Head has a full line of Speed series frames this year, just as in 2012. The Graphene Speed S replaces the YouTek Speed Elite for 2013, promising to build upon and improve that model’s reputation for feel and easy swinging power.
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.
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.
Even though Head labels the Speed S as part of their “Tour Series” of frames, testing should show if less able players can benefit from it.
From the Baseline
The slight head weighting of the Speed S stabilizes the frame nicely, and its twistweight is in a good range to help stop frame twisting of off-center hits. While there is noticeable frame flex on shots hit near the top of the head (as would be expected with a narrow-beamed frame), the higher flex of the Speed S makes it bearable. Since this is the area where most topspin shots are hit, it’s nice to know the Speed S will allow more controlled power on shots hit there.
At Net and Serving
Amazingly, the head weighting doesn’t feel so bad when swinging the Speed S up on serves and overheads: once again, the Graphene technology is at work here, counterbalancing the head weight with extra mass in the handle, and letting the Speed S pack a punch on serves and smashes. The superb string pattern provides noticeable spin on slice and kick serves and, if you ever decide to try the “slice smash” from the baseline a la Federer, you can hook the ball in quite nicely.
The bumper guard is solid and has a nice depth to the string groove, which should provide good string protection from aggressive net play. The paint job is quite “active”, using black and white primary colors blended nicely with orange trim. The butt cap is classic Head, meaning it flares out quite nicely, and the bottom of it is wide enough that you can hold it low on big serves without worry of it flying out of your hand.