For this year, Head is bringing an incremental update to the Speed family of racquets. Bridging the gap between the more advanced Speed MP and the lightweight Speed Lite is the updated Graphene 360+ Speed S. This model retains the 100 inch head of the main versions but incorporates a thicker, firmer beam for greater power levels. The S also has more overall mass than the Speed Lite, giving it enhanced stability and weight of shot. The biggest change to the newest version of the Speed S is Head’s inclusion of Spiralfibers in the racquet’s construction. This new material is placed in the lower hoop and stretches on contact, creating a softer more flexible feel. Having tested the rest of the 100 inch Speed models, it was only natural for me to spend some time hitting with the new Graphene 360+ Speed S.
The 360+ Speed S had plenty of quickness on groundstrokes. The 100 inch head size had a sizeable sweet spot and plenty of off center forgiveness. The racquet’s beam was firmer (69 RA) and thicker (25 mm), giving it extra pop off the ground. Weighing in at 10.7 oz strung, it packed greater punch and easier depth than the Speed Lite, but was still easier to swing than the MP or Pro. I missed the weight of shot the MP and Pro provided, but I still appreciated the raw ball speed the S produced. While the frame lacked the overall precision of more advanced models, I found it more accurate than the Lite. I was able to hit most targets and play outside of the middle of the court with solid confidence. Similar to the Lite, the S had a 16 x 19 pattern that was more spaced in the middle than the MP, giving it even easier access to spin. I was able to use spin to enhance directional control and keep the ball down. The easy spin also gave me plenty of air under shots and gave my backhand plenty of safety during rallies. I found it a bit more difficult to fully flatten out mid court balls with the lower weight and broader string pattern of the Speed S. The slightly higher weight gave the Speed S a bit better stability than the Lite and it benefitted from the wider, stiffer beam, when I was trying to redirect the ball. For its target player, it should provide decent enough stability had room to customize as a player develops and faces higher levels of play. The Speed S was enjoyable to use on the run as its whippy nature made it fun to flick shots on the run or when stretched out.
Volleys & Serves
At net the Speed S rewarded attacking play. It was fast and powerful, so I made short work of anything I decided to attack. It was not as adept at keeping balls down as the MP or Pro so I had to be a bit more deliberate in my approach when volleying. The quick handling of the S ensured I was able to consistently keep up during rapid exchanges. The 360+ Speed S was less accurate than the higher performance models so I found myself volleying to bigger targets in order to give myself some extra safety. The improved feel of the 360+ layup did a good job helping me execute touch volleys. I was more connected to the ball and was able to feather the ball over the net better than with prior versions of the frame. Stability at net was average for its weight class. It fought off most balls but had some flutter when facing hard hit body shots.
Swing speed was the secret to success when I served with the Speed S. It had great acceleration and plenty of head speed for me to put pace on my first serve. The ball had great raw pace but I was missing the court penetration that a frame with more mass would have produced. Directional control was average and I was able to serve to multiple locations and use variety to disguise my serving patterns. I enjoyed hitting my kick serve. The fast feel and spin friendly pattern gave my serve lots of bounce and there was just enough mass to move it through the court better than the Speed Lite.
Feel & Comfort
The feel of the 360+ Speed S was a welcome improvement over prior editions. The Spiralfiber construction produced cleaner feel and more consistent feedback on contact. Head made some very positive improvement with the move to this layup across their model lines. Even with its increased stiffness, I enjoyed the flex in the hoop of the Speed S and found it easy to predict and feel what the ball would do on contact. The improved layup also helped maintain comfort, even with the thicker, firmer beam of the S model. While it had a crisper contact feel, I was never bothered by the feedback and never found it unduly harsh off center. Players will be able to pair the Speed S with a variety of string types and tensions while maintaining great levels of comfort.
Players looking to bridge the gap between lightweight frames and the more advanced models will enjoy the Speed S. It’s thicker, firmer build produces easier power and the lighter weight makes it easy to swing. It still has enough mass to dictate play and will allow developing players room to grow. The Head Graphene 360+ Speed S is an excellent option for players looking to optimize the balance of power to control, in a package that is comfortable and forgiving to use.
About the Reviewer: Matt Locke formerly served for 3 years as the Junior Programs & Development Coordinator for USTA-Idaho. He is a PTR certified coach and is an active USTA 4.5 League and Tournament player.