By Chris Edwards
A popular pro player choice of a bygone era, the Prince Original Graphite Oversize brought easy access to power, a rock solid feel and a hefty player's racquet spec to every swing.
Today, it still offers that same groundstroke crushing combination of specs, but the game has changed. Has the game outgrown the Original Graphite Oversize, or is it still a viable option?
Once copied by many, the Original Graphite Oversize now stands alone. No other racquet offers this much heft and stability in an oversize package. If you want to match the weight and swingweight of this racquet, you are going to have to drop below 98 square inches to do it.
So what does it mean to have 12 and a half ounces of oversize player's racquet behind every swing?
The plow-through heft of the Original Graphite Oversize combines with the long main strings of the 107 square inch head to deliver tons of power on every shot. I found so much power with this racquet that I was stringing it tighter and tighter and using the stiffest polys to increase control.
I could absolutely crush groundstrokes with this racquet. Fortunately, it is very spin friendly if you can keep the tip speed up and ensure you brush the ball. Come through the contact zone with a flat swing and you'd better be sure your accuracy is dialed in, as it becomes easy to overhit. It was the flatter strokes that got me in trouble with this racquet, but using a stiff string at around 62 lbs solved the problem. Best of all, the ultra stiff combination of high tensions and firm poly strings was completely masked by the generous headsize and 12.6 ounce strung weight of the Original Graphite Oversize (weighed with an overgrip and dampener).
I found my best results with this racquet when maximizing spin. It didn't matter if I was going for topspin or slice, I just had to be sure I got plenty of it to allow the ball to drop well within the lines. I'll admit, getting a lot of spin took some added work -- nothing too demanding, but it got my attention more than a lighter, faster feeling modern racquet.
The need for added spin was most noticeable on approach shots, especially if the short ball I was approaching was low. I found I had to focus on getting a lot of spin and not letting the racquet plow through the ball too much. If I did let the racquet plow through it was impossible to get my shot up and over the net with good pace and still keep it inside the baseline.
This racquet felt great at the net. I could punch volleys away with ease. The 12.6 ounce strung weight became all but unnoticeable on the compact swing of a volley. I found a surprising level of touch. While the longer main strings allowed the ball to jump off the racquet face with good pace, the solid and stable feel allowed for a very soft grip -- ideal for a drop volley or delicate angle. I also enjoyed the mass and generous power of this racquet on tough to reach or low shoestring volleys. In such situations the racquet allowed me to still punch the volley deep with pace, even when I didn't think I was going to get much on it.
Like a volley, returning a serve against a heavy hitter requires practically no backswing, and I found this racquet felt faster than expected on returns. I enjoyed the combination of power and spin I found. During doubles play I was able to hit crushing cross court forehands (I play mostly on the deuce side), as well as drop a delicate inside out slice backhand short and angled. In both situations, this racquet offered the stability needed for me to relax and let it do the work. I also liked the way I could float the ball deep on defensive returns during singles play. The racquet felt rock solid and the power was easy to tap into.
When it came time for me to serve I was finding good access to pace and spin with this racquet. I wasn't crushing the ball quite as well as I was on groundstrokes, but I was maximizing spin. For me, the weight and oversize head just seemed like a bit too much racquet to whip through contact for maximum pace. I found it better to focus on just letting the mass of the racquet push through the ball. Adding spin resulted in a heavy, but not blistering, serve. I found good accuracy and I was able to move the ball around to various targets.
Strong serving, combined with my love of this racquet at net, brought with it a surprise discovery: I really like serve and volleying with this racquet! I expected that I would camp out at the baseline with this racquet, as it was always a popular choice for baseline players. However, I served well and enjoyed the feel on my compact volley stroke so much that I found myself venturing forward and attacking the net more often than expected.
After testing this racquet for a month, I came away impressed. It offered a much more solid, hefty and powerful response than the now no longer available Donnay Pro One Oversize and the old Head Twin Tube Radical Oversize. While those racquets got close to this one in weight, neither offered quite the rock solid feel nor crushing power of this one. The downside to all that power and stability is that this racquet requires more effort to swing its heft -- especially when comparing this racquet to anything modern.
The question remains: Is this racquet still a viable option for today's player? Unfortunately, that's one to which I can only provide a partial answer. There's no doubt the feel and response is unique. If you grew up playing with the heftier racquets of the 1980s and '90s then this racquet will most likely be an easy transition. If you've cut your proverbial tennis teeth during the era of the Pure Drive, the sheer mass of this racquet is likely to be a bit of a shock. While it's possible to whip this racquet around and brush the ball with lots of spin, modern players will find it requires much more preparation, strength and concentration. Whether you can make that transition is the other part of the answer, and that is the part you'll have to discover via some on-court demo time with the Original Graphite Oversize.
For me, my time spent hitting with this racquet was time well invested. During this test every swing felt like a historic moment. I did my best to tap into the massiveness of an Agassi forehand and the topspin loop of a Sabatini backhand, all while trying to cover the court with Chang-like speed. All names from the past, yes, but they all used this racquet at some stage of their careers. The question is, can you?