HEAD Graphene PWR Prestige Tennis Racquet Review
Head has introduced a number of new frames for 2013, but none have caught our eye any more than the new Graphene PWR Prestige. By making a “game improvement” version of their standard-bearing player’s frame, Head is attempting to lure more recreational players into the feel and control of the Prestige line.
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 Prestige is not only the lightest Prestige frame ever made, it’s lighter than most of Head’s racquets, period. An unstrung weight of 9.5 oz. (269g) should make it very easy to swing quickly, especially for those without a lot of swing speed to start with. Balancing out at only three points head heavy, the PWR Prestige doesn’t put too much mass in the racquet head (we’ll see how stable it is during play later). The moderate swingweight of 303 should be manageable by almost anyone. An open 16x19 string pattern, reminiscent of the Head Prestige Pro, should provide good access to spin.
What’s really different about the PWR Prestige are the following specifications. The length, at 27.33”, makes it the first extended-length Prestige frame. It’s flex of 70 makes it by far the stiffest Prestige racquet ever. It’s the first oversize Prestige model, with a 107 square inch head size, and it’s also the original widebody Prestige, with beam widths of 26/26/28mm, noticeably wider than any Prestige racquet Head has ever produced. It also utilizes Head’s Outer QuadFace Technology, which actually increases the length of the last three main strings on each side of the racquet head, along with the top three cross strings.
Inner QuadFace Technology extends the length of the same main strings, plus the bottom three crosses, to allow a little more string length on the inside of the frame as well. Inner and Outer Quad Face give the PWR Prestige 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 at an angle coming 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 Prestige feels and swings with a heavier feel than it weight implies. The Graphene technology places more mass in the head of the racquet, providing both a greater swing effort and higher power levels. The extra weight in the handle is not as noticeable because you’re holding it in your hand, making the head weight even more prominent. What you get for this extra weight is remarkable “plow through,” or ability to absorb and return power, on baseline shots. The wide beams and firm flex of the PWR Prestige add power and contribute a solid, controlled feel to groundstrokes, particularly flat and slice shots, where the lower sweet spot sends the ball moving quite nicely. Shots hit near the top of the head, while not as powerful, are quite controllable given the wide beams. The open string bed imparts more than adequate spin to all shots, with slices getting particularly good bite.
At Net and Serving
The extra head weighting of the PWR Prestige is not a problem on serves or overheads, and the frame is a snap to move upward, even on those lobs that get just a little behind you. Spin serves are quite nicely executed with the PWR Prestige, as both slice and kick serves can be hit heavy and fast.
The lower sweet spot is in a great place for volleys, and they come off controlled and powerful with adequate maneuverability in quick exchanges at net. The higher flex doesn’t provide as much touch and feel as some might like, but you can knock off floaters and swing volleys like no one’s business.
The PWR Prestige uses Head’s new Hydrosorb Comfort grip, and it is much softer and more comfortable than Head’s previous grips. The bumper guard has an adequate string groove depth, except where the QuadFace slots lie on the outer edges. If you dig out a lot of low balls, keep an eye on this area, or use some racquet head tape. It’s our guess that the PWR Prestige’s target player doesn’t do a lot of this, however. The maroon, black and silver paint job carries the traditional Prestige colors forward, giving a subdued, elegant look to the frame that will be appreciated by many.
Head has come up with a fine frame for intermediate to advanced all-court players in the new Graphene PWR Prestige. A solid frame with an optimal balance of its mass for moderate swing speeds lends itself well to all aspects of the game. If other game improvement frames feel a little “whippy” to you, the Graphene PWR Prestige should be right up your alley.