Pros: Nice stiffness and control
Cons: A bit lacking in accuracy on overheads.
In a previous opinion in the tennis racquets section, I stated that I had a Wilson Hammer 6.4. Unfortunately due to some rather worrying circumstances, I no longer have this racquet. Why?, I hear you ask. Well the answer is that it broke. Because I play a very 'coached' game, I tend to hit massive topspin on my forehand which breaks a lot of strings. Constant re-strings eventually start to damage the frame of the racquet due to the constant change in tension and stress. This leads to cracks appearing in the frames and then in the case of my racquet, it just buckled.
So, I had to look for new racquets. The first racquet that crossed my mind was the Wilson Hyper Hammer 6.3 and that was the one which I decided on. The Wilson Hammer range of racquets has been going for ages now and in the 1998/9 they introduced a new compound for making racquets, dubbed 'Hypercarbon'. Wilson claim that it is 4 times stiffer than titanium, 4 times stronger and 65% lighter. All very impressive so far, but does it actually make a difference.
Well, you'd have thought that the racquets would be very light due to the fact that Hypercarbon barely weighs anything. Well this is only partly true. The racquets are still made of a combination of Hypercarbon and graphite and it is the graphite that makes the racquets heavy. The Hyper Hammer 6.3 weighs in at 250g, which compares favourably with the standard racquet weight of 332g. It has a 24mm constant beam which means that it is a fairly chunky racquet. When most people pick up my racquet for the first time, they are surprised how light it actually is but when compared with a racquet like my little brother's Head Ti Fire it is pretty heavy.
So, what are the advantages of having a lighter than standard racquet? Well, for a start it makes it easier to move around quickly so it's ideal for a serve-volleying game. Heavy racquets are hard to get into position quickly and often you can find yourself fighting with them to get them where you want it. The Hyper Hammer 6.3 has none of these problems though and is wonderfully easy to move. It's slightly head-heavy which allows the player to whip the racquet head through on all shots which allows more spin to be put on the ball. If a racquet is too head heavy, tennis elbow is likely but the Hyper Hammer 6.3 is only very slightly unbalanced so it's easy on the wrist and elbows.
The 6.3 part of the racquet's name relates to its power rating. Currently they range from 7.3 down to a 2.3. The higher the number, the lower the power and generally the lower the price. Any player that has ever been coached to have big takebacks and swings on their ground strokes will struggle to use a racquet with a power rating above 4. I tend to favour racquets with very little power so that I can get a big more control when I hit the ball. Fortunately I am physically big enough to generate power for myself so I don't have to let the racquet do the talking for me. I have never been in a situation where the Hyper Hammer 6.3 has appeared under powered.
Wilson racquets somehow always manage to have a great 'feel' to them. When you hit the ball you can always tell where it's going which makes a change from other racquets I have played with. I would suggest that any player that wants a lot of feel on the ball go for a small grip size because I find that this makes the racquet feel more like and extension of the arm. My grip size is 4 3/8 which is pretty much the standard size for a men's racquet. I wouldn't recommend going for anything smaller because this can also lead to tennis elbow and wrist injuries.
If there is one problem with the 6.3 it is on serving. I know several players that play with these racquets and they all, including myself, find it quite difficult to control serves using it. My coach uses a 6.3 and he says that he's had real problems managing to keep his serve within the service boxes using this racquet. I don't know why this is, but I suspect it's because the racquet has a lot of power off overheads because it feels quite long and is head heavy. The racquet isn't actually any longer than any other racquet but it does feel long which leads to a lot of power on serves and smashes.
The Hammer 6.4 used have problems with durability because the bumper strip at the top of the racquet used to break frequently and they cost #13 to replace. Since changing racquets about 6 months ago, I haven't had to replace the bumper strip once. For anyone that doesn't know, the bumper strip is the plastic strip along the top of the racquet which protects it from smashing on the ground. The 6.3 does tend to get very dirty though. Maybe it's just because I play with wet balls during the winter (oo er!) but the yellow part of the racquet quickly becomes mucky and the racquet starts to look pretty horrible. Fortunately a quick wipe with a wet cloth restores it to its former glory.
The Hyper Hammer 6.3 is a very good looking racquet although I didn't choose it because of this. It's mainly black but the end of it is bright yellow which contrasts nicely with the black. The Hyper Hammer logo on the racquet looks very good as do the Wilson logos that are all over it. The paint doesn't scratch off very easily which is a very good thing compared to Wilson's older racquets where they got scratched straight away. The standard grips that come with the racquets are very nice and grippy and aren't in the least bit slippy. They also tend to last for quite a while which means that expenditure on maintaining the racquet is kept to a minimum.
Since I got my racquet last September I have broken many strings on it and the frame shows no signs of weakening. I chose the racquet originally after having a go with one of my coach's demonstration racquets and I instantly knew that it was the racquet for me. Recently I managed to buy the demonstration racquet off my coach for #80 which was a real bargain. If you do have a coach in your area and you're looking for a racquet ask him/her if they can get an ex demo racquet for you and you'll save a lot of money.
Overall, this racquet is more or less perfect and offers everything that I need. It's not too powerful but it's not underpowered. It's not cheap, but it's also not too expensive. Also, it's one of these racquets that gets more responsive the harder you hit the ball unlike some racquets where the more power you hit, the less feel you get. I'll certainly try and get hold of some more of these racquets when the time comes.