Confused about Head rackets and which is best for your game? We were too. So we had Luca Berg break down the features of each racket to determine which is right for you.
With the recent release of the Head Boom, some of us tennis aficionados are "scratching our heads" at the seemingly organizational cacophony that comes from the Head's overall brand lineup.
Warning: this wasn’t the last “head” pun.
In terms of ﬂagship tennis racket models, Yonex and Babolat have three, and Wilson has four, while Head has… seven? That’s right, the introduction of the Boom adds yet another permutation into the equation that is ﬁnding the right Head racket for you.
But fear not, in this article, I will guide you through this maze of rackets and help shed some light on an array of frames that can work for all levels and styles in the tennis community.
To organize their lines on a control to power spectrum, Head has historically used its Control Power Index (CPI). These numbers outline the brand’s intentions with a frame, but we will dig deeper to understand the true playability from each line.
Head Auxetic Prestige (Pro & MP)
The Head Prestige was ﬁrst released in 1987 and through its multiple iterations, cemented a legacy as the premier controlled, precise, player's stick.
The 2022 Auxetic version of the Prestige Pro builds oﬀ of its predecessor which revamped the line, maintaining a soft, controlled response but creating a more spin friendly, powerful and forgiving feel, in touch with the modern game. This Prestige Pro keeps the same 98 in2 head size, and 18x20 string pattern, but the Auxetic technology makes it feel ever so slightly more connected to the ball than Prestiges of recent past. Head also changed the naming system in the Prestige lineup. For the longest time, the MP denoted the brand’s “standard” Prestige. Now that racket is called the Pro, while the MP is a 99 in2 racket, with an 18x19 string pattern allowing for a bit more forgivingness, spin and access to power.
While this line of rackets has evolved over the years, the Prestige will never be an easy racket to swing. It takes a high level of timing, a fast and full stroke, as well as a consistent player to unpack all the beneﬁts of the Prestige, but when those players find their groove with the racket, the consistency and precision will make it diﬃcult to put down.
Head Graphene 360+ Gravity (Pro & MP)
The Head Gravity line stands alone on the market as a precise, controlled instrument, but with a 100 in2 inch head.
Both the Gravity Pro and the Gravity MP couple a head size synonymous with powerful “tweeners” and a soft thin and constant beamed proﬁle, more in line with traditional players’ rackets. What does this medley of styles amount to? Both Gravities are phenomenal rackets that can often let their wielders feel like they are cheating. No racket as forgiving as the two ﬂagships in the line should feel as connected to the ball, and as precise as the Pro and MP do. No wonder multiple touring players have started to turn their heads.
I did say that wasn’t the last pun.
The Pro in particular, with its 18x20 string pattern and 20 mm beam feels about as precise and controlled as any traditional midplus frame while the MP with its lighter weight, thicker beam and 16 main strings may not have the top end precision, but is certainly more user friendly for a wider variety of players. If you have historically played with forgiving tweeners like the Pure Drive and the Pure Aero, but are keen to foray into more control oriented rackets, there is no better launching point than the Gravity line, they really are one of a kind.
Head Graphene 360 + Radical (Pro & MP)
The Radical is another one of those legendary Head rackets.
Along with the Prestige, the Radical took up the Austrian brand’s lion share of sales during the 90’s and early 2000s. The story went: Prestige for the experts, Radical for the advanced and intermediates. While that line was crossed by many a player, the target performance has stayed more or less the same for the two Head stalwarts. While the Prestige is soft, the Radical is slightly stiﬀer, while the Prestige has a constant, thin beam, the Radical has a thicker, more tapered and powerful proﬁle. And nowadays, the Prestige maintains its traditional 18x20 string pattern, while the Radical features a more modern and spin friendly 16x19. All these things make the Radical more user-friendly and easy to use, but still very much a controlled, 98 in2 players’ frame.
It’s the ﬁrst racket on this list that begins to go away from the noodley ﬂex of a thin beamed racket, making way to a more pingy, powerful sensation on contact. The Radical MP will be the most popular at 300 grams, while the Pro will provide just a bit more put away power and stability at 315 grams.
Head Auxetic Speed (Pro & MP)
The Speed is confusing.
Stripped down to the most basic of basics; if the Gravity is a bigger Prestige, the Speed is a bigger Radical. Much like the Gravity, it does away with the 98 in2 head size, in favour of a more tweener-esque 100. Comparing the Gravity Pro and the Speed Pro, things get extra confusing; both weigh within 5 grams of each other, have the same head size, string pattern and similar beam thickness.
So why did they feel so diﬀerent when play tested with the same strings, at the same tension, on the same day? It comes down to the shape.
