The year was 1993 and I remember staring at this glowing yellow and black bumblebee racket jumping off the wall at my local racket shop.
It's bright color and aggressive styling were in stark contrast to all the other muted rackets in store. And of course it was endorsed by Andre Agassi. I was only a kid at the time, but I remember the original Head Radical being one of the first pieces of sporting equipment I ever truly wanted.
Memories like that are one of the reasons I get especially excited when an update to the Radical line comes out. It's an opportunity to not only playtest new frames, but also capture some of that nostalgia on court.
While there is no denying that the Radical I fell in love with as a kid and the current Radical Pro are vastly different frames, this Radical is a definite return to the original DNA that made players fall in love with the line.
Like the original Radical from 1993, the new Head Radical Pro isn’t afraid to be rebellious and stand out on the wall. Its bold orange cosmetic has been a signature of the line since 1999 and is integrated into the current Head design language. This gives the racket the appearance that it has been dipped head first into a vat of fluorescent orange paint.
I have always loved and welcomed the power that each evolution of the Radical Pro delivered, but have often struggled with the feel of the frame. It was never the case that previous generations were too stiff; rather, it was a feeling of disconnect between the racket and me. I could see the ball going where I wanted it to (most of the time) but it never really felt like I was truly connected to each shot.
This is ultimately where this update excels. Like all of the new Graphene 360+ models released by Head I have playtested, the feel and feedback of this frame is much improved. Head has dialed-in the layup of their frames. In my opinion they have struck a great balance between their classic feel and their updated firmer, crisper feel since the introduction of Graphene to the Radicals.
This update sees the frame undergo some small yet noticeable changes from its predecessor in a couple of key areas.
Head has incorporated what they are calling a “Variable Beam Cross-Section." Intended to perfectly balance power, control and spin, Head has made the centre beam cross section of the Radical Pro 1.5mm thinner. The result is a racket that not only feels softer but actually is more flexible. This allows for a slightly longer dwell time at impact. The Radical Pro also sees a weight increase of 5 grams to its unstrung static weight, now registering at 315 grams. Lastly, the 16/19 string pattern has seen an evolution, in the way of what Head is calling their “Control Pattern." This slight tightening of the string pattern is intended to afford players greater confidence to swing out on their strokes without sacrificing control.
From the baseline, I found the Radical Pro to be very stable even when facing heavy deep shots. The stability offered is no doubt a combination of the increased static weight, but also its 6 points headlight strung balance that has remained untouched. The slightly more head heavy balance in this frame separates it from other frames in this weight category (see my previous review of the Wilson Pro Staff 97 V13. The Radical Pro offers a more solid and stable response from the baseline with plenty of put away power from all areas of the court. It does, however, sacrifice some maneuverability due to its heavier swingweight.
On off-center hits, the racket did a good job of providing comfort and was far less jarring then previous iterations. The updated beam design, added flexibility, and modified feel at impact, were welcome surprises to this update and went a long way in my overall enjoyment of this play-test.
The stability and plow through of the new Radical Pro transition smoothly from the baseline to the net. This frame is absolutely rock solid at net, regardless of the pace or heaviness of shots faced. The softer flex and feel that I enjoyed on groundstrokes provided the necessary feedback when you are looking to take pace off the ball for drop volleys. The only downside I experienced at net was that the combination of the added mass and 6 points headlight balance made the frame at times a touch sluggish.
Overall, if you are a player used to a slightly heavier frame, and have compact volleys, you’ll reap the rewards of what this racket has to offer at the net.
Serving with this racket was a similar play experience as from the baseline and at net. On serve, the Radical Pro has a lot to offer, if you are able to cope with the heft of the racket. Once I got the racket moving, serves popped off the frame with plenty of pace and spin. The pace on serve came as no surprise, but the amount of spin this frame is able to generate on kick serves was definitely a welcome bonus. So long as you can get that 315 gram frame moving, this Radical is a very solid serving racket.
Overall, I really enjoyed this playtest.
Frankly, this racket is an excellent update to the Radical Pro. It addresses some of the issues I had with previous iterations of the frame, mainly on feedback and feel. While I wish Head had found a way to offer the playability of this racket while keeping the static weight and swingweight down, I understand why they did increase those two things. Perhaps I should demo the Radical MP. 🤷♂️.
I recommend this racket to any player looking for a heavier frame with more substantial plow through than other frames in this weight range.
All in all, the new Head Graphene 360+ Radical Pro is a great racket and a must demo for experienced players who want the perfect balance between power and control.
Note: For my playtest I strung it up with the recommended Head Lynx Tour @ 52lbs.