Monday, October 18, 2021

Badminton Racket First Impressions: Yonex Astrox 99 Pro

When Kento Momota first took to the circuit I knew there was something about him. I remember telling my buddy at that time that this young Japanese player will be the next World Number 1. True to his performance, he started winning - his brand of stable gameplay and consistent rallies letting his scalp one opponent after the other. 

Before Momota, I also had my eye on another Japanese singles played. Kenichi Tago has an explosive edge to him that made his games very nice to watch. The young player also favoured the backhand over an overhead forehand swing - something I tend to do a lot as well; we both idolized Taufiq Hidayat - Crown Prince of Backhand. 

Long story short, the two got to some mischief together and that saw Kento Momota missing the Olympics because of a suspension. It was a two-year ban from playing for Japan, and the slog was uphill when he finally returned to the circuit. Players like Viktor Axelson, Chou Tien Chen and Shi Yu Qi had risen to the podium and posed a really big threat to Momota's game. 

Armed with the Yonex Astrox 99, Momota was able to power his way to the top, but a new slew of rapid attackers put a dent in his play style, Anthony Ginting and Lee Zi Jia being the latest to break down his defenses with their relentless assaults. 

The call was then for Momota to create a new racket that will suit his play style - a control game that tests the patience of his opponents and moves them around the court from Momota's exellent placement. 

The Astrox 99 Pro is the result of that collaboration, and this is my first impressions of the racket. 

Photo: Yonex
Click for racket specs (redirect)

I must admit that I'm not very impressed with the design on this racket - the choice of gloss paint really made it look like the middle-tier offerings of Yonex. A nice matte finish would have made it look so much more classier (and expensive). 

Holding the newly strung racket in my hand, the Yonex Astrox 99 Pro felt more even-balanced that head heavy, a very big contract to the sledgehammer that was its predecessor. It brought back memories of the ArcSaber 10 from way back, also a white racket from Yonex. The test swings off the court wren't remarkable as well, the weight transfer not as apparent due to the weight distribution.

Fortunately, a few singles games with the racket changed my impression of the racket. Despite the lack of swing weight, the racket offers very precise control while offering up just enough power to make the shots effortless. In the 4 games that I had with the Yonex Astrox 99 Pro, I couldn't remember hitting too many unforced errors. My opponent even complimented my shot accuracy at the end of the session.

The racket performs well for forehands as well as backhands, offering up good distance with minimal effort, so long as you bullseye on the sweet spot. That won't be too hard because of the new stringing pattern for the Yonex Astrox 99 Pro, making the sweet spot slightly larger and therefore more forgiving

Much as I anticipated, the power smashes from this racket didn't perform as well as my other head-heavy rackets. Understandable trade-off and I can see how it plays into Momota's playbook as well. 

Overall, I had a very pleasant experience with the Yonex Astrox 99 Pro. I am very comfortable with the racket in hand, and am able to pull off a lot of shots, recovers, blocks and nets that turned the game in my favour. It comes in two colors - White Tiger, and Cherry Sunburst. I like the white one more. My AX99-P is strung with Yonex Nanogy 98 at 31lbs.

Will get a few more games with this guy before I dish out a proper review. For all you guys who still read this old blog, thank you.

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