Feel seems to be making a comeback for racquet manufacturers in 2017. To that end, Head has introduced the new Graphene Touch Instinct MP. This new version of Graphene adds Kraibon, a rubberized dampening material, into the layup of the frame for improved vibration and shock absorption. This new model also has a slightly thicker beam than the XT Instinct and a little more mass in the head of the frame as well. Despite these design changes, the Instinct still focuses on being a racquet with plenty of power and spin that doesn’t sacrifice too much control.
There was plenty of power to be had with this racquet. Off the ground I was able to easily generate pace from both sides while at the baseline. I felt the power required very little effort on my part which was both a blessing and a curse. When stretched out on defense, I appreciated the frame’s ability to send the ball back with interest even if I wasn’t able to setup for a full cut at it. The drawback was that when I did try to swing out, I found more balls sailing on me. This wasn’t the most powerful frame I’ve hit recently, but the 23/26/23 mm beam had more power and a noticeable decrease in control compared to the Touch Speed series from Head. The 100 inch head size had a generous sweet spot and I felt the frame had plenty of pop from all areas of the string bed. Accuracy felt somewhat average as the lively response made me a bit less confident in picking aggressive targets. I found more success using this racquet to brute force my way into winning rallies. There was plenty of spin on tap off either wing. The 16 x 19 pattern was very spin friendly I easily generated topspin for dipping balls in at the baseline or adding margin to defensive balls. At 11.1 oz strung, it was decently stable but there was some wobble on off center shots and when dealing with bigger hitting opponents. Many of the Head Graphene models seem to have this instability as the weight feels concentrated at the tip and tail, leaving the sides of the hoop vulnerable to more twisting than I’d like.
Volleys & Serves
Speed was the name of the game when I came to the next with the Touch Instinct MP. The racquet felt very maneuverable at net, allowing me to easily position it during volley exchanges. The quick nature of the frame also gave me the opportunity to attack balls aggressively and finish anything left up high. With a more compact stroke at net, I felt the accuracy was slightly improved compared to the baseline. I picked more aggressive targets and had a solid success rate hitting them. The highly dampened feel of the frame made it tougher to execute drop and touch volleys and I tended to float those shots more than I was intending to. The racquet did an adequate job absorbing pace at the net but I still felt it needed more weight at the sides of the hoop to reduce the amount of twisting I experienced on hard hit shots.
It was very easy to put my serve on autopilot with the Instinct MP. The fast feel allowed me to accelerate the frame through contact and put a good amount of pace on my serve. While I didn’t have enough control to hit pinpoint spots, I had excellent results with hard, flat body serves to opponents. The spin friendly string bed also allowed me to create plenty of action on my kick and slice serves. My kick serve jumped off the court with good height and pace and I was able to swing my slice serve out wide in the ad court. What the frame lacked in control and accuracy, it made for with excellent variety and pace. I was able to give enough different looks to returners that it was hard for them to settle into a consistent return rhythm against me.
My read on the feel of the Touch Instinct was the same as other Graphene Touch model lines. The response on contact was extremely dampened, which may or may not be what players are looking for. The combination of no vibration and a string bed that the ball exited quickly left me feeling a bit disconnected from my shots. Before I could feel what the ball was doing, it was already headed back over the net. The muted feel also made finesse shots more difficult, so the feel may be challenging for touch oriented players. I had no comfort issues with the frame. Players should be aware that this (along with other manufacturers using similar materials in their frames) was still a firm racquet. With an RA in the high 60s, it is still rigidly built despite the dampened feel. Sensitive players should still consider using a softer string setup until they are confident the racquet works for their arm.
It is an encouraging sign for Head to put their focus on improving feel with the new Graphene Touch lines of racquets. For a long time the sole goal was power and spin at all costs. This racquet provides a solid power level along with access to ample spin and lightning quick defensive capabilities. It’s serving strengths and capabilities at net will allow players to control play from multiple areas of the court. The feel will be a very individual choice but the Head Graphene Touch Instinct MP is still a solid option for a baseline player looking for an easy to swing frame that can make the transition to the front of the court as well.
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.