Since Head has introduced Graphene into their franchises, there’s something about the polarizing weighting that has left me with a divided opinion. On the one hand, it has given certain models impressive punch and backbone. However, I have found those same frames to feel a bit cold and artificial at contact. The pros I have enjoyed in the stroke production department have never outweighed the cons when it came to the hitting experience.
Indeed, many of the Radical players I have known have gravitated away from the line because of this transition. They miss the feel of the Radicals of yore (Microgel, YouTek, etc.) that featured more of a classic, controlled response.
However, since Spiralfibers have been inserted in the lower portion of the hoop in the most recent Graphene 360+ generations, the frames have improved sensation at contact. The Radical MP 2021 not only has that tech, but boasts a new mold with a rounder head shape, thicker yoke, added weight and more flexibility. Add it all up and the racquet has a decidedly warmer feel. It’s perhaps not a broken-in glove, but it’s arguable the best of the modern updates to the older vintage Radicals.
And like some of those frames, it’s exceptionally orange.
As befitting its heritage, the Radical MP was a hard worker from the ground. Racquet head speed was easy to generate and put the mass at the top of frame to good use. Both pace and plow through were rather impressive for a racquet of its weight class. It had a decent sweet spot, but could lose composure outside of it, especially when combatting a heavy ball. At times the instability carried over to longer, faster swings—it was rather whippy—that were slightly off-center. For the most part, though, bread-and-butter shots were reliable.
Head’s Dynamic String Pattern creates a tighter configuration in the center of the string bed for heightened control. It was a suitable platform to produce spin for safety, sharp angles or other clever shots. Certainly enough for players already adept at putting work on the ball. If generating wicked spin is a must, Head’s Extreme line is probably a better bet.
Serves had plenty of life with good direction. I had confidence I could dial up different speeds, spins and direction and get the point started on the right terms. Although it didn’t strike me as the type of frame that added much to what a player already brings to the court. An average server probably won’t move up to intimating. But if you’ve got some juice in your delivery, the frame will be an asset.
Depending on your level, returning serve could be more of a mixed bag. The racquet was quick and responsive and capable of producing effective drives, blocks and angles. A soft second serve was low hanging fruit. However, against a potent server the lack of backbone and off-center twisting could make it a challenge to defend. Players trafficking in medium-paced ball speeds should have no trouble.
It was a similar story with volleying, where the frame was more than capable in most situations. Punching the ball through the court or employing touch were both effective tactics. There was occasional buckling when facing a difficult pass caught off-center; starch on the volley dropped noticeably in similar conditions. Otherwise it had the goods for net play.
If the stability proves to be lacking for more advanced players, the heavier Pro model could be an option. When things are working, I actually prefer the feel at contact and power potential of the MP and think some strategically placed lead or other additional weight would be a better route. Either alternative would go a long way to solving the issue.
Overall, the Radical MP 2021 is one of those racquets that should appeal to a wide audience. Strong intermediates would like it right off the shelf and not outgrow it as their games evolve. And advanced players will appreciate the frame’s versatility, added forgiveness and pop, while perhaps needing to tinker with the specs to stand up to better competition. It’s one of the best of its kind in a long while.
You’d just better like orange.