HEAD YouTek Radical Pro Racquet Review
With the retirement of Andre Agassi from professional tennis, the legendary HEAD Radical racquet line has a new face.
That face sits atop the 6 foot 3 inch frame of the fiery 22 year old Scottish born tennis player, Andy Murray. The (current) world #4 is best known for being a great defensive counter puncher with a big first serve, and the HEAD YouTek Radical Pro is his weapon of choice.
In an update from the previous Microgel version, the YouTek Radical Pro gets an IQ boost thanks to the inclusion of d3o. d3o is a "smart material" which changes its physical characteristics based on the force applied to it. According to HEAD, upon high speed impacts the d3o molecules lock up instantly to increase stiffness, and therefore, power. On low speed shots the molecules absorb the impact to provide a soft touch for better feel.
In 2009, with the help of the YouTek Radical Pro, the Scotsman reached the quarterfinals of the French Open and the semi-finals of Wimbledon. Both results were career bests.
Our TW playtest team took the YouTek Radical Pro out on a month-long playtest to see if it could also bring out the best in them.
Groundstrokes - Score: 74
The Head YouTek Radical Pro, with its open string pattern and 11.6 oz weight, helped our TW playtesters hit with more pace and put some added bite on the ball.
Hitting with tons of power and spin was Chris. He said, "I enjoyed the solid feel and stability of this stick. I was finding some nice plow through at contact, which gave my shots plenty of depth and pace. I actually found so much depth and pace that I had to deaden the stringbed slightly to compensate. A low-powered co-poly string worked best for me in this one. I loved the spin this generated, and with a low-powered string I didn't have to worry about flatter shots sailing long. I enjoyed the touch and feel on my slice backhand. I was able to execute some nice drop shots and sharp angles."
"After the playtest I had mixed feelings about this stick," said Jason, who was on the fence regarding the racquet's performance. "The YouTek Radical Pro packed a lot more power than I anticipated. This was both a gift and a curse. I was hitting with more pace and spin, but at times I felt I had to hold back a bit for fear of over-hitting. The weight and open string pattern really helped on my slices. I was able to generate tons of spin without sacrificing velocity. I didn't find the weight to be a problem so much as the swingweight. The sluggishness was most noticeable on my one handed backhand."
Kana had to make initial adjustments. "The Head YOUTEK Radical Pro comes in at 11.6 ounces and 2 points head light, which is heavier than my normal racquet," said Kana. "At first, I was hitting lots of balls late. The balance didn't make it feel any lighter, and I lacked the ability to whip it like I can with lighter racquets. Shots hit in the sweetspot felt solid and went deep into the court, with more spin than the midplus version. When I hit outside the sweetspot the racquet seemed to flutter too much."
The weight was an issue for Danny. He said, "The first thing that caught my attention with the YouTek Radical Pro was the weight. The racquet feels heavier then what the specs say. The weight is only 11.6 oz, but the balance is 2 pts head light and the swing-weight is 345, which made it feel heavy. I had to make sure that my preparation was good when playing with this racquet from the baseline. Of all the YouTek Radicals, I thought this model felt the best when I made contact in the sweetspot. It also had the most power and plow through. I also thought it was easiest on the arm when I hit the sweetspot. However, any shot hit slightly off-center made the racquet feel a little unstable and was a bit jarring to my arm."
Troy found the YouTek Radical Pro's weight worked to his advantage. "Initially, I found this racquet very solid when hitting groundies," said Troy. "Stability was improved, compared to the midplus, thanks to the heavier weight and higher swingweight. It took me some time to get used to the hefty feel that this racquet possesses, but when I did the racquet did a lot of the work for me. The heft really helped me hit a heavier, more penetrating ball from the baseline. The open string pattern helped me generate a lot more topspin than the 18x20 midplus. The only downside was that I did not have as much control as with the midplus, especially on the few times I tried to flatten out my shots."
Volleys - Score: 80
The stability of the YouTek Radical Pro proved to be a hit with our playtesters at the net.
