As I work for a badminton retailer, I am occasionally asked to review other manufacturer’s racquets. Against this backcloth, I recently tested a Victor JS40 badminton racquet.
A few years ago, the Victor brand was extremely small in UK, mainly considered a European brand. We knew very little about their products and level of quality. That changed just over a year ago when it was announced that they were the new sponsors of the Korean National Badminton Team. This was a serious leap forward for Victor and ultimately gave them an international seal of approval in terms of quality. After all, if a racquet is good enough for Lee Yong Dae, current Olympic Mixed Doubles champion and World Mens Doubles Silver Medallist, and his team, then it must be good!
On to my review…
The JS40 is situated in the lower-midpoint of the Victor range. Having tested the racquet, it’s actually difficult to know where to place this racquet. After all, it’s the “signature” racquet of German No1 and current World No9 Juliane Schenk and as you’ll read later, I really got to like this racquet!
It’s a nice looking badminton racquet with grey/green, white and red graphics. Despite the positioning in the range, JS40 arrived in a full length personalised cover in royal blue which stands out well against the rest of the range. Again, this is a high quality full-cover bag too, nothing flimsy here.
Grip size is G4 which is the larger of the two grip sizes on Victor racquets. It’s equivalent to a size 3.5/8 inches or Yonex G3, which is a bit confusing. Perhaps the racquet also needs to be offered with grip size G3 as I consider this could be a favourite with ladies who may require the smaller grip size but don’t want the flexibility of the Castilus 400.
Weight is 82g which is one of the lightest racquets in Victor’s expanding range. Interestingly, this racquet has a maximum recommended stringing tension of 24-26lbs so, as usual, it’s strong and will appeal in many markets where high tension stringing seems to be the norm.
This is a very evenly balanced racquet with a balance point around 297mm. The head is light and feels a little like Nano9900 in terms of look and feel. The shaft is designated stiff.
The shaft also needs special mention here because it is so unusual. The shaft is fully integrated to the grip in one piece. So, whilst the shaft is circular towards the head of the racquet, it is almost octagonal towards the grip. Speaking of the grip, this one felt superb. It’s Victor’s own Fishbone grip. Victor should use it on more of their racquets. It really felt that good and I wouldn’t wish to mess it up with an overgrip. In fact, Victor manufacture this as an overgrip too so you can fit it to all of your racquets. I consider this grip to be one of the best grips I’ve ever used.
The racquet has a beautiful feel, it’s so well balanced – but how will it play? Let’s find out…
Onto court and let’s start hitting.
Let me warn you about this racquet. I test a lot of racquets and usually, it takes me a few minutes to get the feel of it and then I’m away enjoying my hitting and thinking what I’m going to say about the racquet I’m testing. This racquet caught me out.
At first I really disliked the racquet. My timing was fine, but I just couldn’t get the feel of the racquet. 20 minutes later…I loved it! I really began to understand what this racquet was about and why Juliane Schenk enjoys using it so much.
When I “got it”, clears were easy. You can’t really feel any weight in the head, but it carries through the shot so well. Bear in mind that this is a truly one-piece racquet so there is a bit more flex compared to others in the range. Whilst I noticed the flex, it wasn’t off-putting, it contributed to what I wanted to do to the shuttle.
Whilst the racquet is powerful, it’s not going to be the powerhouse you’ve come to expect from say, Victor’s SW35. But it still packs a punch and is relatively effortless to achieve it – a big plus point. I also felt that I could get a little more downward direction with this racquet which was great for a player of my height.
Whilst I’ve read that this has been “badged” a singles racquet (I suppose because Schenk is known for her singles ability), I can see many doubles players loving this racquet. It smashes well and you don’t feel fatigued at all from hitting numerous smashes or clears in a row. Once you get it, it really feels like an extension of your hand.
Defensively this racquet was easy to use. It moved so easily in the air and handled like a Nano9900. This, combined with the brilliant balance made defence a piece of cake. Bear in mind my fellow tester Mat was thundering smashes down with either SIW 35 (a real smashers racquet), BS10 and Spira 21, I felt totally comfortable retrieving the smashes. Occasionally, I was too fast and mis-timed the shot. I really should have stepped into the shuttle and taken the smash even earlier.
Whether I lifted, blocked or drove the shuttle back, this racquet delivered in abundance every time. It’s a dream come true for any player who loves to counter hit and really work the shuttle around the court. I would say, that it lacks a little meat when trying to drive the shuttle back hard, or get the best out of a lift to the rear court.
I’ve said before that a racquet that performs well in defence always performs well around the net area. And yes, this racquet was outstanding. There was no need to make adjustments of any kind, just get on with it and it felt so natural. All the touch was there, even with factory stringing, which incidentally, I don’t like. The blue Ashaway Micro Legend string doesn’t enhance the abilities of this racquet. Personally, I would swap this for Victor’s own VS850 which is a far superior string. As I said, around the net, it was an absolute delight. The lighter head, gave me all the speed and control I needed.
This racquet proves that sometimes, first impressions do not count! I really didn’t like the feel of it at all, struggled to hit anything decent, but I persevered and was finally rewarded…in abundance! No surprises that the JS40 reminds me of Castilus 400, bearing in mind they are virtually the same racquet barring stiffness of the shaft and weight. With this in mind, it was even more surprising why it took so long to get used to it when I immediately loved Castilus 400. I’ll put that down to one of life’s mysteries.
RRP is a mere £79.95 which is incredible for a racquet of this quality. Retailers will discount to around £73.00 so you’re getting great value for money.
With all the good things I’ve said about this racquet, how do I rate it? It’s a tough one because I can see it suiting so many players well but you’ve got to give it time. I’m not the only player to test this racquet and think the same, so I know it’s not just me. I’m also unsure whether it will become a great doubles racquet even though it deserves it. And, whilst the shaft is designated stiff, will it be flexible enough to suit those players looking for that extra help? Mmm, too many questions…
After all this tooing and froing I’m going to rate JS40 a four star racquet – reluctantly, as I’ve grown rather fond of it. I really can’t fault the racquet performance-wise at all. And, I really don’t want to put it down or give it back.
There’s no question that the Victor brand is now world class. Whilst it’s relatively unknown in UK at the moment, I’m sure that their quality and pricing will easily find a way into the market. You’d be wise to test Victor’s JS40 if you can find one, because this level of quality, and at this price, it is going to blow away most of the competition. But, you’ve got to give it a lot more testing time and then you’ll be glad you did!