We couldn't help but notice some heritage in the cosmetics of HEAD's latest performance sticks, the MicroGel Extreme and MicroGel Extreme Pro.
Introducing an all new technology, the MicroGel Extremes feature a paint scheme reminiscent of the early Radical racquets, especially the early Twin Tube Radicals. However, beneath the paint the MicroGel Extremes are all new.
The HEAD MicroGel Extreme racquets combine carbon composite fibers in the racquet head with a new material called MicroGel. HEAD claims that the MicroGel material can deform and compress upon ball impact, uniformly absorbing and distributing the impact load around the entire frame. HEAD says the result for the player is a rock-solid feel with improved comfort and stability from the racquet.
The MicroGel Extremes also feature a redesigned hoop shape, with a rounder shape to the head of the racquet. HEAD states the increased real estate allows the ball to slide across the stringbed further, making for more spin-friendly hitting.
HEAD offers two versions of the MicroGel Exreme. The MicroGel Extreme features a light and mobile 11.2 ounces of weight and measures just a tad over standard length at 27.25 inches. The MicroGel Extreme Pro offers the specs of a player's racquet, weighing in at 11.8 ounces and having a healthy 332 (RDC) swingweight.
With several touring pros already making the switch to the MicroGel Extreme racquets, including Ivan Ljubicic and Svetlana Kuznetsova, we eagerly hit the courts for some playtesting. Read on to find out how the MicroGel Extreme and the heavier MicroGel Extreme Pro fared in the hands of our playtest team.
Our team found a high level of control and lots of spin when hitting groundstrokes with the MicroGel Extreme. Most impressed with the controlled response of the racquet was Ryan. "Great control! I hit from the baseline extremely well with this racquet. Softer strings were very preferable as there was a little bit extra vibration, especially with off-center hits. The only time I had trouble was hitting off hard, heavy, extreme spin shots: I had a little bit of twisting going on, like the racquet just needed a bit more heft. Otherwise, good depth and spin were generated with this racquet. Excellent feel at contact and great results."
Finding lots of control from the amount of spin he was generating with the MicroGel Extreme was Chris. "I liked this stick off the ground. I found a good blend of maneuverability and stability. I was able to generate plenty of topspin and found the racquet to perform at its best with faster swing speeds. When ripping the ball with topspin, I found it easy to control depth and direction. I was getting lots of action on the ball and didn't have to worry about hitting long when pounding shots, as most of them dipped sharply inside the baseline. I also liked the way I could whip the racquet around for topspin angles or putting a little curve on down the line passing shots. When hitting my backhand slice I found I could hit through the ball with plenty of racquet head speed, getting enough slice to keep the ball deep and low."
Finding the swingweight, weight and balance of the racquet inline with his preferences was Spencer. "After getting past the more circular, or rounded look of the head, I found this racquet to feel pretty solid from the baseline. A good sized sweetspot and access to spin helped keep my shots inside the lines. I was not particularly fond of the rectangular shape of the handle, as most Head racquets have, but the feel of the racquet was good. The static weight and swingweight, as well as balance, matched up well to my game and what I'm comfortable with, making my timing consistent when striking the ball. That being said, my shot depth was average at best - although I should say that the craftsman, not the tools, should take some of the blame here!"
Granville enjoyed the soft and comfortable response of the MicroGel Extreme sweetspot. "My initial concern for this racquet was the added 1/4 inch in length, but that was dispelled after the first few groundies. I could barely detect the extra length, probably due to the added head size of 100 square inches, as compared to my regular 95 square inch racquet. While I was enjoying that soft, comfortable and forgiving sweet spot, I did notice my balls landing a little short in the court - a direct result of the Microgel Extreme being lighter than my regular 12.0 ounce stick (or the Extreme Pro.)"
Immediately finding the groove with MicroGel Extreme was Jason. "From the get-go, this racquet felt great from the baseline. I felt that the unusually round head gave this racquet a bigger sweetspot than most other traditional, elliptically shaped racquet heads. Being about 6 points (3/8 inch) head light, this racquet provided more than adequate control, and it was maneuverable enough to hit some nice angled shots. Not one to use dampeners, I really enjoyed the feel and feedback this racquet provided. I was able to hit some deep, penetrating shots with both my forehand and backhand. The open string pattern allowed me to really put some topspin on my shots and keep the ball in the court. Cross-court, down-the-line, slices... I could do it all with this racquet."