Danny had some mixed results. "I was slightly slower than normal at net," said Danny. "Again, my volleys felt solid in the hitting zone, but anything out of it was inconsistent. Sometimes, I would stick my volleys and other times my volleys would just dump in the net."
"I was extremely confident at the net, as every shot did what I wanted," said Kana, adding, "Every hit felt solid. Even on the high, hard to reach balls. I could use the racquet's mass to execute a heavier volley, rather than trying to use my own power."
Chris was able to play both a finesse and power game at net. He said, "The stability of this racquet was very useful at net. I was able to punch volleys with authority and pace, without sacrificing accuracy. As from the baseline, my touch was good. I felt confident caressing the ball away, as well as putting some stick on it and punching it deep."
Jason said, "The racquet felt firm and stable up at net. It felt solie even against hard hit shots. Although the high swingweight was still noticeable on volleys, it wasn't nearly as bad. I didn't have any issues when I had to hit reaction volleys, so the sluggish feel was more of a non-factor."
Troy enjoyed the weight of the racquet. He said, "The racquet's mass made for a very stable feel at the net. Hitting deep, penetrating volleys was easy to do with this stick; just a short punch and the racquet did the work for me. I had to prepare early to eliminate being late on my volleys, though. The stability from the weight combined with a large sweetspot to make this a sweet feeling racquet for me on volleys."
Serves - Score: 78
Our TW playtesters were able to hit some heavy serves with the YouTek Radical Pro.
"Consistency is what I want most out of my service games right now," said Jason, who liked the added power. "I'm not trying to pound my first serves; just hit 70-80% pace and spin it in. With the YouTek Radical Pro I felt that I could get more pace on my serves, and hit a heavier ball. However, I didn't feel my serve was as consistent as with the Radical Midplus. It was tough to get in a groove. When I did get my serves in, though, it was much more of a weapon."
Kana felt she had good access to spin. She said, "This racquet was great for me when trying to do more of a kick style serve. It offered great spin, thanks to the open stringbed. I wasn't afraid of going for it on a second serves since they all seemed to drop in."
"I had some impressive pace and spin serving with this racquet, " said Chris, who was serving well with the racquet. "I found some good action on the ball. All that grip from the stringbed allowed me to stay aggressive on both deliveries without sacrificing consistency. I wouldn't say I was absolutely blowing people away with pace and spin, but I was definitely finding enough of both to get the job done."
Finding his groove was Troy. He said, "The open string pattern added a lot of slice on my serves, which I noticed the most when serving on the ad side of the court. I was really able to pull my opponent off the court with my lefty serve. I did struggle at times to generate racquet head speed. It was harder to get the wrist snap that I had when using the lighter midplus version. The plus side to that mass was that the ball jumped off the stringbed more. As I've stated before, the racquet did the work for me. I was really able to control my serves with spin, which suits my serve style well."
"I think my overheads and serves were where I liked the YouTek Radical Pro the most," said Danny. "The reduced maneuverability didn't hurt my serves because I was able to adjust my ball toss. Surprisingly, my first serve was more consistent then my second. I found my serve to be more consistent when serving in the middle of the box (body serve), compared with trying to hit a wide or T serve."
Serve Returns - Score: 76
The high swingweight of the YouTek Radical Pro got mixed reviews from our TW team on returns.
"The biggest problem I faced when returning serves was maneuverability," said Troy, who had to adjust to the unfamiliar weight. "When being stretched out or having to flick a return back using my wrist, I really struggled to get the ball to land near the baseline. Getting the racquet prepared was the biggest challenge. If I was able to get into the ready position earlier I was able to hit more offensively. Even when shortening up my backswing and taking small quick slaps at the ball I was consistently returning deeper in the court than I do with my stick. Once I dialed in my timing and preparation, the amount of plow through this racquet provided was a real advantage on my returns."
"I was taking a good crack at returns and was able to get plenty of spin for control," said Chris, who returned aggressively. "I was also impressed with the level of feel when blocking back returns. In both instances I felt the stability of the racquet positively influenced the amount of control and accuracy."
