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Nearly a year ago, Maria Sharapova started playing with a not so mysterious black frame. Well not mysterious to those following rackets closely. As time went on a more detailed announcement was made and we saw the frame that Maria would endorse come to be the HEAD YouTek IG INSTINCT.
Like many of the new frames this racket uses current generation aerospace technology in the design. The flat weave structure of the carbon used in these frames increase the fiber density improving strength and stiffness with no weight penalty (remember epoxy holds everything together but it otherwise just adds weight). This frame incorporates Innegra fibers as well as d30. The combination yields a low vibration frame with great touch, excellent accuracy on hard struck shots and, superior stability on off center hits.
Innegra is a super strong super lightweight fiber that gives engineers features that complement the workhorse carbon fibers using in the frame to make for a better rounded product. In each of the head frames the balance of the Innegra ® usage is adjusted get an optimal blend of performance factors and comfort.
The Grip pallet is more like that of a Wilson frame than a traditional oblong head pallet. This is ideal for all courters since they tend to use more than one grip. I love the feel of the pallet since I use several different grips depending on where I am on the court.
On top of all that functionality, this is a very stylish frame. It has elegant functional and a paint job that looks like it came off of the set of Tron. Looks and substance, but then its Sharapova’s racket fitting that it is a reflection of her.
This is the second time that I have had as separate about spin control in a racket review and this racket demanded it. This frames string pattern and dynamics put it in a rare category as far as spin generation is concerned. I was able to hit devastating ground strokes that promptly bounced shoulder high within a few feet of the baseline at will with great accuracy. The huge sweetspot and high frame stiffness kept the shots in the court on minor mishits. I suspect that the grommet design is a key factor. The elongated grommet holes and the frame stiffness make this frame almost too forgiving. The use of d3o and Innegra in this frame gives you this unique feedback that can be described as :”you know you hit that ball a little high on the racket face and off center but I know what you wanted so I will go ahead and hit it were you meant to go… just so you know next time”. So there you have it’s not a dead lifeless war club but not a hair trigger frame that requires you to have the strokes of a 5.5 player to prevent it hurting your arm. Think of it a driver assist for a tennis racket. Very sweet in my opinion.
Sometimes tweener frames are a little too zippy on serve and can cause issues. I am happy to report that is not the case here. While it adds significant zip compared to a player frame, accuracy is not lost as a result.
It very fast thru the air due to its aerodynamic shape, the head is possibly even more aerodynamic than the Babolat Aero Pro Drive translating into additional potential racket head speed. I loved hitting slice, kick, and flat serves with this racket. It made my lefty serve even more so & ad court wide slider serves were frequently outright aces, even on second serves. Flat serves had an additional 5-10 mph but the pace did not result in them going long. This capability helped me set up 1,2 first strike shot patterns on first serves, ending points early.
If I were to try and put a fine point on were this racket distances itself from the pack it would be the second serve. I was able to get a little extra zip and spin on the second delivery without risking a double fault. In competitive matches that are a very big deal to win 3-5 more points per set make you close to unbeatable in a tight match. The fact that this frame reacts so well to small changes in your swing made me serve with more versatility that I had been beforehand.
Serving Performance: Hands down A+ for spin serves, A for flat serves.
There are lots of little nuances that at up to three big features in this frame, Spin, Pop, & precision. This frame delivers in all three areas. Spin wise it is in that hallowed family with the AeroPro Drive & Yonex Vcore 100. I think that while they are all pretty equally matched on spin, the Instinct and Vcore are slightly more spin friendly.
So what sets this frame apart from other tweeners? Its power and consistency on flatter ground strokes is clearly better than the Vcore100 and the Aero Pro Drive. I could use the spin and power to pin an opponent back and use flatter shots to end points earlier. Normally I would have to use more spin to have enough margin on these shots. From having felt this I can understand why Tomas Berdych would like the frame.
On the other end of the spectrum is the touch. I hit a lot of drop shots from less than optimal positions on the court during points that were placed exactly where I wanted them. A few I almost cringed because I knew I was cutting it close but this frame delivered. The combination of the placement and the severe backspin made me look like I was in another skill class.
Groundstroke Performance A++
If you are an all-courter this might just be your frame. If you are a decent volleyer this frame gives you a little more spin and margin on your volleys. The huge sweetspot makes it much easier to make a volley that would have dribbled (spangled) off of your frame still make it over the net and keep you in the point. The touch, enhanced by the d3o gives you the predictability to transition to the net effectively. The weight of the frame might give weaker volleyers or physically smaller some trouble in rapid exchanges but it significantly more forgiving than a player frame and is on par with other similar tweener frames in this class. I suspect that the soon to be release ‘S’ model is perfect for those players.
Volley performance A.
This frame has a wonderful blend of power & spin and the fact that the precision is so good is really unique. Despite the stiffness it has very low vibration. I typically use a 4 1/8 grip so I removed the grip and played with only a single grip overwrap. Even then there was no perceivable vibration.
The frame is very tailorable for a variety of players. Lower tensions 50-52 lbs with natural gut or a multifilament synthetic makes for a powerful game enhancer for those with fairly compact swings. Poly strings at 55-57 lbs gives you a tour level feel even for those with long fast swings. This may very well beheads most versatile frame available.
A++ power spin player frame.
Just when I thought the new king of that hill was the Yonex Vcore 100 a new contender has shown up. This frame is just slightly more spin friendly. I think we are in a time of rapid technological improvement in racket design. The designers are able to get features in frames that were once mutually exclusive so that you can find something that is very closely match to your game if you are willing to demo them.
This frame is a true all court frame. It is every bit as strong off the ground as any baseliner frame. The net play is better than most player frames. Serving performance is zippy, responsive and precise. This frame is ideally suited to a strong 3.5+ to 7.0 player.