Prestige means “widespread respect and admiration for someone or something, based on the perception of their quality.” High level tennis players associate the word with HEAD, the renowned racquet brand in Austria. The Prestige has been in the hands of the world’s best players since the late 1980s. The family of racquets require exquisite timing and outstanding stroke mechanics, but also rewards players with best in class precision and control.
As we enter 2020, HEAD updates the famous Prestige MP with Graphene 360+ technology and a completely new mold. For starters, they extend the size of the head to a “true” 98 square inches. The previous generation measured 95 square inches. The 18 x 20 string pattern remains, but the cross section is now a thinner 20 mm beam. I thoroughly enjoyed the Graphene Touch Prestige Tour, which was a more user-friendly approach to the franchise, and was excited to take the Graphene 360+ Prestige MP to the practice courts and give it a go.
HEAD gets caught between two opposing camps: the group that believes the Prestige MP is too difficult to play with, and the group that believes the Prestige MP was best the way it was made in 1987. With this new version, both camps have reason to be enthusiastic. From the back of the court, the change in flex and comfort is a huge positive. The MP restores the buttery feel from decades ago with a 61 RA rating. The ball seemed to dwell on the strings slightly longer, and with the larger head, there is easier access to spin. I do not know the science behind it, but it seems the sweet spot is taller, as opposed to only being in the very center of the string bed. The new Spiralfiber technology HEAD incorporates in the lower hoop tremendously improves the feel, flexibility, and power. Though the head size has increased, the racquet remains mobile in longer rallies due to the thinner 20 mm beam. I am also a fan of the more traditional head-light balance found in the MP. While the modern trend in performance racquets has been toward 3-4 points head light, the MP maintains a 7 points head light balance. With a racquet that weighs nearly 12 ounces when strung, this balance makes it amazingly easy to swing and steer from the baseline.
I absolutely loved the thinner beam when serving. For a racquet that is almost 12 ounces, it cuts through the air efficiently, and produces a surprising amount of power. The Prestige MP stabilized my contact point, provided me with plenty of spin, and also offered more comfort than in previous generations. When serving a lot with a heavy racquet, I am more than a little bit capable of shoulder fatigue. I am happy to report that it was easy hitting tons of serves with the Prestige MP with little to no fatigue to speak of.
Volleys & Overheads
This is where the thin beam meshes perfectly with the larger head size. I was able to dig out low volleys, and carve them with a touch of under spin. I was shocked at the amount of forgiveness the Prestige MP offered when I didn’t make perfect contact. I thought some of these volleys were headed straight into the net, but I was still able to put the ball in play. The head light balance makes the racquet feel nimble and easy to manipulate, which is ideal for competitive doubles players and serve-and-volley specialists.
What should encourage long-time Prestige fans is the overall comfort, feel, and flex of the Prestige MP. When the ball hits the strings, the sensation is addictive and offers very little shock. Yes you will get plenty of shock absorption, but you will also get lots of feel for the ball. The MP is still very much a control racquet, and will not be as powerful as HEAD’s Instinct or Extreme racquets.
The new Graphene 360+ Prestige MP is the best of its kind in years. While traditionalists will cry about the racquet not being the old 95 square inch head, the reality is that even the professional game is shifting away from the midsize racquet. HEAD did an admirable job of keeping the legendary feel intact, while creating an easier-to-play, and more powerful racquet.
Note: Playtest racquet was strung with a HEAD Confidential string 17G @ 48 pounds.
About the Reviewer: Sam Jones currently works at Tennis Express on the Content Marketing team. He previously played at Southwestern University, taught tennis for 10+ years and earned his USRSA Master Racquet Technician Certification in 2011. He is an active NTRP 5.0 League and Tournament player.