Prince EX03 Warrior 100
Your father loves to play tennis, but he loves to talk about having been a great tennis player even more. That's because he's no longer 39, and maybe his lower back gives him trouble, or maybe he's stuck with a crap tennis elbow. Whatever the reason: He grew up on wood or early graphite racquets, he's older now, and tennis just isn't as much fun when you can't dominate your friends, much less young guys with legs and hundred-mile-an-hour-plus serves, no doubt helped by some of today's best hardware.
Our move in this situation? Get him, and maybe yourself, one of Prince's new EX03 Warrior 100s. It's not the racquet Federer or Nadal use, but that's because Federer and Nadal are unbelievably skilled and talented pro athletes. And today the practice of playing with your favorite pro's racquet is finally starting to seem ill-advised: A pro's small-headed gun usually has a tiny hitting area, requiring extremely precise moves as well as long and fast-swing speeds. Dad, and all of us, need something better. Not something that will play for you. Instead, something that doesn't require you to be a 22-year-old world-class talent, but will still reward you for getting aggro from the baseline, Agassi-style.
This light new Prince, with large inventively designed string holes (as opposed to constrictive grommets in racquets from the recent past) is the answer. Whatever strings you choose – we recommend a medium-tension hybrid – respond to hits in a much more liberated fashion than they do on other racquets. The Warrior allows strings to move freely while reducing vibration. Plus, this isn't a big gun for beginners or anyone in a nursing home. You really do need to swing fast and hard to make the most of your shot's spin. You just have a larger sweet spot and nearly edge-to-edge control from a more forgiving stringbed than that of an old Pete Sampras Wilson classic. In short, you won't overhit as much, although your shots will show a boosted level of power.
The days of being called Jennifer Capriati for carrying a Prince to the courts are over. Now that racquet tech has made leaps and bounds, you're almost considered a joker, not a Djokovic, if you choose an ax created for anyone better than you. So maybe your dad returns the thing because he's too proud, too afraid of giving tennis another try, too concerned with appearing like a junior from 1986. Tell him you'll take care of the shipping, then keep this thing for yourself, and head right out onto the courts the next day ready to do some serious damage. [$189; princetennis.com]