In recent years, the Ezone series has been a very successful one for Yonex. Indeed, it has in some ways become the company’s signature lineup, with the DR 98 and 100 proving to be some of the most popular rackets among tennis enthusiasts. So beloved were the previous incarnations of these frames, in fact, that there were some fans who hoped Yonex would only apply a new coat of paint for the next generation of these rackets. But when Yonex does another pass at a popular product, they try to improve it in every way possible. After making improvements across its VCore Duel and SV series, the Japanese company decided it was time for the Ezone rackets to get some love and attention. Today, we are looking at the Yonex Ezone 98 which, like the Ezone 100, has been given a bit more muscle for players to mess around with.
Head size: 98 sq. inches
Weight: 305 g
String pattern: 16×19
Balance: 315 mm
Beam width: 19-24-23 mm
Length: 27 inches
Aesthetically, the EZone 98 is virtually identical to the bigger DR 100. They are so similar in appearance, in fact, especially from the front, that it is difficult to distinguish between the models at a glance. But if you look closely, the smaller beam width of the 98 is an immediately distinguishing factor. The racket head is also slightly squarer in appearance, and the livelier colors of the 98 give it a more edgy look.
The racket has a relatively stiff feel, and the Yonex Synthetic grip is excellently suited to overgrips. The white SuperGrap is the ideal complement, technically and aesthetically, to complete the Ezone. Finally, the latest version of Quake Shut Gel, is present to ensure maximum vibration damping.
On the court, the EZone 98 is a substantial racket, and the changes that have been made to the DR 98 will be immediately apparent to those familiar with that popular predecessor. Yonex has remained faithful to the tradition of the Ezone series, but with this model there is a definite emphasis on precision. The Ezone 98, in fact, takes many of the elements of the new Yonex lineup, and brings them together to wonderful effect.
The first thing to note is the change of feel in the 98, which is more straightforward and less cushioned than before. Shots feel more raw and direct than ever, giving a sensation of closeness between the racket and the ball – as a player, you feel truly in touch with each shot. The frame is also more stable, even more so than its 305g weight would suggest.
The Ezone 98 is less of a generalist frame than its predecessor, offering greater explosiveness and power, as well as a more reactive body. There is also no excessive stiffness, and with a rating of 63 there is a definite feeling of control and touch. The secret to all of this may very well be in the new Hyper-Modulus graphite used in the racket, which stops the frame from deforming excessively on impact. The result is that more energy goes into the shot rather than the racket, which means a less rigid feeling overall, though not as much as with the SV 98.
The Ezone 98 therefore has more power than the DR 98, and also feels looser than the G 310 and SV 98, which means good performance when it comes to generating spin. In fact, this racket generates spin almost as well as it generates power, and that’s saying something. This is a major change from the DR 98, which was not so great at generating spin. The Ezone 98 generates heavy spin even when compared to other 305g rackets, which speaks to a very efficient use of the frame by Yonex.
I think Yonex has been trying to position the Ezone 98 in the same category as the Blade and Pure Strike, but with more power and better stability. It is slightly more demanding than its predecessor, with similar maneuverability but with a more pronounced power profile. When compared to other 98 sq. inch frames, the Ezone 98 sports a slightly larger sweet spot than is usual. The racket rewards players who have a fast and secure swing, but who also like a little help from the racket when generating power. It can be used by players with various play styles, but those who want power and lots of top spin out of their racket will be the most comfortable with this frame.
Playing aggressively with the Ezone 98 is not too difficult, given the amount of power and spin you can expect from the racket. But defensive baseliners will also be happy with it, since the power generation is substantial enough that you can still stay competitive from far back in the court. This is perhaps the biggest difference between the Ezone 98 and the DR 98, as the latter racket did not give as much flexibility to players who liked to hit heavy shots from far behind the baseline.
When it comes to hitting flat power shots, the Ezone is comparable to the DR 98, despite having slightly more power. It is in generating spin, as we have already mentioned, where it truly rises above its predecessor. This extra top spin allows for much greater peace of mind when hitting the ball very hard, as it lends a large measure of power and precision to each shot.
In terms of returning serve, the Ezone 98 performs well, both when you are swinging through your return and when you just block it back into play. When blocking returns in particular one appreciates the extra power the racket affords one. It must be said that it takes some time to get used to these returns, but it does not take too long to adjust.
From the back of the court the Ezone 98 is arguably at its best. It is easy to maintain a good depth with this racket, given its combination of power and spin, and the ball has a wonderfully compact feeling as it makes contact with the strings. A fast arm is generally well rewarded from the baseline, as this is the way in which to maximize power and spin with this racket.
At the net, the Ezone 98 is solid and responsive, but it demands precise movement and a good technical foundation. You will need to be accurate while using your body weight to support your volleys. The net phase is where the 98 is at its most demanding – it is a great racket to volley with, but it is going to make you do a lot of work to get the most out of it. As far as smashes are concerned, the Ezone 98 performs admirably, with its relatively large racket head lending itself to precise smashes for the most part.
Finally, we come to the serve. The Ezone 98 is incredible when it comes to hitting flat first serves. Slices are a little trickier but come of well with a little practice. Kick serves are an area where the racket heavily outshines its predecessor. The pop off the racket is significant, and it’s not too hard to get a good arch and significant kick.
Ultimately, Yonex reinvented the DR 98 with the EZone 98, adding more power, spin and aggression to the racket. With a more direct and responsive feel, as well as greater power and spin, the Ezone 98 is one of the best rackets in this category. Players who were afraid that Yonex would not do justice to this fan favorite can rest easy: the Ezone 98 is very good indeed, and it will continue to be one of the company’s flagship rackets for a long time to come.
Flat shots 8
Net game 7.5
Value for money 8.5
Test settings used:
Yonex Poly Tour Pro (Yellow) 1.25 22/22 - 21/21 - 23/23 *
Yonex Poly Tour Spin G 1.25 21 / 21- 22/22
Yonex Poly Tour Air 1.25 22/22 - 23/23 *
Hybrid Yonex Poly Tour Pro 1.25 / ATG 850 1.30 23/24 -22/23
Yonex Poly Tour Spin G 1.25 / Dynawire 22/23 - 22/22 *