First launched in 2006 as the nBlade, the Wilson Blade is one of the most widely used rackets at the professional, college, and higher recreational level thanks to the level of feel, flexibility, and control the frame offers.
Autumn 2021 sees the arrival of the eighth generation with a new cosmetic and a few subtle changes, all while keeping the specs that give players a more connected-to-the-ball feel.
At launch, the Wilson Blade v8 comes in the following models:
- Wilson Blade 98 v8 16×19
- Wilson Blade 98 v8 18×20
- Wilson Blade 100 v8
- Wilson Blade 100L v8
- Wilson Blade 100UL v8
- Wilson Blade 104 v8
In terms of broad specs across the range, Wilson keeps the layup technology initially used in the Version 7 Blade under the name FeelFlex.
They have renamed this FortyFive, and it's designed to increase stability while also helping the racket bend in ways that complement the modern game.
Wilson also introduces Direct Connect Technology, which works by joining the butt cap directly to the carbon fibre portion of the handle for added stability.
Finally, Wilson’s new Chameleon Paint is used across the Blade V8 range and changes colour under different angles and light conditions, much like ChromaFlair paint used on cars.
Wilson were kind enough to send me the Blade 98 to playtest in the 18 x 20, 16 x 19 and the 104 square inch models.
I've had them for around a week and have hit with all three but spent the most time with the 18 x 20 model; this review will focus on that frame.
I will also comment briefly on the other two and update this review once I've hit more with them.
Let's take a look at how the Wilson Blade 98 v8 performs in this full playtest.
Wilson Blade 98 v8 Cosmetics
When I unwrapped the racket from its plastic bag, the first thing I noticed was the new paint job. It's slick!
I'd seen a few leaked pictures, and Stefanos Tstisipas was using it at the US Open, but it's an exciting design up close.
Wilson calls it Chameleon paint, but I liken it more to ChromaFlair paint used on vehicles that change colour depending on the angle of the sun and light level.
Whereas the Pro Staff 97 V13 has matte, rubbery paint, and although this is still classed as matte, it looks a more traditional type of paint, and I think it looks great.
You get some green hues that are synonymous with the Blade, then a bronze or copper type colour, which is more prominent.
It's pretty hard to get across on camera, and it looks better in person than it does in photographs, especially on a sunny day when it shimmers.
Wilson Blade 98 v8 Specification
As soon I'd removed the cardboard plaque and plastic on the handle, I put the three frames on the scale.
Wilson has a bad reputation for quality control, but all three were virtually spot on the quoted weight specs for me.
The Blade 98 18 x 20 came in at 305g unstrung, bang on Wilson's quoted 305g. The 16 x 19 came in at 306g, which is 1g over. The v8 104 came in at 290g, which is spot on.
For those wondering, the scale pictured above shows 325g but I measured it over three different sets, some other kitchen scales that recorded 326g and finally when I had my precision scales it was 326.6g.
Wilson Blade 18 x 20 v8 Specification vs Blade 98 18 x 20 v7
You can see how the v8 compares in specs to the previous V7 model below. The first column is my specs; the other two are Tennis Warehouse in house measurements, where they use a sample of frames to find an average.
|My Wilson Blade 98 18 x 20 v8||TW Wilson Blade 98 18 x 20 v8||TW Wilson Blade 98 18 x 20 v7|
|Head Size||98 in² / 632.26 cm²||98 in² / 632.26 cm²||98 in² / 632.26 cm²|
|Length||27in / 68.58cm||27in / 68.58cm||27in / 68.58cm|
|Strung Weight||11.53oz / 326.6g||11.4oz / 323g||11.4oz / 323g|
|Balance||13 in / 32.90cm / 4 pts HL||13in / 33.02cm / 4 pts HL||13in / 33.02cm / 4 pts HL|
|Beam Width||21mm / 21mm / 21mm||21mm / 21mm / 21mm||21mm / 21mm / 21mm|
|Composition||Braided Graphite & Basalt||Braided Graphite & Basalt||Braided Graphite|
|Grip Type||Wilson Pro Performance||Wilson Pro Performance||Wilson Pro Performance|
Other Wilson Blade 98 v8 Specs
|Wilson Blade 98 16×19 v8||Wilson Blade 100L v8||Wilson Blade 104 v8|
|Head Size||98 in / 632.26 cm||100 in / 645.16 cm||104 in / 670.97 cm|
|Length||27in / 68.58cm||27in / 68.58cm||27.5in / 69.85cm|
|Strung Weight||11.3oz / 320g||10.6oz / 301g||10.8oz / 306g|
|Balance||12.85in / 32.64cm / 5 pts HL||13.38in / 33.99cm / 1 pts HL||12.99in / 32.99cm / 6 pts HL|
|Beam Width||21mm / 21mm / 21mm||22.5mm / 22.5mm / 22.5mm||22.5mm / 22.5mm / 22.5mm|
|Composition||Braided Graphite||Braided Graphite||Braided Graphite|
|Grip Type||Wilson Pro Performance||Wilson Pro Performance||Wilson Pro Performance|
The first racket I put on my MiStringer portable machine was the 18 x 20. I strang the racket up with a full bed of Solinco Confidential 1.25mm at 48lbs.
