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Retro Grade

Monday, September 02, 2013 /by

The current rage in racquet technology is maximizing spin production. To achieve this end, manufacturers are opting to manipulate string patterns, which has become a trend of its own. Traditional open patterns such as 16x18 or 16x19 are becoming passé as companies roll out models with fewer and fewer cross strings. The reasoning being, less string will grip the ball better, as well as offer greater string freedom to move and snap back at contact, thereby applying more spin.

Prince is one of the brands producing these types of frames. The company has three racquet lines coming to market this fall—Premiere, Warrior, and Tour—with ESP (Extreme String Pattern) spin technology. The more open string patterns are designed to deliver up to 30 percent more spin, while the Double Bridge in the throat reduces string vibration and racquet shock. The frames have been on display during the U.S. Open at the Prince popup showroom on 47th and Lexington in Manhattan.

If these new spin racquets don’t intrigue, purists can take heart in a retro collection of Prince performance racquets called the Classics. I know I did. Prince has had many signature sticks over the years, but perhaps none more respected than the Original Graphite. One of the first “spin” racquets, the 93 square-inch midsize version of the frame had a 14x18 string pattern that baseliners of the 1980s and 90s found tantalizing for topspin strokes. (I still have one in my closet that I take out for a hit whenever I'm feeling nostalgic). The oversize model was what Michael Chang and Andre Agassi hit the tour with.

Now Prince is bringing back the Original Graphite with some modern twists. It still has the same thin 19mm box beam construction and iconic crossbar in the throat for stability. The cosmetics have been updated, but the signature black and green is still prevalent. However, the midsize has been kept in mothballs, with a lighter, larger Classic Graphite 100 square-inch head size taking its place. There’s also a Classic Graphite 100 Longbody, which had never been available in the U.S. before, that has an extra inch in length. To round out the line there will be a Classic Graphite 107 for those who want to revisit the feel of playing with a heavier oversize frame.

The other frame in the Classics collection is the Classic Response 97. Made popular by two-time U.S. Open champion Patrick Rafter, the maroon racquet was one of Prince’s first with the built-in Double Bridge dampening system in the throat. It gained wide appeal thanks to its solid feel and combination of power and control.

If there’s a healthy appetite for the Classics collection, Prince will think about bringing back other celebrated frames from the company’s past. There’s even consideration of having a contest on their Facebook page to allow fans to write-in which racquets they would like to see revived and modernized. I’d cast my vote for the Advance Response System, with the Precision Equipe coming in a narrow second place.

Which Prince frame would you like to see make a comeback?


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