Racquet Review: Head Graphene Radical Pro
Head Size: 98 sq. in.
Length: 27 in.
Weight: 11.5 oz.
Balance: 7 pts. HL
RA Rating: 65
Beam Width: 20 mm / 23 mm / 21 mm
String Pattern: 16x19
When it comes to Head racquets, I’ve always been more Prestige than Radical. The weight, feel, and heaviness of shot is just more to my liking. In fact, for years the Prestige Mid was my racquet of choice. I don’t hate the Radical line, but could never gibe with any of the incarnations. If I had to put my finger on why, I think it’s because for the weight it generally carries—somewhere in the low-to-mid-11 oz. range—I have wanted it to have more pop; especially since I’m sacrificing weight—I prefer 12+ oz. frames—which hurts stability.
However, I had a feeling the Graphene Radical line could be different. Prior to the frame’s launch, I spoke with a company representative at the U.S. Open and he hinted that they were looking to shake things up with this new Radical. It would have an entirely new mold, and some snazzy matte gunmetal and orange coloring, but the introduction of Graphene to the makeup would be the most dramatic addition. Because of the polarizing effect the material has of pushing weight toward the head and handle of the frame, these new Radicals have a radically (bad pun intended) different feel.
The buzz words for this kind of feedback is crisp, lively, and modern, but it’s essentially noticeably firmer than previous Radicals. At least that was the consensus from our playtesters; which also seems to be the prevailing opinion in the racquet community as a whole. And depending on your preferences, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Especially where the Graphene Radical Pro is concerned, as it impressed many of our testers and is my favorite Radical to date.
There’s certainly a firm feel at contact, but I wouldn’t categorize it as stiff. Some of this interpretation is always colored by perspective as the Pro plays a bit firmer than my current frame. It was also strung with Head Hawk, which I do like, but is also stiffer than the polys I typically prefer. (An interesting side note: One of our testers, Sean McQuillan, runs the junior programs at Saddlebrook in Tampa. He got the Pro in the hands of many of his students and noticed a real love/hate relationship with the racquet. The players who currently use a Babolat really liked the frame; so much so that several wanted to switch to it. However, those that currently use a Wilson Blade or an older Prestige weren’t fans.)
The combination of frame and string was possibly why I didn’t experience a great pocketing effect on my ground strokes. I would have liked to have felt more connection with the ball at contact, but I can’t argue with the results. I could take healthy cuts and was rewarded with that extra power I had been left wanting from previous Radicals. Yet I still felt in complete control of my shots. I was never worried that if I took too big a swing I might burn a hole in the back curtain. It was light and maneuverable, but with enough swingweight that it never got whippy. All of these characteristics really gelled for me when serving. The ball seemed to jump of the strings and had a real attraction to the lines. I was quite pleased with the number of serves that resulted in a cheap point or a weak reply.
Each of the Radicals has a dynamic 16x19 string pattern, which puts eight main strings in the sweet spot—six is typical—for added control, and fewer strings toward the edge of the frame for more forgiveness and spin potential. As I mentioned above, the accuracy was pretty impressive; I just didn’t miss much off the ground, and serves consistently found their spots. And from a forgiveness standpoint, when I did miss off-center, the response didn’t feel great, but balls still managed to achieve a decent level of depth and control. Putting spin on the ball is fairly easy, although I believe it only accentuates what you already possess. My kick serve had some nice life to it, but I didn’t notice some of the crazy nosedives you get from the more extreme string patterns; which I don’t mind because I don’t need help in that regard. Players that do, and are seeking that in a frame, could be challenged by the Pro.
I would’ve liked a little more volley time with the Pro, but I was satisfied with what I was able to do. It handles well and, even though lighter than I prefer, there’s enough weight in the hoop to provide adequate stability and stick. I felt confident driving midcourt volleys and angling away winners. The firmness did take away from touch shots, but it also didn’t feel like I had hands of stone, either. The racquet would work for an all-courter, but for me it’s strengths were still more in the backcourt.
Would I switch to the Radical Pro? If I had to I wouldn’t complain. Again, I played surprisingly well with it in our very first partnership. However, the feel would definitely be an acquired taste. Even though the end results were desirable, I didn’t always enjoy how I got them. I think experimenting with different strings would be in order, as well as maybe a little customization. In February the Radicals will be sold with optional cap grommets which will increase the static (0.5 oz.) and swingweights (+27 pts.). That could be attractive as it would give the frame more stability at net, and some extra plow-through on groundies.
Until then, it’s still definitely worth a try. If you haven’t been impressed with previous Radicals, this one could change your mind.