TENNIS.com gear editor Justin diFeliciantonio and his technical advisers answer your equipment questions each day. Click here to send in a question of your own.
Hi Justin, I’m looking to buy a new racquet, and am very interested in the YouTek IG Prestige MP. One thing I’ve noticed, though, is that the MP has a plastic piece that wraps all the way from the tip of the frame down to the throat. Most other racquets I’ve researched don’t have this feature. Could you explain what this is supposed to do?—Mason D.
What you’re referencing, Mason, is the Head Prestige’s trademark CAP system, whose bumperguard extends not just to the frame’s ten and two o’clock locations, like on most racquets, but also down the side and near the top of the throat. Since the series’ inception 25 years ago, the Prestige has always incorporated the CAP design. It continues to distinguish the racquet today. (The grommets are, however, no longer unique to the Prestige; Head’s Radical Pro also shares the feature.)
According to Bruce Levine, Tennis Magazine’s Racquet Advisor, who himself plays with the Prestige Mid, the CAP system serves multiple functions. “The clamshell grommets,” as Levine calls them, “obviously protect the frame from scraping against the ground. But they also serve to protect the string. If you look at an unstrung Prestige, the clamshells stay open. But once you weave in string and pull tension, those clamshells clamp shut. The whole thing is like a grommet strip with a doorway on top; the string walks in, the door closes.”
As Levine explains, this design acts to separate the grommet holes and string from dirt and court grime. “The clamshells are great for clay-court players, especially players who use fragile strings like natural gut,” continues Levine. “Although gut is much more resistant to moisture now than it was in the old days, you still don’t want wet clay caked between the grommet holes and gut, because that can weaken the string.”
More subjectively, some players even claim that the Prestige’s full-length grommet-bumperguard strip changes the feel and sound of the stringbed upon impact. I can’t personally corroborate this claim. Readers, what about you?