HEAD Flexpoint Instinct Racquet Review
When HEAD designed the Liquidmetal Instinct, they intended to produce a player's racquet which offered a little more pop and mobility without sacrificing control. In our 2003 review of the Liquidmetal Instinct, we thought HEAD had nailed it. New for 2005, the second generation of the Instinct gets HEAD's latest technology and joins the Flexpoint family. While the frame construction, weight, balance and string pattern remain unchanged, the Flexpoint Instinct features "two precisely-engineered control holes in the racquet's head." Like the Flexpoint Radicals we reviewed earlier in 2005, the Flexpoint Instinct is designed to cup the ball more, providing greater control from increased dwell time and a reduction in the angle of racquet deflection.
To see how the Instinct faired with Flexpoint technology we hit the courts for a three-week playtest.
Our team found plenty of comfort and a nice blend of power and control when hitting groundstrokes with the Flexpoint Instinct. Quickly finding the groove was Brad. "From the start, the Flexpoint Instinct was a very comfortable racquet. The almost neutral balance (3 points head light) made it feel heavier than it really is and the 331 swingweight kept the racquet from feeling too whippy. Hitting groundies with the Flexpoint Instinct was a blast. I found the power level to be just right for me and I didn't have any problems keeping the ball deep in the court. I was able to generate good topspin on my forehand and backhand. I struggled a bit, though, with slicing the ball and keeping it low over the net. I felt as if the ball floated too much." Also enjoying his time with the Flexpoint Instinct was Josh. "The Flexpoint Instinct was comfortable and easy to hit with, much like the Liquidmetal Instinct. The updated version has a nice balance of touch and power and allowed me to work within my game, rather than adjust to the racquet. While it is a little lighter than I prefer, the Flexpoint Instinct was stable and controlled. I don't hit with a ton of topspin, but found it easy to generate with this racquet. My forehands and backhands felt smooth and accurate with the Flexpoint Instinct. Even when I was under pressure to play a more defensive shot, the racquet performed with good depth and pace. Slices were easy to hit, though they did have a tendency to sit up for my opponent. Still, the slice was a dependable shot under pressure. I can't say I noticed much difference between the Flexpoint and Liquidmetal versions. The newer version may have offered a little more pop, but not much."
Finding good access to slice with the Flexpoint Instinct was Catherine. "I loved this racquet overall, but it was especially amazing on groundstrokes. It felt totally solid, and I don't know if this is even possible, but I felt like this racquet really improved my ability to slice! I was hitting amazing slices with it, time after time. My first time out on the court with the Flexpoint Instinct and my slices were AMAZING. My backhand slice has always been better than my forehand slice (the forehand slice being pretty much non existent), but my backhand slice was even better than usual, and my forehand slice was actually working! I didn't get too much topspin out of this racquet. Even when swinging extremely low to high, the racquet itself didn't seem to give me great topspin potential." Although Chris has been forced to hit left-handed, it did not deter from his enjoyment of playing with the Flexpoint Instinct. "A bone chip on my right elbow has forced me to switch to hitting left handed for the rest of the year. Obviously my strength and ability on court has altered. The maneuverable nature and added pop of the Flexpoint Instinct was very welcome while hitting with my weaker left arm. I found a really nice blend of power, spin and control with the Flexpoint Instinct off the ground. Topspin was easy to generate when working the ball around the court or looking for a nice angle. I also found good success when hitting deep slice backhands, but would have liked a little more feel when slicing short and angled or attempting a drop shot. When flattening shots out, I found good pace which helped get passing shots by a net rushing opponent. The racquet felt very comfortable and never felt pushed around by the ball. As a side note, the handle felt very short and I ran out of room when applying two hands."
At net our team found the Flexpoint Instinct was maneuverable and offered plenty of control. Catherine said, "I found this racquet to be very solid when hitting volleys. The headsize wasn't too small, so my volleys hit the sweetspot most of the time. I felt that the racquet had enough power to still get me good pop on my volleys without losing control." Although primarily a baseline player, Brad had good results at net with the Flexpoint Instinct. "The few times I made it up to the net with this racquet, I felt I was able place the ball where I wanted. On harder hit shots that did not connect with the sweetspot, I wasn't able to get very much power on the ball."