With the added weight, Jason was able to return serves with pace and depth. He said, "I enjoyed returning serves with this stick. On forehand returns, I could be aggressive. The racquet generated generous pace even if I didn't take full swings. On the backhand I typically slice serves back, which played into the strength of this racquet. The only real problem I had was when pulled out wide on the forehand side. It was tough getting the racquet going while on the run."
"If my shot wasn't directly in the sweetspot it felt like the racquet fluttered," said Kana, who struggled with her returns. "I'm more confident when I'm hitting my returns flat and solid, and with the YouTek Radical Pro I wasn't that confident when executing a heavy return."
Danny was in agreement. He said, "Whether returning in the deuce or ad court, I was less consistent than I would have liked. I had to slow down my swing a little bit if I wanted to get my return in the court. Rarely would I go for a low-percentage return with the YouTek Radical Pro."
Overall - Score: 76
The Head YouTek Radical Pro impressed our team from most areas of the court. Heavier than the Midplus, and with a more open string pattern, the YouTek Radical Pro was more stable and hit a heavier ball. Up at net, the high swingweight didn't seem to be much of a factor, as our playtesters felt this was an area where the racquet excelled. The mass of the racquet helped control fast paced shots without sacrificing touch and control. Across the board, we felt the weight increased pace on our serves. The 16x19 string pattern was a real asset in accessing spin.
Our playtesters' biggest gripe was the racquet's high swingweight (345). Some players needed to get acclimated before feeling comfortable, while others were able to adjust immediately. Overall, we found the YouTek Radical Pro to be another solid addition to the lineage. Players with refined strokes capable of swinging comfortably will love the plow-through and stability this racquet provides. A must demo for the 4.5+ player.
Chris - "I liked the power, spin and stability."
Jason - "Powerful for a player's racquet. The backhand slice and solid stable feel. Great access to spin."
Kana - "I loved hitting volleys with this racquet. Everything felt solid and crisp, and even if I wanted to just caress the ball, I could."
Danny - "I loved this racquet when I found the sweetspot. I also liked this racquet the most for serves."
Troy - "The relatively high swingweight provided a ton of plow through on groundstrokes and stability on volleys. I haven't generated as much spin with another racquet since using the Donnay Pro One Oversize."
Chris - "This racquet could be a little lively with the wrong string set up."
Jason - "Powerful for a players racquet. Sluggish."
Kana - "It's not as stable as I would like on groundstrokes. It flutters a bit and the weight makes it hard for me to maneuver the racquet in caught-up situations."
Danny "I didn't like the instability I experienced out of the hitting zone. I didn't like the balance and swing weight of this frame. I thought it gave the racquet a heavier feel then it should have."
Troy - "Maneuverability took some time for me to get used to. This is about as high of a swingweight that I can handle without losing racquet head speed. The midplus maintained control better, especially when hitting flatter strokes; but without a doubt this Pro version is also a control frame."
HEAD Youtek Radical Pro Scores
(Scores are determined by averaging individual play test scores)
Chris: 5.0 All court player currently using the Volkl Power Bridge 10 Mid. Chris uses a full-western forehand grip, has a fast swing style and hits a one-handed backhand.
Danny: Open baseline player currently using a Volkl Power Bridge 10 Mid. Danny uses a semi-western forehand grip, a two-handed backhand and has a long swing style.
Kana: 5.0 baseliner with a western forehand and two-handed backhand. Currently using the Yonex RQ iS 1 Tour Light.
Jason: 4.0 baseliner with a semi-western forehand and one handed backhand. Currently using a customized Volkl Power Bridge 9.
Troy: 4.5 Troy plays left handed, hits a two-handed backhand and goes western on his forehand. He is a baseliner and hits with a lot of spin. Currently Playing with the Wilson K Blade 98.
Review date: December 2009. If you found this review interesting or have further questions or comments please contact us.
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