When a manufacturer updates a popular frame line, it often doesn't do much more than give it a fresh coat of paint. No need to upset a loyal fanbase that's grown accustomed to a certain feel and performance. However, sometimes more than just cosmetic changes are in order.
The new Head Radicals certainly have an updated look—matte gunmetal grey in the throat, up to a glossy orange face—but that's clearly not the only thing that got a makeover. The racquets come from an entirely new mold and are noticeably firmer than previous generations. Thanks to the introduction of Graphene to the throat, weight can be distributed more to the tip and the handle. So the balance and maneuverability remain user-friendly, but the power level goes up.
Also new is the string pattern: All the Radicals have a Dynamic 16x19 configuration. Usually a racquet with 16 mains will have six strings through the throat, but these have eight. So it's tighter in the sweetspot for control, but more open outside of it for spin and forgiveness. This is certainly a departure for the previous Midplus (YouTek IG), which had a denser 18x20 pattern.
Change also came in the elimination of an oversize model. The Radical had been one of the few lines that carried a nearly 110 sq. in., 11+ oz. frame. The biggest YouTek Graphene Radical is now the S, which has a 102 sq. in. head size and weighs 9.9 oz (unstrung). It joins the Pro (the heaviest) and the REV (the lightest), and the Midplus in four frame line. The Midplus is considered the most versatile in the series, and a couple of our testers—Kin Roseborough, head stringer and staff coach at the Family Circle Tennis Center in Charleston, SC, and Kevin Brandt, tennis director at the Star Island Resort in Kissimmee, FL—put it through its paces.
Kin Roseborough: The Head Graphene Radical MP has a crisp, solid feel on groundstrokes. It's definitely a bit stiffer than the Radical MP's prior to the Youtek IG version, but is still a very comfortable frame, like its predecessors. The added stiffness, coupled with the 16x19 string pattern, allowed me easy access to power and spin. It was easy to load up and hit aggressively with this frame. I found myself taking balls on the rise every chance I got, and even hit more swinging volleys than usual.
The increased power and spin compared to earlier Radical MPs was very noticeable on my serve as well. Still, to get big pace on a flat serve with this frame requires excellent technique. Slice or kick serves had a lot of action, out wide or down the T. I really liked the comfort too; I felt like I could serve all day.
I appreciated the maneuverability of the Graphene Radical MP at the net. The head-light balance and modest swingweight gave the frame a fast feel when punching volleys. My ability to control those volleys, however, was good but not great. I had to work to get depth or touch. Reflex volleys were also a mixed bag—anything outside the sweetspot just popped up weakly, waiting for my opponent to pass me.
Kevin Brandt: Head's Graphene Radical MP is one of those unique frames (like the AeroPro Drive) that seems to be able to suit anyone from a 3.0 to a tour player, and actually work well for any of them. It still has the classic Radical look and shape to it, but the new design and more open 16x19 pattern definitely gives it a new feel.
I pulled this one out for a practice match with my doubles team. The increased power immediately caught my attention. It came around quickly on serve returns and ground strokes, with a nice, controllable level of power on full swings. The weight and balance was a bit more difficult for me to adjust to at the net, so I was flying my volleys a little more than I expected. Serving was a little bit of a toss-up for me: There was a noticeable increase in speed on my flat serves and slices that I really enjoyed, but I wasn't able to get the same amount of movement and action on my kick serve that I normally do.
The overall feel of the racquet was fantastic, albeit just a little more power than what I find comfortable for myself, so I'm looking forward to testing out the Radical Pro. But for someone who wants the feel of a player's frame, but in a slightly lighter and more powerful racquet, the MP could be a great choice.
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The most versatile racquet in the line provides a perfect combination of handling and power that every tour player is looking for. Now with a dynamic 16/19 string pattern for better playability and spin.
A new take on an old favorite.
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