Offering a solid feel at net, combined with an easy to maneuver weight and balance, the MicroGel Extreme turned in another impressive performance when our testers pushed forward. Finding the racquet to be a useful tool at net was Granville. "Another solid volleying racquet with excellent feel, touch and comfort. This one offered a large and forgiving sweetspot. There was really nothing I couldn't handle with this racquet in my hand. The lighter weight added maneuverability with little, if any, loss of power or punch." Hitting his share of winners at net was Jason. "This racquet offered a very solid feel at net. High, floating balls were easy to put away with a quick snap of the wrist. It offered a nice, firm feel for the punch volleys, while torsional stability was solid."
Ryan also enjoyed the solid response of the racquet when volleying. "This racquet was very solid at net. Maneuverability was superb. I really liked the point of impact with this one. I was getting great pop off the stringbed and good depth. All in all, just a nice, solid feel." Finding a generous feeling sweetspot was Spencer. "As I grew more accustomed to the more circular shape, the sweetspot felt more spread out as well. Maybe this was only mental, but I felt there was less twisting and torque when hitting off-center volleys. I found about average maneuverability at net with better feel and forgiveness."
Enjoying the mobile feel of the racquet was Chris. "This racquet was nice and maneuverable at net. I played quite a bit of doubles during this playtest and was very happy with the performance of this stick. The feel off the stringbed was clean and crisp, and I felt well connected to the depth and direction of my shots. The racquet felt pretty solid - even when the hitting got heavy. I was impressed by the stability and comfort from this racquet, given its light and maneuverable feel."
The MicroGel Extreme offered excellent access to spin and lots of control for our testers on serve. Enjoying the response of the racquet was Spencer. "I thought this was a good control-serving racquet. It was easy to generate spin for kickers out wide, while also being being able to keep opponents on their toes with a variety of placement. The power was average when trying to flatten out my serve with some pace, but overall a very comfortable serving stick." Chris found a very similar response from the racquet. "As from other areas of the court, I found plenty of spin when serving. I was able to consistently work the ball out wide with slice and topspin. I was finding my targets and felt comfortable mixing up serves to keep my opponent guessing. The pace I was generating wasn't exceptional, but I thought this was an easy stick to serve well with."
Granville also found his targets consistently with the MicroGel Extreme. "While very comfortable with excellent targeting, I did see a slight reduction in power with the lighter weight (lighter than I'm used to). That being said, I could still place the ball where I wanted with good pace." Finding lots of spin when serving with the racquet was Ryan. "This racquet was great on serve. I think this is the one area I noticed the circular head shape the most. It seemed like I was able to generate a lot of spin - more than a Babolat Pure Drive, which offers a very similar spec. Pace was still decent, but not as good as with the Pro version." Jason was also grooving on the spin friendly response of the MicroGel Extreme. "My serves were nice and consistent. I actually liked hitting my second serves more with this racquet. I got great spin on my second serves, and I was able to place the ball better as well. I would've liked to get more power off my first than I did, but that can easily be corrected by dropping the string tension a few pounds."
When returning serve, our testers agreed that the MicroGel Extreme offered a mobile yet stable feel. Successfully hitting a variety of returns was Jason. "Being as maneuverable as it is, it was easy to move the racquet to where I needed it. I could even get some returns back on serves into my body. Blocking shots back was not as impressive, though, with some of the shots ending up short or in the net. Taking a full swing at slower paced second serves was not a problem and a joy to do." Chris also enjoyed the maneuverability of the racquet. "This is where the easy access to racquet head speed really paid off. I was able to take aggressive cuts at a lot of serves and really go after my returns. I was also impressed with the directional control when punching a return low and cross court during doubles play. I definitely felt like I had a lot of options when returning with this one."
