There's no denying it; we've been spoiled like never before in 2023, with big racket releases coming out left, right, and center.
The most exciting of the bunch for me? The brand new Auxetic Gravity line. Why is that? Because the Gravity has been my racket of choice for the past three years.
What is it that makes the Head Gravity so special?
Everything about the racket feels like a player's frame. It has a thin-beam constant flex that gives you great connection to the ball and an ultra-precise feel from the baseline. That said, the racket has a forgiving feel and a decently powerful response like a 100-square-inch frame should. Each Gravity is a hybrid in the truest sense of the word.
I was a massive fan of the Pro; I think it's in the conversation for "best racket of the last 5 years", and I didn't use it because I couldn't handle the swing weight. Obviously, I loved the Tour – I own four of them, after all – but I had the toughest time meshing with the MP. The 295-gram static weight was just too low and felt too unstable for my taste.
Head has decided to keep most specs the same on the new Gravity MP. The racket weighs 295 grams and has a 100 square inch head size, 16x20 string pattern, and 22-millimeter beam. At first, I was a little disappointed, but then I checked the swing weight. I hope this isn't a quality control issue, but the old Gravity swings at 320 points on our RDC machine, and the new one swings at 327. Seeing that number pop up excited me because an increase in swing weight is the most efficient way of improving stability.
The most significant change, however, comes with the introduction of Auxetic technology.
This shouldn't surprise anyone, the rest of Head's lineup has already transitioned, and the Gravity is the last domino to fall. Auxetic has improved most rackets in the line, so I was excited to get on the court with the new frame.
I first strung up the brand new Head Gravity MP 2023 with a hybrid of Solinco Hyper-G 17 Soft and Yonex Poly Tour Pro at 53 pounds and then Luxilon ALU Power at 53 pounds.
I struggled so much with stability on the 360+ Gravity MP that I rarely played it in stock form; I just needed more behind the ball. If raising the swing weight racket was a conscious decision, then Head has gotten it right. The Auxetic Gravity MP is significantly more stable than its predecessor, which makes it much more playable at a high level.
The racket could still do with a slight static weight increase. The balance feels a bit off because rackets that creep close to the 330s in swing weight should be more like 305 to 310 grams static. I don't usually like to customize rackets during a playtest, but I couldn't help myself and added 10 grams to the handle, which significantly improved the stability. That said, it's a considerable improvement from the Graphene 360+, and part of that also comes down to the Auxetic tech.
Auxetic tech has helped stabilize most of the rackets in Head's lineup, so it's no surprise it's also positively affecting the Gravity. Why it does such a good job? That's where it gets really interesting.
Feel and Comfort
The primary goal of Auxetic tech is to improve feel, and while it certainly does a good job of that, it also boosts stability along the way. Auxetic is more of a graphite layup technology than any actual material (like Graphene or Countervail, for example). With Auxetic, the graphite is laid up in the throat to flex more dynamically than in the rest of the racket.
"Normal" graphite flexes uniformly throughout contact. Auxetic graphite flexes more the harder you hit but then snaps back into place more efficiently than a traditional graphite layup. That makes the Auxetic Gravity MP feel more flexible than the previous 360+ but also more solid because the graphite snaps back into place. That's pretty impressive engineering; too much flex at a low weight usually makes a racket flimsy because it gives so much on contact. Here, it's just the opposite. Auxetic also makes the sweet spot a bit bigger and more forgiving, which also helps stabilize the racket.
This should be expected if you've tried an Auxetic racket before, but the feel is much improved. As much as I love the 360+ Gravity MP, it could sometimes feel a bit jarring and pingy; that's no longer the case on the new racket. The flexier feel gives it great softness and touch and that little extra bit of dwell time on impact. You feel the ball pocket into the stringbed. I know many players interested in this style of frame will appreciate that.
Because it's more flexible than the Graphene 360+, it's also quite a bit more comfortable. While I didn't have any discomfort with the previous version, if you did, it shouldn't be a problem this time around.
Control and Precision
The Gravity's control profile is probably the main reason it is so well-loved. It's one of the only 100 square-inch rackets that gives you the utmost precision of a thin, traditional constant beam. These classic beamed rackets are popular amongst big hitters because they provide the best directional control. With the Gravity, it almost feels like you're cheating because, at least from the baseline, it feels about as precise as any smaller head-sized racket but is also significantly more forgiving. Usually, you have to sacrifice one to get the other, but not with the Gravity series and certainly not with the MP.
Let's go back to feel for a second. When a racket has better feel, that usually gives it more control. That's because good feel is essential to proper connection with a racket. When you feel connected to a racket, you can get into a zone where it seems you can't miss. Because feel has improved with the introduction of Auxetic tech, the Gravity MP has taken all that excellent control of the previous version and improved on.
There is a slight caveat here. The Gravity MP is the only racket in the lineup to feature a 16x20 string pattern instead of an 18x20. That means it has a higher launch angle, which gives it a slightly more wild feel on flat shots, but what you sacrifice in flat, directional control, you gain in spin potential.
Spin and Maneuverability
It's not all sunshine and rainbows when it comes to spin on the Gravity MP, and that mainly comes down to the racket's maneuverability. This is the biggest downside of playing with a Gravity, and that brings it back down to earth from being the perfect racket.
The Gravity is a player's frame; however, it's one of the few to feature a 100-square-inch head size. When you move up to those 100 square inches, you lose out on that snappy, whippy feel of something with a 98, 97, or 95 square-inch head. On top of that, the teardrop shape of the racket's head concentrates more material near the top of the racket, which compounds that more sluggish feel.
A sluggish racket will be harder to whip through contact and snap with your wrist, so you can't brush up on the ball as effectively as you can on other rackets. The Gravity MP certainly isn't "bad" for spin. Especially compared to its 18x20 siblings, it's going to be the most spin-friendly of the bunch; it just can't compete with elite spin rackets.
Power, on the other hand, has gone up. The increase in swing weight puts a bit more punch behind the ball, and that bigger sweet spot inherently helps make the racket more powerful.
Auxetic technology is also a significant factor in increasing power. Soft rackets lose power potential because kinetic energy is lost in dwell time, but the snapback in Auxetic graphite gives the Gravity a slight trampoline effect that propels the ball with much more power than you would expect from something so soft.
Who is this racket best for?
I genuinely believe the Auxetic Gravity MP can work for almost anybody.
If you're an intermediate player, give it a go in stock form. It's still light and forgiving but will reward you much more than other rackets in the 200-gram range, and you can grow into its more advanced characteristics as you improve.
For advanced players, add a bit of weight to this thing, and you've got a fantastic all-court racket that excels in almost every metric.
I was excited, and my excitement was justified.
The Auxetic Gravity MP lives up to its name and then some.
Auxetic technology has worked for Head in the past, so it was always going to do a good job. Still, I think the new lineup could eclipse the previous one in popularity and playability. It takes everything great about the 360+ and improves on it. It may have taken four years, but excellent job, Head! I can't wait to get my hands on the Pro since there's no Tour available in North America. If you'd like to demo the racket, check it out in-store, or purchase it at racketsandrunners.ca.