There are few lines of racquets held in higher esteem than the Head Prestige. For many years now it has been a fixture on the pro tours and a favorite among advanced recreational players. The new Graphene Prestiges represent a slight departure from previous generations of the frame; they’re lighter, with more weight in the head, leading to a crisper response. Friend of The Pro Shop and ace racquet tester Mitch Case, director of tennis at Woodridge Lake in Goshen, CT, offers his assessment of the Graphene Prestige Pro.
First off, the frame was born from a different mold: The throat design and beam width are similar to the previous YouTek IG Prestige S. The more rounded beam shape at the throat, in addition to the increase in beam width (from 21mm to 22mm), offer a more powerful response than previous generations. The static weight of the Graphene Pro is about a half ounce lighter, coming in at 11.8 ounces strung, but the swingweight has increased from 321 to 344 units. The out-of-plane stiffness has dropped from 66 to 62. And the cosmetic has gone from an elegant burgundy to a fiery fluorescent red, which has polarized (like the distribution of mass) reactions from fans of the classic line.
(Personally, I like both the old and new cosmetic. However, as a child of the late 80’s/early 90’s, I hold a special place in my heart for bright, bold colors.)
As a fan of thin-beamed “player’s frames,” I was eager to get the Prestige Pro on court. Coming from a Prince EXO3 Rebel 95, I was excited to see how the slightly different specs would work out for me. As soon as the demo arrived, I prepared it for battle: I threw a new overgrip on top of the stock leather grip, and added a small vibration dampener to the stringbed of Head Hawk.
My first impressions weren’t stellar. The initial feel was a little boardy and unforgiving, especially outside of the sweetspot. After finding the center of the stringbed, the feel definitely improved, but not quite to the extent that I had hoped. The ball didn’t pocket deeply enough, and came off the strings much faster than I was used to. This was not the classic feel that I was expecting. I handed the frame over to my hitting partner to give it a go.
I picked up the Prestige Pro a few days later and found the experience much more inviting. From the first ball, something was different—the strings had significantly softened, providing plenty of power and some additional forgiveness. I couldn’t believe the difference. I got more of the ball-pocketing I was looking for, and greater feel.
My favorite stroke with the Pro was definitely the serve. My first few deliveries were actually a little rough, as I had to adjust to the weight of the frame. After testing some lighter racquets, I had lost some of the efficiency of my stroke. The Pro quickly reminded me to let the mass of the racquet work for me and accelerate naturally. Once I found my groove, serving was a dream. Between the weight and string pattern, I was able to crack first serves and still find enough control to hit targets. Spin serves had great movement and aggressive bounces.
I wasn’t quite as successful from the backcourt. Though the softening of the strings helped to improve feel, it also increased the launch angle of the ball. Unless I slowed down my swing in offensive situations, I missed long more often than usual. When I adjusted my stroke to create more topspin, the ball bounced too short in the court. In defensive situations, I had a hard time finding the right trajectory with my backhand slice, which is usually one of my better shots. All in all, my ground strokes had their bright spots, but just never felt completely dialed in.
My volleys were much more satisfying. I was better able to manage the power level of the frame quite effectively at net. From putaways, to placing deep volleys, the stability of the hoop allowed me to confidently place the ball; the weight of the frame prevented it from being pushed around. Given my positive serving experience, and how well I volleyed, this stick seems suited for all-courters who like to move forward.
When it comes to a final evaluation, I often weigh performance and feel; the Prestige Pro had its moments in both respects. I found that whenever I could hit the ball down (serves, overheads, short sitters, and medium to high volleys) the frame shined. Whenever I needed to hit the ball slightly up, I found it difficult to maintain control over the trajectory of the ball. As much as I liked the stability of, and the distribution of mass in the hoop, the feel was not as plush as I would have liked from a “player’s racquet.” If I were to play with this frame, I most certainly would experiment with string choice and tension in order to find the right balance of feel and performance.
For players interested in choosing a racquet from the Prestige line, I will say that the Prestige Pro is the most solid and substantial feeling of the four models. The mass feels more evenly spread than with many of the other Graphene frames. The Prestige MP and S have more weight in the top of the hoop (between 10 and 2 o’clock), and feel more hollow in the throat and lower hoop. For me, however, the real surprise was the Rev Pro, which I felt offered the best combination of performance and feel, despite its lighter weight.