Finding a solid and control oriented response was Granville. "The MicroGel Extreme was very solid on serve returns, allowing me to 'feather' the slice returns as needed. Alternately, I was able to get on top of the ball and drive it when needed. Even this lighter spec is still over 11 ounces, so it was stable, with minimal torque on off center hits." Ryan struggled to find the groove when returning with the MicroGel Extreme. "Hitting returns was the one area that was a bit tricky, as the racquet twisted a decent amount, making it difficult to return with deep shots." Having better results was Spencer. "Decent maneuverability and the large round sweetspot helped make returns pretty easy. I didn't feel I had any type of advantage, but could get the ball back solidly enough to where my opponent couldn't just put away the next shot. For the most part, my returns were good enough to get me into a rally that wasn't strictly defensive."
The MicroGel Extreme is an ideal fit for today's aggressive game. It offers excellent access to spin, provides maneuverability that is lightning fast from all areas of the court and features a slightly extended length for some additional pop. We found a firm yet comfortable response at impact and good directional control on all shots. The stringbed offers plenty of bite and responds well to the use of modern co-polyester strings. For a livelier response, a nylon multifilament string ups the power of this racquet considerably. All in all, an impressive stick that should be a must hit for young guns as well as those looking for a solid blend of maneuverability, control and moderate power at the 4.0+ level.
|Last Shots from our playtesters|
Granville. "I really like this racquet as a companion/alternate to the MicroGel Extreme Pro. I thought it offered some great feel for a slightly larger audience with the slight reduction in overall weight. Slightly underpowered for those who like heavy sticks."
Jason. "Overall, this is a great advanced 'tweener/power player's racquet. This is definitely for a player who can generate their own power. What I really enjoyed most about this racquet was the feel and feedback it provided."
Ryan. "I thought this was a great racquet for a player with a developing swing looking to get a bit more control as their power is beginning to increase."
Spencer. "A good racquet that is reminiscent of the Babolat Pure Drive. Solid feeling with a nice sweetspot. If I have one dig, it would be the handle shape. It's a bit too rectangular for me."
Chris. "Much to my surprise, I preferred this one over the heavier Pro version. I was able to whip the racquet around much better, resulting in more pace and spin on my shots. I felt like I had good control with the racquet and enjoyed the balance of power and control I was finding."
Our team found some solid depth on their shots and a very stable feel from the MicroGel Extreme Pro off the ground. Instantly liking the response and feel of the racquet was Granville. "After only a few ground strokes I knew I liked this racquet. It has a very soft feel and generous sweetspot. I was able to take full swings with this racquet on both sides, getting good depth, pace and control with little transition time between my Hyper ProStaff 6.1. Comfortable off both sides, I was slicing with good feel and control and driving topspin groundies with ease. Good power on reserve when needed. The feel was a little less crisp than my HPS 6.1, but I think string choice and tension would allow me to adjust this. I could play with this racquet and be very happy. Last thought - the grip shape is more to my liking - seems a bit less rectangular than most HEAD racquets." Jason also liked the heavier response of the MicroGel Extreme Pro off his forehand wing. "This racquet provided nice heft to my groundstrokes. I was hitting my forehands deeper with this than with the lighter Extreme. Great for the player with a big loopy forehand. I found this racquet harder to swing with my one handed backhand. It had a bit too much weight for me and I had trouble timing my strokes. Hitting slice on both the forehand and backhand was very comparable to the Extreme."
Finding some solid power and depth on his groundstrokes was Ryan. "If there was any power lacking in the Extreme edition of this racquet, the Extreme Pro solved it. This racquet packs a punch! Groundstrokes were consistently deep, and if anything, I hit long. Again, the racquet vibrated a bit so I preferred the softer multifilament strings over the Sonic Pro poly. Spin was still great, even with the extra power. If anything, my topspin forehand became much harder to handle as the spin and weight of the racquet made for a very heavy ball. Backhand slices were really good with this racquet - another area where the circular head shape may have made a difference, as I was hitting a ton of slice with this racquet." Spencer also noted increased power and a more solid feel from the Extreme Pro. "Though I didn't notice the 1/4" difference in length between the two (this one being a standard 27"), I certainly noticed a difference in power. This stick offered an ease of swing punch that provided penetrating depth. A bit more solid feeling with a nice 'plough-through' effect. Like the Extreme, the Extreme Pro had a nice sweetspot, but I had a more difficult time with control. Not to say the control was bad, but not as consistent as its lighter counterpart."