The reason I chose Solinco Confidential was it's a string I've used the most over the last four months, and I have a good idea of what to expect from it in terms of playability and performance.
This makes it easier to compare different rackets as that variable is somewhat consistent.
The Blade 98 is pretty easy to string as you skip 8 and 10 at head and throat. I found it easier to string the Pro Staff 97 as there are fewer blocked holes, and the tie-off locations seem a bit more natural than the PS97.
I then added a Wilson Pro Overgrip, the only customisation, bringing the strung weight to 326.6g.
Using the Blade 98 v8, 18 x 20 was uncharted territory for me for two reasons.
The first is that I've never really gelled that well with the Blade line before.
I have played briefly with both the Countervail and v7 models, and while I liked them, they never quite worked as well for me as some other frames on the market.
Instead, I always gravitated towards the Pro Staff within the Wilson lineup as I prefered that stiffer, crisper feeling. The Blade v7 felt a bit underpowered, and I never thought it was the racket for me.
The second is that I've also been using 16 x 19 string pattern frames almost exclusively; figuring the open pattern gave me more power and spin.
However, my first few hits with the Blade 98 v8 18 x 20 were very pleasing. I made solid contact with the ball, still generated spin and the racket delivered a nice feeling at contact.
It felt easy to swing; it cut through the air and gave me the feeling I would be able to play reasonably well with it, without the need for making significant adjustments to my game.
Full Wilson Blade 98 v8 Review
From the back of the court, the Blade 18 x 20 is my sort of racket, I found it easy to swing, manoeuvrable, stable, and as someone who likes to swing fast, mix it up and go for my shots, this racket delivered.
In particular, I felt like I had a ton of control on my slice backhand, meaning it was possible to curl the ball into the deuce corner with sidespin.
I put that down to the denser string pattern and how I could knife the racket through the air at speed.
Considering I always use 16 x 19 frames, I expected the 18 x 20 pattern to mean I was often hitting the tape, but that didn't happen.
I could still hit with spin, and the racket gave me a ton of control, which meant plenty of accuracy.
I like how it played for a flatter type hitter like myself, who is looking to use my slice backhand to set up a short ball for a forehand.
Combine that with the predictability of a string like Solinco Confidential, and you have a frame that can hit targets.
I hit predominately flat serves, and the Blade 98 was ideal. My serve never clicked with the v7 racket, but the v8 was different. I got my arm through the motion quickly and could get the ball down with some decent speed and placement.
I often need some help from the string bed to hit bigger margin second serves, and the Blade's dense pattern didn't offer me that, so I found this shot trickier. I often hit the tape when I didn't accelerate the racket.
The ideal solution would not be to miss my first serve or go into Kyrgios mode, but I'll need to hit a few baskets of balls to see if I can find that swing speed and angle to make more higher-margin second serves.
Up at the net, the Blade 98 performs well. I found it speedy through the air, and for quick reaction type volleys, it was ideal.
There's also enough stability there to handle ripped groundstrokes, and if you're able to get your body behind the ball, you can punch it away nicely.
On return, the more effortless swing speed and greater rigidity worked well for my style of return game.
I like to block the ball on the backhand and hit big cross-court if someone serves into my forehand on the ad court, which the Blade 98 allowed me to do.
