HEAD Graphene PWR Speed Tennis Racquet Review
Head has taken an interesting turn on their frame series for 2013 by having player’s, tweener and game improvement models in each of 3 lines: the Speed, Instinct and Prestige. In this review, we take up the lightest and largest racquet of the Speed series, the Graphene PWR Speed.
Graphene is the lightest, strongest material in the world, and Head had used it in a very innovative manner in its racquets. In the past, racquet manufacturers have used lightweight materials to reduce overall racquet weight significantly, and have had to dramatically increase head weighting to maintain a stable hitting platform. This use of technology has increased swingweight and power, but has reduced other areas of racquet performance where weight is a bonus, like recoilweight (resistance to “kicking back” in the hand at net) and twistweight (resistance to twisting on off-center hits). Head has chosen a new, and novel, approach with Graphene technology.
By using Graphene to make a lighter racquet shaft, Head has been able to take the leftover weight and place it in the head and handle areas of the frame. This has enabled racquet weights to stay pretty much the same, but swingweight has increased noticeably. So, by leaving weight in the racquet, Head has increased power, but maintained, and even increased, other performance characteristics, offering players a more powerful and efficient racquet with greater stability.
The extra weight in the racquet head leads to increased ability of the racquet tip to accelerate and “plow through” the ball from the baseline, allowing you not only more power, but also the ability to fight off your opponent’s strongest shots. Extra weighting in the handle helps keep the racquet from recoiling, or kicking back, in your hand at net, allowing better control and less stress on the arm.
The PWR Speed ties the Graphene PWR Instinct for the largest head size (115 square inches) in Head’s 2013 line. A 9 ounce (255g) unstrung weight and slight (for this segment) 3-point head heavy balance should aid maneuverability, and a strong 314 swingweight should provide a solid, stable feel. Widebody beams of 27/29/29mm team up with a firm flex of 67 to tell us the PWR Speed will have plenty of power, and its 27 1/3” length should provide a touch more racquet speed and leverage on baseline shots and serves. It also utilizes Head’s Outer QuadFace Technology, which actually increases the length of the last 3 main strings on each side of the racquet head, along with the top 3 cross strings. Inner QuadFace Technology extends the length of the same main strings, plus the bottom 3 crosses, to allow a little more string length on the inside of the frame, as well. Inner and Outer Quad Face give the PWR Speed a larger “effective” head size for extra ball pocketing (more comfort) and greater “trampoline effect” (extra power). All of these features should benefit players looking for extra power without extra effort.
Another interesting twist to Head’s Graphene series is the drilling of the string holes. At the top, all of the “main” main strings (the first 6) are drilled straight down the head, instead of at an angle, reminiscent of Babolat’s Woofer system (where they differ from the Woofer design is that the center mains at the throat are not drilled this way). The more direct alignment of the center main strings should make for less friction from string movement and more direct power transference on all shots.
From the Baseline
The PWR Speed is a solid-playing stick from the baseline, and effortlessly sends the ball the length of the court. The sweet spot is well-centered in the head, and seems to extend a little higher than the Graphene PWR Prestige, making balls hit toward the top of the face a little more powerful. Applying spin is a breeze, the open string pattern giving that extra “grab” as you brush up or down on the ball. That is a good thing, because the power levels are quite high, and the spin is a welcome control aid. The stiffness of the frame and its wide beams impart a very firm feel on all groundstrokes, so players would be advised to use softer, more forgiving strings like Head Intellistring, Tecnifibre TGV or Dunlop Silk to smooth out the ride.
The width of the jumbo racquet head helps immeasurably in increasing the PWR Speed’s twistweight, or resistance to twisting on side-frame mishits. In fact, it resists twisting about as well as much heavier frames like the Babolat Aero Pro Drive and Babolat Pure Drive Roddick. So, if the ball “beats you” a little bit, the PWR Speed can help send it back on target.
At Net and Serving
The PWR Speed is very quick at net, and easy to get into position during fast volley exchanges in doubles. Volleys are solid and easy to place, unless the ball is coming at you particularly fast; then control is a problem. The slight head-heavy balance doesn’t make for a very bad recoilweight, so the PWR Speed is fairly stable in the hands if a volley is mishit high on the string face. Touch volleys are not bad, but slamming away sitters and swing volleys are more of a strong suit.
Serving is a strength of the PWR Speed, its strong flex and long strings adding both power and spin to all serves, while its wide beams and large sweet spot make for a solid response on balls hit higher on the face (just where serves are generally struck). If you want to go back for lobs, feel free to swing away, since the PWR Speed’s light weight will really give smashes a good “snap”.
The PWR Speed uses Head’s new Hydrosorb Comfort grip, and it is much softer and more comfortable than Head’s previous grips. The bumper guard is solid, as compared to the Graphene PWR Prestige’s slotted strip, so it should hold up well for repeated low volleys. The white and brown paint job with orange trim has quite a visual effect, and really draws the eye to the PWR Speed.
The Head Graphene PWR Speed is a fine addition to Head’s line of game improvement frames for 2013. Ultra-lightweight construction with solid flex and a jumbo head size combine with Head’s latest technology to provide a much-needed power boost for beginning to intermediate level players. The power and speed (ha!) of the PWR Speed make it a great choice for singles or doubles at these levels.