Before going out for a hit with the new MP, I was optimistic.
Auxetic technology has, more or less, taken all the benefits of Graphene 360+ and amplified them even further. One thing that Head hasn't changed: the see-it-from-outer-space neon yellow design. The racket has to perform the part with a paint job like that, so let's see if it does.
New and Improved Feel
What exactly has Auxetic tech changed? Auxetic technology is mainly applied to the racket's throat and utilizes a stretchy material within the carbon for added flex and dwell time. The hoop remains stiff and stable, but the throat is softer and more flexible. The spiral fibres on Graphene 360+ already marked a massive improvement in feel and connection to the ball compared to previous Graphene generations, and yet, Auxetic is leagues beyond even that.
I sometimes got lost in the stringbed with the previous version of the Extreme MP. While this spec of racket will never have the top-end precision of frames with a smaller head size and thinner beam, I feel so much more connected to the ball with the improved response provided by the Auxetic wrap in the throat. And as usual, with rackets that "feel" better, I noticed a marked improvement in almost every touch-oriented shot. Slicing was more consistent, and volleying was more precise. The racket isn't a volley specialist's stick, though, just a big improvement compared to the last one.
Stiff But Comfortable?
The new technology also helps in providing a more comfortable hitting experience. The Extreme is historically one of Head's stiffest rackets and remains so with this version. The industry is becoming less and less tolerant of arm discomfort, so technological developments are necessary to make stiff rackets, comfortable rackets. The Auxetic technology doesn't mute the vibrations but rather gives the Extreme an extended dwell time, easing the arm in and out of the impact rather than deflecting it quickly and harshly.
In general, the changes from the older generation to the Auxetic Extreme MP are more or less limited to the actual layup of the graphite and mainly impact the racket's feel. In terms of spin, the racket stays true to its DNA.
Head loves to add short, catchy phrases to the header cards for each silo. They are perfect for giving the consumer a better idea as to the general goal of each racket, and with the infinite amount of offerings from the Austrian brand, we could very well be lost without them.
"Spin Big" couldn't be more accurate on the Auxetic Extreme MP. In fact, with the Babolat Pure Aero's recent spin diet, this racket is probably the most spin-friendly on the market. While the 16/19 string pattern is slightly tighter than on the previous version, it still gives the Extreme one of the most open string beds out there. Even in the centre of the sweet spot, there is a ton of space between the strings; you can feel them digging deep into the ball, cutting and releasing it with loads of revolutions. String bed density is the most important factor for determining a frame's spin profile. Beyond that, the Extreme has plenty of technological features that further enhance its spin performance.
Spin grommets are one of those things that sound like a gimmick but actually work extremely well in augmenting spin. The central main grommets on the Auxetic Extreme MP are massive, rectangular holes, far bigger than any standard set. These grommets give the main strings much more lateral range of movement and a lot more potential to create the snap-back effect needed to produce spin. If you string the Extreme with a polyester (and you should), that string movement is difficult to miss; it provides a sensation so distinct from other rackets that it begs the player to hit whippy, windshield wiper strokes.
It's not just the string pattern and grommets that make you want to swing like that. On the Extreme, Head tapers the inner beam of the throat to be more aerodynamic. Like on most spin rackets, this design helps the racket swing lighter than its weight suggests and helps bring the racket head quickly through contact brushing at the ball. Spin is king with this racket.
Who is it for?
There's no question that this racket is for the modern baseliner, who loves to sit back and out-spin their opponents to victory. It's certainly one of the best current rackets for that style of play. Because it has such an open, spinny pattern, the Extreme MP has quite a high launch angle, so there is almost no way to control the ball's flight without spin. If you have a flat game, this racket probably won't work.
That said, we are playing in an era where spin is paramount to compete at a high level. I have struggled with developing the same amount of spin that better players use. My flat game has sometimes held me back, especially when hitting consistent rally balls. Playtesting this racket, I was forced to adopt a different style to control the ball's launch. Because the racket requires and rewards such spin-friendly strokes, I had to force myself to hit with more spin, and now it comes a little more naturally, even when playing with a different racket.
The Extreme MP might not be a racket for everyone, and if you are happy to hit a flatter, more direct ball, it won't be the best for you. But if you're looking for a frame that will help modernize your style, its unique playability could make it the perfect stick for you. And if you already play with this style of racket or have a very spinny game, it's the perfect upgrade.
A Spin Racket AND Power racket?
Head did something crazy and actually removed a silo from their top-end lineup; the Instinct is now a lower-end frame. That means that Head's branded "power racket" is gone, but the Extreme MP can easily take its place. It's remarkably forgiving, user-friendly, and, of course, powerful. The thick beam (23/26/21 mm) and stiff flex (between 57-60 RA) help it provide that powerful response, and the massive spin grommets create a bigger trampoline effect on the stringbed. This racket can hammer the ball, and I recommend going slightly higher in tension to counterbalance the added string movement. It's important to note: Auxetic technology feels soft and more comfortable, but I didn't notice it tone down any of the power on this version compared to the last.
I've never been the biggest fan of spin rackets as I find them consistently less consistent than other styles. That's mainly due to their open string patterns and sometimes wild launch angles. Still, there's no denying how well these rackets can perform in the right hands. For those who like to hit with spin, everything about this racket style is tailor-made for your game.
The Auxetic Extreme MP still has much of the DNA that makes spin rackets special, but it manages to mesh that wild side with more control, precision, and comfort. It's not the most drastic overhaul Head has made going from one version to the next, but the slight tweaks have led to a clear improvement in the areas where the Extreme once didn't perform so well.
Come try out a demo in-store or hit 'notify me' on the product page below for first dibs.