The Speed has a more “powerful” shape. Its beam is 2 millimetres thicker, and generally moulded with a more modern, triangular shape. The throat tapers less into the handle, which makes the racket ﬂex less, and deﬂect more power into the ball. That’s not to say the Speed Pro is a powerful racket; it still oozes control with its tight string pattern and relatively soft feel. And for a 100 in2 racket, the sweet spot is remarkably precise. The Speed MP is Head’s ﬁrst racket that can really launch the ball. It has a more open 16x19 string pattern and a lighter 300 gram weight. While its ﬂex characteristics are similar to the Pro, these other features make it a bit more wild to control, but quite a bit more powerful and easy to generate spin with.
Head Auxetic Boom (MP & Pro)
I’m going through a bit of a “love at ﬁrst hit” tale with the Boom, a lot of us are.
Something about the squared oﬀ, powerful shape of the head combined with its more traditional, y-shaped throat makes this racket both forgiving and powerful, while still being ﬂexible and precise.
All the more impressive is just how connected to the ball I have felt considering how open the string bed is. While it may be a 16x19 pattern, one look at a freshly strung Boom will show you just how spaced out the strings are throughout the head. The racket doesn’t do everything perfectly. If you are a real classic, ﬂat hitter, the Boom simply won’t work. The string bed is too erratic for very ﬂat shots. The constant beam and relatively soft ﬂex may be enticing, but I promise, you need spin to get the most out of this frame.
But that’s just it, this racket has come out in 2022 and not 1992; modern tennis is synonymous with spin and this is a modern racket. Head seems to have taken a massive leap in attempting something that no brand has ever dared to try. A constant, thin beamed, soft, seemingly traditional frame, that really comes into its own with the modern game of junior tennis players.
I can honestly say that I have never used a racket so rewarding in its feel, response and solidity, all the while being as spin-friendly and powerful as it is. Try the MP if you want a bit more ease of use from its lighter weight and the Pro if you’re looking for a bit more top end performance and precision from its smaller head size. I’m fascinated to see the response from the tennis community over the coming year for the Boom. Different hasn’t always been greeted kindly by top level players. This time, it just might.
Head Graphene 360+ Instinct MP
While the Instinct may be taking a back seat to the more intricate rackets in Head’s lineup, it remains a top level performer, with up to date, modern technology in Graphene 360+.
The Instinct MP is Head’s take on the traditional tweener racket. It features a thick, tapered beam, 300 gram static weight, 100 in2 head size, stiff ﬂex and a 16x19 string pattern. This racket will be the most forgiving MP racket in head’s lineup, and will also be the most powerful, all other factors equal. Graphene 360+ introduced spiral ﬁbres that allowed this stiff racket to ﬂex in such a way that still felt connected to the ball. It will certainly not be a as precise as some of the other rackets on this list, but the Instinct is great at what it does, and with its new, reduced price point, it will certainly stay one of the brands most popular designs, especially for those players at the intermediate level.
Head Graphene 360+ Extreme (MP & Tour)
While the Instinct may be marginally more powerful than the Extreme, the two rackets are very similar in that regard.
The Extreme does pack in more features than the Instinct. Marketed as a spin racket, the frame has an aerodynamically optimized throat shape, giving it that traditional, spin racket “whippy” feel through the air. It also features branded spin grommets, which allow strings (usually polyester) to move back in forth significantly more than in a traditional grommet set. Like other rackets marketed for spin, the Extreme MP is also a bit of a power hose. Balls rocket oﬀ the string bed due to the intense string movement, stiff ﬂex, thick, tapered beam and big sweet spot.
While it may not be as solid and precise as other rackets in the Head line, those who put the proper amount of spin on their shots can chorale whatever power it gives out, making it a real weapon for any modern baseliner. The Extreme Tour is a bit of a unique racket. While it maintains similar design elements to its 100 in2 MP sibling (notably the spin grommets and aerodynamic throat), it has a softer ﬂex, smaller head size and heavier weight. This racket is far more precise, and far less powerful than the MP, making it play much more like a Radical, only a bit more spin friendly with a slightly different shape and feel.
It’s no secret that the Head brand went through a bit of a crisis during the middle years of the 2010s. Their new releases were becoming less and less popular, and seemed to go away from the brands’ roots and identity. When Head released the Gravity in 2019, they embarked on a long journey back from their doldrums and slowly revamped the lineup into the world class one we see today. Graphene 360+ gave the brand its signature “feel” back, upon which Auxetic technology improved. They may not be streamlined or simple, but they are innovating and it’s clear that there’s a fantastic racket for everyone in the Head family.