HEAD Graphene XT Prestige MP Tennis Racquet Review
While some would prefer racquet manufacturers adhere to the “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” adage, Head has shown they are willing to go against that grain with their revisions to the Prestige line over the last few years. While the last model was a bit more divisive, the new Graphene XT Prestige MP blends modern technology like the 30% stronger Graphene XT material with Prestige hallmarks such as solid weight, headlight balance and a focus on control and feel. The use of Graphene XT continues to allow Head to push weight into the top of the hoop and grip, optimizing swing speed and power. I took the XT Prestige MP on court recently to take a look at how it blends Head’s desire for modern improvement with the classic Prestige attributes players know and love.
Groundstrokes with the XT Prestige MP were built on a foundation of control and precision. While the added mass of this 11.8oz strung model lent solid depth to my shots, I found the overall power level to be quite low. If you want to hit big off the ground with this frame, you need to be capable of bringing the power on your own or be willing to play more powerful strings and lower tensions. The sweet spot was also quite small; creating a significant drop in what power there was when contact was made off center. The nimble 98in head and headlight balance made it easy to pump up the racquet head speed, resulting in a slight increase in pace from either side. Directional accuracy was where this frame really shined from the baseline. As I shifted my focus from big hitting to precise targeting, I started to get the upper hand in rallies. I was able to pick aggressive spots without the fear of over hitting, which really allowed me to play fearlessly on my forehand side. The tight 18x20 pattern made it slightly tougher to put air under the ball on defense but it was great for stepping in and polishing of short balls with a flatter shot. The controlled string bed and added weight also added a lot of bite to my backhand slice, making it a powerful weapon. Stability was solid due to the extra mass but I still found something missing. As with many other Graphene models, I found that by pushing so much of the weight to the tip and tail, the inherent result is that the hoop has more flutter to it when playing bigger hitters.
Volleys & serves
The classic Prestige precision was most evident during net play with the XT Prestige MP. Its headlight balance and maneuverable head size gave it exceptionally nimble responses on volleys. I had no trouble keeping in up during quick exchanges and the racquet moved into position quickly. While low powered overall, the solid mass of this model allowed me to finish off attacking volleys easily and it helped keep the ball from floating too much. The excellent control allowed me to move the ball around the court and volley to aggressive spots to keep control of the points. The issue of flutter in the hoop again showed when fending off shots from big hitters at the net.
Serving with the XT Prestige MP required a willingness to use a scalpel as opposed to a cannon. While the balance made it easy to swing the racquet through contact, there just wasn’t enough power to be had for me to use my flat first serve as effectively as usual. The mass created good depth but I just wasn’t able to put a lot of heat behind the serve without tiring out over the course of a match. I was able to use the excellent accuracy of the frame to move opponents out of position on the return. I was able to use the entire service box effectively. For me, the string pattern was too tight and there wasn’t enough pop to make my kick serve an effective weapon. The racquet did hit an excellent slice serve. The mass and string pattern worked together to drive the ball low and keep it skidding away from people. I found excellent success dragging players wide to open up the court for an aggressive first ball.
The XT Prestige MP moved the model closer to the crisp, classic feel of old Prestiges as opposed to the stiff, hollow feel of the last model. It was firmer than the S version but still had a clean feel on contact. I felt confident in knowing what the ball was doing as it came off the string bed, allowing me to play with ample variety around the court. Players needing comfort may need to take a bit more care with this model. The stiffer response and dense string pattern would require adjusting tension with polyester or playing with a softer string all together to ensure maximum comfort.
Players who felt Head missed the mark with the last version of Prestige should be impressed with the revisions made to model. While still using Head’s modern philosophy of weight distribution, this new model brings back the feel and precision that players have been fans of for years. It offers strong players a lower power frame that can hit with laser like precision from the baseline and then attack the net with pinpoint control. The Head Graphene XT Prestige MP should be on the demo list of any player who puts accuracy and response at the top of their list of racquet attributes.
About the Reviewer: Matt Locke currently serves as the Junior Programs & Development Coordinator for USTA-Idaho and is an active USTA League and Tournament player.