Calling all indecisive players and fast growing juniors! Head has the perfect option for you with the new Head Graphene Touch Instinct Adaptive. This innovative frame utilizes the new version of Graphene, designed for better dampening and shock absorption and adds in an impressive level of customization. By using the Adaptive Tuning Kit (sold separately), players can customize the string pattern between 16x19 and 16x16, add heavier or lighter grommets at the 3 and 9 o’clock positions, extend the length by up to a half inch and add a heavier butt cap for a more headlight balance. With so many configuration options on tap, I had to take the Instinct Adaptive out to see how it handled on court.
Off the ground, the Adaptive played similar to the Instinct MP. In stock form, it was a little lighter at 10.8oz strung, making it a bit easier to whip through the hitting zone for extra pace and spin. Even with the heaviest options installed, it maxed out at the same weight spec as the MP so players shouldn’t expect a massive increase in the frame’s ability to hit a heavy ball. I would have loved for there to be a “Pro” option in the tuning kit to take the weight past the MP for even more pop off the ground. The racquet was a tad more head heavy than the MP, giving it a little more punching power from both sides than other frames in its weight class. Changing to the 16x16 pattern provided an immediate increase in spin production. The super open pattern produced a much higher launch angle and created some seriously hard to handle spin. The drawback was that I found the 16x16 pattern much more difficult to control. While there was plenty of spin, the launch angle was more erratic, producing more errors and wild shots than the standard 16x19 string pattern. I would have preferred an 18x20 pattern option as I break too many strings in the 16x16 patterns for them to be a viable option. Adding the length extending spacers to the handle gave me some extra leverage for hitting my two hand backhand and I also appreciated the extra reach on defensive shots. Stability was solid for the most part and improved when I chose all of the heaviest options. There was still some flutter against big hitters but nothing a small amount of additional customizing couldn’t address.
Volleys & serves
Regardless of configuration, the Instinct Adaptive was very maneuverable at the net. I found it easy to move the racquet into position quickly during rapid exchanges and never felt like I got caught behind the ball. The racquet’s power level rewarded aggressive volleying and I was always able to put away anything high in short order. Volleys I played ore casually had a tendency to float a little more, especially in the lighter configurations. The 16x16 pattern also had a little too much air under volleys and I pushed more volleys beyond their targets with that string pattern. The racquet had more stability issues in stock form but became better at fending off hard passing shots when the heavier grommets at 3 and 9 were utilized. The variety of configurations the Instinct Adaptive had created a wide variety of serving experiences. In lighter forms, I relied more on spin serves and used my slice out wide and high bouncing kick to frustrate returners. With the heavier grommets and butt cap installed, it became easier for me to hit flat serves that penetrated the court. Adding the extra length to the racquet also gave me some additional power and net clearance on serves. It would have been interesting to have an 18x20 string pattern option as that may have provided more directional control when serving and given me the ability to go after more aggressive targets on serve.
Aggressive servers will find a lot to like in the Speed S. The low weight again makes it tremendously easy to accelerate through contact, making it a snap to go for powerful flat serves. The reduced mass results in a less heavy ball than the Speed MPA but there is still plenty of pace to be had. The reduction in weight as well as the 16x19 string pattern also yields solid access to spin on the serve. I found it easy to use a wide variety of kick and slice serves to effectively keep the returner off balance. The racquet also offers solid directional accuracy, allowing you to move the ball around the box with confidence.
The whole point of Graphene Touch is to dampen the feel and minimize vibration. The Instinct Adaptive was no exception to that. It played with such a muted feel that I found it a bit lacking in feedback. The muted feel combined with the more flexible construction created a bit of disconnect on contact. I knew the ball was on the strings but didn’t really know what it was doing. The upside to the softer flex and use of Graphene Touch was that the racquet was exceptionally comfortable. There was no harsh feel outside the sweet spot and I never felt any hint of arm issues. This racquet would make an excellent choice for juniors and players with more sensitive arms.
Rather than forcing players to buy multiple different racquets as their games develop, Head wants to put the power in their hands with the new Adaptive series. This model provides outstanding power and spin but also has enough defensive capabilities and net play skills to be a potent all court weapon. When paired with the Adaptive Tuning Kit, the Head Graphene Touch Instinct provides players the ability to experiment with multiple combinations and specs in a single frame in pursuit of the setup that can take their game to the next level.
About the Reviewer: Matt Locke currently serves as the Junior Programs & Development Coordinator for USTA-Idaho and is an active USTA League and Tournament player.