Continuing the search for my next racket of choice, the latest inclusion in the audition is the Angell Custom TC100, 63RA variant (there is also a 70RA version). The important thing to know about the RA specification on the Angell Custom racket line is that it is for the bare hairpin. Once the pallets, grip and grommets are added that RA reduces by 3, so we’re no looking at 60RA. Stringing further reduces the RA by another 2-3 points. So now we’re looking at a very flex 57-58RA value, a lot lower than almost anything else in the market today.
Angell rackets are designed and manufactured using more traditional methods, with a real focus on materials, and ultimately the feel and playability of the racket. The frames are made with high grade graphite, and are completely foam filled. Along with the low RA these combine to make the rackets feel very solid on ball contact, but also to be arm friendly, reducing vibrations from the stringbed and frame.
I’ve had experience with Angell rackets previously, in the Custom TC97 18×20. That tighter string pattern just didn’t seem to work for my mechanics and I was pegging the net to often. So this slightly larger head size, and more open string pattern of the Angell Custom TC100 63RA was something I wanted to test drive.
The spec I ordered was 320 grams, 310 mm (10HL) and I also asked for an unstrung swingweight of 305. Angell had to make an allowance based on my swingweight specification so what was actually delivered was a racket at 320 grams, 306 mm balance and swingweight of 303. All strung up with Babolat Xcel French Open 16 @ 55lb and an overgrip the final spec came out at 339 grams, 313 mm (9HL) and swingweight of 330.
I’ve only managed a quick outing so far, in a strange format, friendly competition between two clubs. So this is a very quick summary which I will update based on my experience of the next few days and matches.
The claims made by the many, many, active fans of the Angell franchise is that the Angell Custom TC100 63RA is a “serve monster” and a “spin monster”. Typically frames with low flex tend to come in at the extreme low-powered end of the spectrum. From the very first serve I hit I can attest to the power of this frame (it only just landed inside the baseline). It’s actually going to be something that will take some getting used to. The format of the matches played didn’t allow for any real worm-up to find a grove, so ground strokes are still very unfamiliar, but I think the “spin monster” claim is going to be confirmed as well.
So at this point I simply cannot wait to get out and hit the court again with this racket and get some real play. I’ve actually not been as excited to play a racket since I got my Head Pro Stock Prestige Mid rackets.
Stay tuned for more experiences coming very soon.
Update #1 – 24th August 2017
This update comes after putting a few hours on this frame, both in coaching and match play scenarios.
The first thing I want to address is the feel of the racket. Taking into account that by all expectations this frame should have been around the 57-58RA mark strung, it does not feel at all like that. The racket stiffness honestly feels most like a Babolat Pure Drive than a Pro Stock. I have also been play testing a Prince Phantom 100, which has a stiffness of 56RA. The feel and comfort of these two frames could not be further apart. Where the Phantom is soft, flexible and comfortable, the Angell is stiff, almost harsh, and on contact I almost want to say “tiny” (you can hear the high pitch resonance). So in the feel department this has been a massive disappointment based upon the much hyped expectations. I’ll finish off the feel comments by saying that the harsh feel on contact was aided a little by adding just a bit of lead tape at both 3 & 9 o’clock, probably just in the region of 2 grams total. This would increase the twist weight a little, making the racket a bit more stable, while increasing swingweight minimally. So there could be some room for more customisation and tinkering in this regard.
Lets talk power, and specifically lets focus on serve first. The claim that this racket serves big is totally accurate. I was hitting with my coach and switched to the Angell TC100 racket. I said to the coach “you better get ready cause these serves will be coming a lot faster”. I could see the look in his face that said “whatever”. I made the first serve, and nice flat serve to the middle of the box. Now the look on his face changed to say “holy shit!”.
Given my recent arm sensitivity, and also to normalise the string chose across a number of rackets I’ve been play testing recently, the Angell TC100 was strung with Babolat Xcel French Open 16 @ 55lb. In this configuration there is just too much power to manage in aggressive hitting situations. With this much power I really need a poly to rein it in some, and also a poly would be desirable to increase the spin for more margin.
If looking at a poly there are a couple of things I’d need to consider:
- First and foremost I cannot afford to risk irritating my arm. So any poly would need to be on the softer end of the stiffness spectrum.
- For maximising spin potential I’d generally want to use a shaped poly, my go to is often Volkl Cyclone. My experience, shared by other users on the forums, is that the Angell grommets tend to be pretty soft and are easily cut with shaped poly strings. In my Angell TC97 18×20 I strung Solinco Hyper-G 17 @ 55lb and the grommets split in a couple of places. I should also mention that my stringing machine is set to the lowest possible pull speed to minimise this sort of thing.
So perhaps if venturing down the poly path for the Angell TC100 a string like IsoSpeed Cream might be a good first option.
As the feel and comfort of this racket did not come close to my expectations it’s not really as compelling an option as it was looking to be, which is actually very sad. So with a couple of competitive matches the remainder of this week to close out the winter season I’ll be reverting to my Babolat Pure Strike 1x6x19 (ProjectOne7), which amazingly feels less stiff and more comfortable. And if my arm insists it will be the Prince Phantom that comes out of the bag.