Manipulating the racket quickly and whipping it with a more buggy whip-style if you're a bit late on the ball worked well as I can quickly swing this frame.
So as a Pro Staff 97 user, has this v8 converted me to the Blade line of rackets? It's certainly on my radar now, and so is the 18 x 20 string pattern.
It's made the Blade go from a racket I wouldn't have considered using previously into one I would be comfortable playing a match with.
The reason for that is I think this update brings the Blade closer in how it plays to a Pro Staff. It's a bit stiffer, easier to swing and more manoeuvrable than the previous version.
Is that a good thing? I think it will depend on what you value in a racket, and it will divide opinion.
If you are a player who prefers the greater mass, plushness and plough through of the Blade v7, then you probably won't like the v8 as much.
But if you wanted something quicker through the air, more reactive and easier to swing than the v7 while still keeping some of the qualities we've seen on the Blade line in the last decade, then the Blade v8 is going to fit the bill.
I fall into the latter category, so I'm a fan of this racket and will continue to test it out over the coming months.
Putting my tastes aside, the question I have is, will this Blade capture more new fans than it could potentially lose in existing ones?
I think yes, it will; more players out there can use this racket successfully, and some of the earlier Blade users will also gravitate back to the v8.
Who is this racket for?
The Blade 98 is a racket for intermediate to advanced players who like to play an aggressive all-court game.
If you think of some of the players on tour using Blade moulds like Goffin, Tsitsipas, Sonego, Raonic, they all play an all-court attacking style, except Tsitsipas hit a flatter ball.
If you prefer to hit with big topspin from the baseline – think Nadal, Ruud, Auger-Aliassime, Alcaraz etc. I don't think the Blade 98 is the racket for you. You will probably want more mass and a higher launch angle.
However, there is always the possibility of customising the Blade 98 v8, and the base specs give you some room to do it.
There's nothing you can do about the tight string pattern, which is also quite tight on the 16 x 19, but adding weight to the tip of the frame should make it more stable for those who feel like they want more mass against big hitters.
It is also definitely not a lazier players frame or one for senior players as it does not give you much help.
As soon as I started getting sloppy with footwork towards the end of my hitting sessions and trying to arm the ball, the quality of my shots dropped off a cliff.
To play well with it, you'll need to be precise with the footwork, play at a high intensity, prepare early and take full swings at the ball. If that's you, I'd give this a demo.
I use the Blade v7; should I switch to the Blade v8?
Based on my experience, if you love the v7, I probably wouldn't switch to the Blade v8.
But if you're like me and never gelled with the v7, then the v8 is going to be one for your shortlist.
- Lots of control
- More manoeuvrable than the v7
- Slick paint job
- Lack of overall mass/plough through will put off fans of the v7
- Stiffer feeling so not for those who want a super soft frame
Other Wilson Blade v8 Models
Wilson Blade 16 x 19 v8
In my testing, the 18 x 20 played better than the Blade 98 v8 16 x 19.
With almost identical specs aside from string pattern, I was surprised at how different they felt, but the launch angle, control and overall feeling just wasn't there with the 16 x 19.
However, I did string this with a hybrid, as I had no Solinco Confidential left, so it wasn't identical in string setup. Still, my game became erratic with it, and I immediately wanted to switch back.
Why? I'm not quite sure, maybe it was the strings, but the 18 x 20 just felt better in my hand. I will be playing with the 16 x 19 more in the coming weeks to see if I get used to it.
Wilson Blade 104 v8
The Blade 104 v8 is an extended (27.5″), lighter racket that comes in at 290g unstrung.
It departs from what we expect from the Blade's control-oriented roots and offers plenty of pace, spin and depth.
I strang the 104 with a full bed of Toalson Asterisk, a synthetic gut offering playability and power.
I'm not someone who uses rackets in this spec range, but I liked it, and if I swallowed my pride to use a slightly lighter, more oversized head size frame, I'd likely play well with it.
Perhaps 104 is a bit too unwieldy, but this frame is highly playable and gives you a decent margin, so for older players, club doubles etc., this is going to be a good buy.
Other Blades v8 rackets
Have you tried the new Wilson Blade v8? Got any questions about it? Let me know in the comments.