s up to you to create some flightpath and topspin when you need it.
Off the backhand side, I found that the easy manoeuvrability was a huge help, and this meant I was able to get good depth. Sometimes my racket head speed can drop a bit off this side, and I tend to drop the ball a little bit short. With the Blade though, I was able to keep powering through the ball, getting good pop considering this racket’s closed string pattern. Obviously, you get a little bit more spin and easy power from the 16 x 19, but in my eyes, it’s worth the sacrifice for the extra control.
The forehand side is where I really love the 18 x 20 string pattern and I connected straight away with this racket. I get a ton of racket head speed and topspin on the forehand side, so I don’t need much help with that aspect. The area where I do need a little help is flattening the ball out and the Blade 98 18 x 20 is excellent at that. Stepping into the court and attacking the ball was a dream with this racket and I was able to take a lot of time away from my opponent by doing this.
The Blade seems to have all bases covered from the back of the court. Whether you’re hitting a delicate slice backhand or a powerful swing volley, it gives you everything you need. The manoeuvrability of this racket means that you can generate good power and spin, but it retains the control levels of a much heavier racket. This is the ideal balance for me, and I would imagine it would suit a lot of people out there.
This racket is on a par with the 18 x 20 Pure Strike, which I gave a 9.5 out of 10 for groundstrokes, so I’ve got to give the Wilson Blade 98 18 x 20 the same score. It’s got a little something for everybody.
Volleys – 8/10
It’s always tough giving out the scores for rackets because everyone has a slightly different opinion. Larry gave the 16 x 19 Wilson Blade a 9.5 out of 10 at the net, which in my opinion is a little bit high. Probably my two favorite rackets to volley with are the Wilson Pro Staff and the Head Prestige, but I didn’t think the Blade was in that category. I would probably give the 16 x 19 Blade an 8 out of 10 at the net.
The 16 x 19 Blade was very good at the net, but I think the 18 x 20 is a little bit better. I find that the 18 x 20 string pattern is just a little bit more stable and that allows you to control the ball a little bit better.
For a racket that weighs just 303g the stability of this stick is excellent. When the pressure is on and you have a ball smashed at you at the net, it’s easy to ping it back long, but the Blade 98 absorbs power so well that you always feel in control.
I imagine if you were a big serve-volleyer you might want a racket that is a little heavier than this because you’re not so worried about the racket’s manoeuvrability from the back of the court. However, if you are someone who likes to attack the net as well as hit from the back of the court this racket is ideal.
The 18 x 20 Blade 98 performed well on all types of volleys and I found it ideal for playing doubles. The balance of manoeuvrability and control allowed me to attack my returns with aggression but feel super confident with my control at the net.
I’ve given the Wilson Blade 98 18 x 20 an 8 out of 10 at the net, the same as the 16 x 19, but it is slightly better in my opinion. An extra little bit of control gives you slightly better feel and a few more options.
Serve – 8.5/10
I tend to enjoy serving with Wilson rackets and the Blade 98 was no different. Larry gave the 16 x 19 Blade a 9 out of 10 and I have to agree with him on that score. I do find that the serve is the area where the 18 x 20s lose out a little bit compared to the more open 16 x 19’s though. You just miss a little bit of pop with the 18 x 20 and getting power and spin just seems a little bit more difficult.
That’s not to say that this racket doesn’t do a great job on the serve though. The relatively light weight of the Blade means you can generate some really good racket head speed, and this is key to getting the most out of your serve. If you keep swinging through with the Blade 98, you will be rewarded with great feel and good consistency.
The serve is an area where I find the Countervail technology particularly impressive; the rackets feel so smooth. You can imagine playing for 5 sets with this racket, and your body would still be in perfect shape. Considering how much energy goes into the serve, this is no mean feat.
Spin and power are a little bit harder to generate with the 18 x 20 version of this racket, but if you’ve got a strong serve, that’s not a problem. What you will get is great control that allows you to hit through your serve with confidence that it’s going to land in court.
I gave the Wilson Blade 98 18 x 20 CV an 8.5 out of 10 for the serve. A touch lower than the 16 x 19 Blade but a very good score, nonetheless. The theme continues, with a great balance of power and control, just leaning slightly towards control.
Overall – 9/10
An overall score of 9 out of 10 puts this right near the top of the market for tennis rackets. If you’re looking for a racket between 300-310g then this racket is simply a must try. If you’re not looking for a racket between 300-310g then this racket is still a must try. You might think you want something much heavier or something much lighter, but give it a try and you might just find that it’s exactly what you want.
The thing I love about the Blade 98 and similar rackets is the blend of manoeuvrability and control. On the groundstrokes, this frees you up to swing through the ball with aggression but gives you the tools to control all that power and spin you generate.
At net, you’re always going to find that a heavier racket feels a little more solid, but for being 303g, the Blade 98 puts in an excellent performance. It’s so stable for its weight and this allows you to control the ball back into court and hit your targets.
On the serve, I did find I slightly preferred the 16 x 19 Blade because it gives you a little bit more easy power and spin. However, the control you get from the 18 x 20 will really suit people who naturally generate a lot of power on their serve.
Overall, this is an excellent racket and one that I would recommend to virtually any tennis player. The 18 x 20 string pattern might not suit everybody, but if you can’t get on with the more closed string pattern then there is always the 16 x 19. Simply put, the Blade 98 18 x 20 is speedy, gives great control and super comfortable.
Review by: Will