When Prince revealed that they were reintroducing an updated “Classic” Prince Graphite, there was a sentiment that the manufacturer was playing with people’s sentiments. Take a beloved frame, do little more than change a few graphics, and dupe loyal fans into buying what is essentially the same racquet they used when they were still listening to their walkman. And those skeptics may choose to ignore the frame, and categorize it as a reminder of a bygone era.
Which would be their loss, because the new Classic Graphite 100 Midplus is no relic.
Now, I’ll admit that I’ve always been a fan of the early Graphites. I’ll also confess that several of the updates—the Triple Threat and the EXO3 models come to mind—did not come close to replicating the buttery feel, control, and overall performance of the Original. So that racquet, and by extension the new Graphite 100, feels like a racquet should to me. But I realize that the game has evolved, and my skills have eroded, to the point where the Original Mid doesn’t give me enough help.
Fortunately, this new Classic has been reconfigured for the modern player. There’s no new miracle material; just a bigger hitting surface and a redistribution of weight. The 100 sq. in. head offers a larger and more forgiving sweet spot for extended baseline play. Even when I missed the heart of the string bed on a shot, there was still power to lift the ball deep into my opponent’s court. The string pattern is open enough (16x18) that’s there’s plenty of access for spin for players who don’t need additional help in generating it. Pairing the frame with a polyester string will also help to that end, as well as enhance control.
The overall weight has been trimmed by around 0.5 ounces for easier handling and increased swing speed, but more of what’s left has been distributed towards the head—it’s less head light—to create a heavier ball. The added power, however, doesn’t take away much from that trademark sweet feel at contact. As one of our testers put it: “It’s like stepping back into the comforts of your high school car, only now it’s got a bigger engine and better sound system.”
It’s still very flexible, which offers great feel and response around the net. The stabilizer bar in the throat continues to provide a solid backbone against well-struck passing shots. It handles nicely, but it’s clearly the one area in which the change of balance and lower static weight is a minus. One of our testers suggested that serve-and-volleyers may want to change to a leather grip—the one provided on the frame looks it, but it’s not leather—or add some lead tape to the handle to make it more head light. That will increase responsiveness at net and add a touch more stability.
Serving was another positive for the Graphite 100. I couldn’t generate the speed or angles I found with the Longbody version, but there was still plenty of both to have a very effective delivery. The 19mm beam is great for carving around the outside of the ball to slice and kick serves out wide.
This is also true on groundies as well; my opponent noted how I was moving him more east and west than I usually do. Slicing my backhand was a blast, as there was good penetration when driving it deep and tight spin when cutting it. Another of our testers noted how he felt much more confident approaching net behind low slices instead of always feeling the need to come over the backhand with his usual frame, because his slices tend to float.
So what are the drawbacks? Well, while it’s got more pop than the Original, it’s still not quite on the level as some of the other midplus frames in the category. (If that’s the case, and you can manage the extra length and swingweight, the Graphite 100 Longbody is the better option). While I generated plenty of spin on my kick serve, it didn’t always penetrate the way it would with my regular frame. Some of that could be due to the soft flex, which, if unfamiliar, definitely takes some getting used to. If you’ve grown accustomed to stiff, powerful, wider beam racquets, the Graphite 100 will feel quite foreign and potentially mushy. While it’s been updated, it’s still plenty old-school, and the look and response just may not work for some.
But for those who like the versatility and comfort of a classic, thin beam frame that has just enough pop to compete with today’s power frames, the Graphite 100 is plenty modern.