Best of 2005: Best Tennis Rackets

A perfect day, and weatherman Bob Ryan tests racquets

Yellow balls don't just mean sunshine for NBC4 meteorologist Bob Ryan: He's a 25-year veteran of the tennis courts. On a sunny afternoon, high near 65, he met us at East Potomac Tennis Center at DC's Hains Point to try out the newest racquets from Drilling Tennis & Golf (1040 17th St, NW; 202-737-1100; drillingtennisandgolf.com). After 45 minutes of hitting with Hains Point instructor Sam Hughes, he chose his favorites.

1. Prince O3 Silver ($279.95, 118 square inches, 8.8 ounces). This was significantly larger than Ryan's usual racquet, a Prince Triple Threat Stealth, but it still had good control. "This has a nice feel to it even though it's large," he said, joking that the silver color helps by reflecting light into an opponent's eyes.

2. Babolat AeroPro Drive ($179, 100 square inches, 10.6 ounces). "This is more what I'm used to," Ryan said of the smaller racquet. It had good control and a nice-size grip, though he found the shape of the throat odd. Said Hughes, his opponent: "You looked very comfortable with that one."

3. Prince O3 Red ($239, 105 square inches, 9.9 ounces). "This is firm, with good control," Ryan said of the thinnest of the Prince O3 series, which also includes Blue and Silver models. "It's a fair weight, though it feels a little thin."

Of the others he tried, Ryan discarded the Wilson n3 ($269) and n4 ($239) because he found their throats' unconventional shape distracting. The Babolat Pure Drive Team ($179) struck him as a little dead in its hit, and the Head Flexpoint 10 ($274) felt far too large at 121 square inches. "It's a monster," he said. Ryan also tested the new Head Protector ($299), designed to absorb shock for those who suffer from tennis elbow. He acknowledged that it dampened the blows but said it felt "more like a board than a racquet."

Washingtonian staffers contributing to this section were Cristina Abello, Susan Baer, Susan Davidson, Ken DeCell, Rebecca Dreilinger, Kim Isaac Eisler, Mary Clare Fleury, Kimberly Forrest, Brooke Lea Foster, Garrett M. Graff, Cynthia Hacinli, Thomas Head, Todd Kliman, Ann Limpert, Chad Lorenz, Leslie Milk, Aparna Nancherla, William O'Sullivan, Cindy Rich, and Chris Wilson. Also contributing were Cathy Alter, Ann Cochran, and Matthew Graham.

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