Impressed by the weight of his shots with the MicroGel Extreme Pro was Chris. "This heavier version offered some nice penetration through the contact zone and felt very solid at impact. I was finding some nice power from the baseline, but I was missing some of the feel that I found with the lighter version. I was still able to control my shots well, but the racquet felt slightly over-dampened. What impressed me the most was the depth and weight my shots had with this stick - reminiscent of my Babolat Pure Drive Roddick, but with not quite as much spin."
At net, the MicroGel Extreme Pro continued to impress with a solid and comfortable response. Enjoying the solid feel of the racquet was Ryan. "I felt my volleys were still really good even though this version of the racquet was a little less maneuverable. I volleyed with a lot of authority with this racquet. My volleys were very crisp and accurate. Depth was also very good." Jason found the MicroGel Extreme pro a great racquet for punching put-away volleys. "Nice and solid. Great firm feel at net. Putting volleys away was decisive. Picking up low volleys was a bit more difficult, as this racquet was not as easy to maneuver - though still fairly manageable."
Appreciating the solid response and head light feel was Granville. "The 100 square inch head provided a generous sweetspot, which added to the overall comfortable feel of this racquet at the net. The racquet's 11+ ounce weight and a head-light balance resulted in a very solid feel. I found power, comfort and control in one very solidly performing racquet." Chris was also impressed by the stability of the racquet at net. "I found a nice solid response at net. The racquet felt very comfortable and stability was very impressive. To me, the racquet felt very maneuverable and I didn't find any hindrance from the added weight. Again, I wasn't finding the crisp response of the lighter version, but I felt in control of my volleys and was able to place them with good consistency." Spencer was generating some nice depth on his volleys with the MicroGel Extreme Pro. "My volleys felt very steady and solid at impact. There was not a lot of twisting on off-center hits, while the pace off the stringbed was impressive. However, I did hit more volleys outside of the sweetspot with this version, as it was slightly less maneuverable."
Our team found some solid access to pace and spin when serving with the MicroGel Extreme Pro. Enjoying some added power on serve was Jason. "First serves had more pop than the MicroGel Extreme. It was definitely more powerful, but I felt it didn't provide as much control as the lighter version. Spin was great on my second serves, and I could really put a lot of action on the ball." Packing some weight into his serve was Ryan. "Serving with the MicroGel Extreme Pro was very different than the lighter Extreme. There was a great amount of pace and spin which made for a very heavy ball that, when used on a kick serve, was pretty brutal. Control was pretty good too. Sometimes the spin and power was a little difficult to reign in, which is why control was only 'pretty good'."
Spencer found some solid pace on serve with the MicroGel Extreme Pro. "I got nice pace out of this racquet when I went after my serves. Spin was nice, as well, while the placement and control, I felt, were average." Finding the specs of the racquet to his liking was Granville. "I was serving confidently right away. Good spin on the kickers out wide with adequate heat when needed. Perhaps the one missing link is the big flat 'heater', which I just did not feel I was getting when I should. I would have liked to try my regular string and tension to remedy this (and feel I could.) That being said, I was still generating good speed on my serve, just no assistance from the racquet to kick it up another notch."
Enjoying the racquet the most on serve was Chris. "My favorite shot with this stick was the serve. I was able to get a good combination of pace and spin. I also found plenty of control, which allowed me to move the ball around the service box with pretty good accuracy. For the playtest we were using mostly our regular multifilament string, but I also played a lot with this racquet strung with HEAD's new Sonic Pro co-polyester, and I was finding much more action on my serves with the Sonic Pro string."
The solid and stable response of the MicroGel Extreme Pro continued to impress our team when returning serve. Finding the solid response to more than make up for any loss in maneuverability was Spencer. "Though a little less maneuverable than the MicroGel Extreme, the MicroGel Extreme Pro added pace and depth to returns. It was nice to be able to take a more controlled swing and still get that solid feel and good pace." Jason was in agreement. "Again, the MicroGel Extreme Pro gets the upper hand for me over the MicroGel Extreme. Torsional stability was great. Returning a big first serve didn't result in a racquet twisting return. Blocking balls back didn't end up in the net either, and I found most of my returns landed with impressive depth."
