A few weeks back I was talking with a racquet tech and the conversation got around to Prince’s new line of frames. He’d already gotten his hands on most of them, but all I really wanted to know was how the Classic Graphite stacked up. When I was a junior there were plenty of quality frames, but three stood above the rest: the Wilson Pro Staff, Head Prestige, and the Prince Graphite. Throughout my life I’ve played with several different incarnations of the Graphite—some good, some forgettable—but I always kept coming back to the Original.
These new Classics have a very similar look to the Originals, but with some slight modernization. They’ve been put on diets (slimmer by about half an ounce); the ResiPro grip looks like genuine leather, but feels more cushioned; and the 93 sq. in. midsize frame has been ballooned to two 100 sq. in. midplus models—a standard, and a Longbody (LB). When I asked the tech about the performance of the frames, he spoke quite highly, particularly of the LB. The Original Graphite Longbody was a favorite of European clay-courters, but has never previously been released in America. According to my source, the frame took his game to God Mode.
This I had to try.
As I got reacquainted with the Graphite the first thing I noticed was the 19 mm beam. Compared with most racquets today it almost feels like swinging a flyswatter; especially being an inch longer and so flexible. But once I got accustomed to the unique feel, stability was never really an issue. Even against heavily hit shots the thin frame had more than enough backbone (hello Cross Bar Stabilizer, my old friend).
Then there was the extra inch. That took some getting used to; footwork needed more attention to get in proper hitting position, and body shots on service returns and volleys required added dexterity. Not deal breakers, but certainly noticeable. The thin beam and head light balance helped ease the complications. Plus, there was the benefit of extra reach when stretched. And once adjustments were made, the added length, along with the flexible beam created quite a bit of torque. The result? Massive serves and heavy topspin groundies.
People have different criteria when demoing a frame. I’m of the mind that a racquet should accentuate what a player does best. It’s less important to me to try to improve any shortcomings; that’s usually a technical or physical problem, and equipment is generally not the solution. My serve is my best stroke and the extra inch of the Classic 100 LB made it an even bigger asset. Flat bombs were easy to dial up, angles were sharper, and kick serves had extra jump. Simply put, serving with this racquet was a blast and a huge confidence booster.
Ground strokes weren’t far behind. All that whippiness allows you to really brush up on the ball to create penetrating topspin shots. The frame has plenty of swingweight, but players with full, fast swings will have no trouble generating ample power on their strokes. In fact, big hitters may have to experiment with different strings and tensions to find the right level of control. I did feel I needed a bit more time than usual to set up, and there were a few shots I didn’t give myself proper spacing, particularly on my two-hander. But that’s the give-and-take of a longbody frame. The midplus head size does offer a more forgiving sweetspot, which can cover up some of those off-center hits.
Although not my favorite thing to do with the racquet, volleys were still solid. The racquet has enough stability and mass to deflect a ripped passing shot and the extra reach can be a benefit when stretched out. However, I found the frame a tad cumbersome, especially on quick volley exchanges. I could get the racquet in proper hitting position, but I didn’t feel I could always drive it. There were a few points when I choked up on the frame to find the more traditional length. I actually preferred the ability the flexible feel affords to find angles and soft drop volleys rather than sticking it with pace. Overheads, much like serves, were lights out.
But those were minor quibbles. Overall I found the Prince Classic Graphite 100 LB a great deal of fun to play with. It has an old-school feel balanced with modern day power. The extra inch in length does require some adjustment, and it probably won’t be for everyone. The added leverage creates characteristics (less maneuverability, enhanced power) that may not be attractive to players who rely on their quickness and consistency. Same goes for players who have gotten too comfortable with wide beam, stiff frames. But for longtime Graphite fans, and players who want to rip serves and get some serious action and plow through on their groundies, playing with the Graphite 100 LB can be quite an empowering experience.
You may even end up in God Mode.