Finding the Flexpoint Instinct a good match for his net rushing game was Josh. "The racquet was nicely balanced for its weight and was an effective tool at net. The maneuverability allowed me to react quickly to attempted passing shots. I was also able to pick up balls hit below my knees and transition well to overheads when necessary. The Flexpoint Instinct should work well for players who aren't afraid to approach the net." Chris also found the Flexpoint Instinct to be effective at net. "I really liked this racquet at net. It was very maneuverable and offered some nice pop. I thought the power level was sufficient to help put the ball away, without losing any control. Again, I found plenty of comfort from this racquet. With our 17 gauge multifilament test string the response off the stringbed was soft and somewhat dampened. Playability was very similar to the Liquidmetal Instinct with the most noticeable difference being the sound of the ball off the strings. The Flexpoint makes a bit more of a tinny sound, but this went away with a vibration dampener."
Our team continued to be impressed with the Flexpoint Instinct when serving. Brad was finding a little extra swing speed with the Flexpoint Instinct. "It took me a while to get dialed in with this racquet on my first serves. Once I got my timing down, I was able to generate some good pace. Also, I felt like I wasn't as precise as I usually am with my RDX 500 MP, meaning I wasn't able to place the ball as well. On second serves, the lighter weight of this racquet enabled me to generate some good racquet head speed. I felt like I was getting a little bit of extra kick on the ball with this racquet." Finding some much needed pace to his new lefty serve was Chris. "I was getting some nice zip on serves. By far the hardest shot for me to adjust to as a lefty, I needed as much help as I could get. With the Flexpoint Instinct I started to find better consistency on both first and second serves. The racquet was light enough that I could generate enough racquet head speed to put a little slice or topspin on second serves."
Josh found the Flexpoint Instinct to offer the same controlled and spin friendly response as its Liquidmetal predecessor. "The Flexpoint Instinct was just as dependable as the Liquidmetal Instinct. First serves were controlled and had good pace, but not much weight behind them. Second serves were easy to locate and had enough topspin to kick wide to the ad court. The weight of the racquet was also easy on the shoulder during long service games." Just like our other playtesters, Catherine was having fun serving with the Flexpoint Instinct. "Just like my groundstrokes, I felt very solid with my serve and it seemed to be going in more often than usual. I felt my serve was looking better than it normally does with my regular racquet. I could definitely get the ball to spin in more than with most other racquets I've tried."
Returns of Serve
Our team enjoyed the maneuverable feel of the Flexpoint Instinct when returning. Quickly finding the groove was Chris. "I liked returning serve with this one. The power level was perfect - just enough to get the ball away but not so much as to make aggressive play erratic. I liked the level of control from the stringbed and also the maneuverable feel. The racquet felt very easy to swing and I was able to take a good cut at slower serves, yet also find enough stability when blocking back harder first serves." The maneuverable feel of the Flexpoint Instinct had Josh attacking serves with confidence. "The racquet allowed me to attack a bit more because of its maneuverability. I was able to jump on balls early at times and pick up first serves late if needed. I didn't have to do much work on the returns, as the Flexpoint Instinct had enough power to keep returns deep. I found a fair amount of success returning forehands to the opposite corner and following up with a mid-court volley to turn the point in my favor. Just as the racquet was dependable on serve, so it was on returns."
While competing on the TW singles ladder, Catherine found herself up against some tough competition during her testing of the Flexpoint Instinct. "I played mainly against people with pretty hard serves, and I found that my returns were going a little wild, even when I tried to just block the ball back to keep it in play. With more practice with the pace of the serves and this racquet, I was getting them back a little more consistently, but it had just a little too much power in it to get the control I wanted to at the tested string tension. As I said above, the racquet didn't give me QUITE enough control to confidently get back serves with a lot of pace, although with some more work with this racquet and perhaps tighter strings, I'm sure I could improve that. Also enjoying the maneuverable response of the Flexpoint Instinct was Brad. "Service returns with the Instinct were pretty good. The lighter weight made it easy to get the racquet where I needed it to be in order to set up for the ball. It was a very comfortable racquet to return with. It wasn't too powerful and I found that it had a good balance of control and power."
Our team found the Flexpoint Instinct to be maneuverable from all areas of the court. The power of the 21-25 millimeter width beam was somewhat muted by a fairly tightly drilled 18/19 string pattern. The result was a racquet that offered some nice pop, but also brought plenty of control to the court. The maneuverable feel allowed easy access to fast swing speeds, making the racquet more spin friendly than one might expect considering the racquet's string pattern. With its versatile response, we feel that attacking all court players will get the most out of this racquet.
Review date: November 2005. If you found this review interesting or have further questions or comments please contact us.
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