Chris enjoyed a stable and maneuverable response from the racquet on returns. "I found this racquet to be very solid and very comfortable when returning. I was able to block serves back with very impressive accuracy. The racquet also felt maneuverable when being more aggressive so I was able to take some good cuts at returns. I wasn't finding as much spin with this version, and when I missed I tended to miss deep." Enjoying some control and consistency was Granville. "I was very comfortable with this racquet on serve returns. I was easily directing short slice returns cross court against my serve and volley opponent. When given the opportunity to drive a return down the line I was on it, enjoying control with consistency." Ryan found serve returns to be the deciding shot for his favorite pick of the MicroGel Extremes. "Returning serve with this version of the racquet is what gives my vote to this version over the other. This racquet didn't twist and jerk at all on the returns like the lighter Extreme seemed to do. It was easy to get a good deep return in, even on hard to reach serves. Blocking the ball on big serves still resulted in good depth, and the slice return on the backhand side turned out to be a very effective shot. Most of the time my slice return is more of a defensive shot, but I was able to use it very aggressively."
Our team found more power and weight on their shots thanks to the added heft of the MicroGel Extreme Pro compared to the MicroGel Extreme. Despite being 1/4 inch shorter than the MicroGel Extreme, the added weight of the Pro version made for more power from all areas of the court. With the power came increased stability and a very solid feel at impact. Our testers noted more depth and weight on their shots from all areas of the court with this version. Stronger players who can utilize the mass of a racquet will find a lot of performance from the MicroGel Extreme Pro.
|Last Shots from our playtesters|
Granville. "A very solid and worthy addition to the Head performance line. This new stick fills that niche in the player's racquet category somewhere between a Wilson Pro Staff 6.1, a HEAD Radical and a Babolat Pure Drive."
Jason. "At my playing level, I would take the lighter MicroGel Extreme over the MicroGel Extreme Pro. Although the MicroGel Extreme Pro did provide extra stability and pace, the MicroGel Extreme allowed me to really open up on my ground strokes."
Ryan. "The MicroGel Extreme Pro is the way to go for me. A little more weight resulted in a heavier ball that was harder for opponents to control, more depth, and greater spin. A great racquet. The color scheme even grew on me after awhile."
Spencer. "The MicroGel Extreme Pro is a solid racquet that is versatile enough to suit any type of game. Though I prefer the MicroGel Extreme version, the MicroGel Extreme Pro offers many aspects to suit an upper level player and the forgiveness to suit the mid level player."
Chris. "A solid playing stick, but the performance didn't come together for me like it did with the lighter and longer Microgel Extreme. While I served better with this one, I was playing at a higher level from all the other areas of the court with the other version. On paper, this was more my type of racquet, but the results speak for themselves, and I was just playing better tennis with the lighter MicroGel Extreme."
|Chris||5.0 baseline player currently using a Babolat Pure Drive Roddick. Chris uses a full-western forehand grip, has a fast swing style and hits both a one-handed and a two-handed backhand.|
|Jason||4.0 baseliner currently using a Head Flexpoint Radical Midplus. Jason has a fairly aggressive semi-western topspin forehand and hits a one-handed backhand.|
|Granville||5.5 all-court player currently using a Hyper ProStaff 6.1. Granville is an aggressive player who uses an eastern forehand grip and goes continental on everything else, hits with a flat swing and a one-handed backhand.|
|Ryan||4.5 all court player currently using a Slazenger Pro Braided Henman racquet. Ryan uses a semi-western forehand grip, a one-handed backhand and has a long swing style.|
|Spencer||4.5 Baseline player currently using a Prince Hybrid Hornet MP. Spencer uses a full-western forehand grip, and hits with a one-handed backhand.|
Review date: June 2007. If you found this review interesting or have further questions or comments please contact us.
All content copyright 2007 Tennis Warehouse.