The big news from Yonex in 2013 is the launch of the much-awaited Nanoray Z Speed. Official video from Yonex quotes a new world record smash speed of 493km/h, exceeding the previous “record” set by Arcsaber Z Slash. This will surely tempt many players with the promise of delivering a powerhouse smash but is this reality or the marketing talking? Let’s find out…
First off, this is supposed to be a Nanoray racquet. Since the birth of this range we have been conditioned to expect Nanoray to deliver light-headed racquets. So why on earth are Yonex calling this racquet a Nanoray because it is certainly not light headed? For a brand that has always carefully separated its racquets to clearly define what each range represents, why are they suddenly throwing confusion into the market?
The Yonex Nanoray Z Speed is a head heavy, stiff shafted racquet with a new shape isometric head, a touch smaller than standard size. Credit to Yonex here that they have re-designed the head shape and for me this was an improvement, especially compared to the numerous framing issues me and many other players had with Z Slash. I’m not so sure I would class this as a stiff shafted racquet as I have seen stiffer medium shafted racquets before.
The racquet is a 3U (85-89g), G5 which is the smaller grip usually on offer in UK. However Yonex UK are also advertising a G6 version although I cannot confirm availability on this. Z Speed is presented in the usual Nanoray cover. Colour is very striking although not to everyone’s taste. It’s a bold brash statement in bright orange for most of the head and ferrule with black and other decals on the throat and shaft.
The racquet was manufacture strung and yet again it was annoying the stencil ink wore off after only a few points. Generally racquets of this stature are custom strung for the player as only a few will leave a retailer without a restring. That said the racquet should be stencilled properly.
It’s hitting time…
With all the hype, and making allowance for a considerably lesser tension than I like I walked onto court expecting great things from Z Speed. Personally I would have called it a Voltric and saved the confusion, but at least I knew what to expect…
Z Speed disappointed from the first shot. Frankly I was expecting effortless clears even with manufacturer stringing. And bear in mind most of my tests are undertaken this way, except for top-end Victor racquets which are always delivered unstrung.
Instead of me witnessing shuttles flying towards my opponent’s rear court with very little effort, I really had to concentrate hard and put in more effort to hit a length. The good news is that they were clean hits without the framing issues previously mentioned with Z Slash.
Drop shots performed so much better, nice and tight. It’s nice to feel the weight in the head pulling down to provide that solid connection although the feeling falls short of that produced by Z Force. The frame felt reasonably fast too.
Onto smashes where I expected Z Speed to come alive and really show me what it could do and was primarily built for according to the marketing. Sorry to say I hit harder with Mark’s racket than I did with Z Speed. Mark also had a go and he has a very powerful smash. Same result, he could not get a better result compared to his own racquet. This goes totally against the grain and to be honest I’ve not experienced this before where a racquet does not deliver. Could it be the stringing? If so, why should it make such a difference? Every other racquet I hit with on that evening delivered perfectly good smashes, regardless of string tension.
Fast flat exchanges clearly demonstrated that although Z Speed can recover well and overall I was satisfied with the result. Shots were clean and there wasn’t the fatigue in my arm which I experienced with Z Force.
Here’s the strangest thing…
Moving on to defence, it’s usually expected a racquet like this will be a touch slower and require a lot of work to ensure the racquet face meets the shuttle early. However, for some reason Z Speed reacted extremely well and proved to be a great asset defensively. Despite Marks best efforts I returned most of his smashes with a combination of lifts, drives and blocks. Drives weren’t as crisp as I would like but the lifts were so easy.
Moving on around the net, there’s a noticeable need to force this racquet to move. It does reward however but without that little extra it’s not going to be in the right place at the right time. I didn’t have this issue with Voltric 80 and really wasn’t expecting it with Z Speed because so far it had proved it was a relatively fast frame.
This is my first review of a Yonex racquet since leaving Yonex and I couldn’t have picked a worse review to write. No doubt there will be readers who accuse me of bias, despite the fact I reviewed other manufacturer racquets whilst I was with Yonex. However, I know that there will be many who agree with my comments and they have publicly had their say about Z Speed.
Overall I have to confess that this is perhaps the most disappointing racquet I have ever tested and reviewed. I was expecting great things and with my love of head heavy, stiff specifications I really should have loved Z Speed. But, it did not perform for me.
Regardless of the world record figures and how these were measured, for me this falls short of being Yonex’s most powerful racquet. Naming issues aside, there are a number of international players using this racquet including Tan Boon Heong from Malaysia who hit that record-breaking smash. It’s interesting to note that despite the marketing, he doesn’t appear to be hitting harder in tournaments and his name was not on the top 5 biggest smashes at the recent World Championships. Needless to say, there are measurements…and there are measurements!
With an RRP of £190 and retailers selling for only a few pounds under this, I think this is a racquet for hardcore players who will buy on the grounds of the marketing. For some it may deliver but I expect ebay or forums will have many second hand for sale very quickly.
In all my years and after all the reviews I’ve written, this is the one review tinged with sadness. I sincerely hope the next Yonex racquet I test will prove much better. With a heavy heart I have to say this racquet is not good value for money, has performed poorly and I am awarding only 2.5 stars. Credit to Yonex for the new head shape and size but that’s where I draw the line.
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