1997: Head knocks their competitors for a loop when they introduce their new line of titanium tennis racquets. Beginning with the Ti.S6, and a catchy advertising catch phrase (The Power of Light), Head gradually adds to their titanium line of racquets until there are a dozen different frames to choose from. Eventually there is a Head Titanium racquet available for every level of player.
2000: The titanium craze has faded. Titanium, while still popular, is no longer the cutting edge technology it once was. Head recognizes the need for a new racquet technology and introduces Intelligence Technology featuring intellifibers. The concept of intellifibers make a great story - using the mechanical energy of ball impact and converting it - in less than a millisecond - into electrical energy. The result is a boost in power by stiffening the throat area, where intellifibers are located, and a reduction in vibration for added comfort.
2001: Head has expanded Intelligence from their initial game improvement racquets (i.S10 and i.S12) to include 'tweeners and players models. The i.S6 is offered in Midplus (105 square inches) and Oversize (115 square inches). The Midplus can be considered a 'tweener, similar in specs to the Ti.S2, while the Oversize is a sort of second generation Ti.S6, making it more of a game improvement racquet. Tennis Warehouse playtests the i.S6 MP and OS for two weeks on hard and clay courts. Here are our intellicomments.
The i.S6 MP is light enough to swing fast, yet has adequate mass for a solid feel. Granville says, "the i.S6 MP really seems like two racquets, depending on playing style. Starting out, I found I could whip this racquet around, so I did. It was easy to maneuver and had a generous sweetspot with appropriate power. After awhile, I decided to swing it like a heavier racquet - longer, smoother strokes without excessive motion. I found I could 'hit out' and still keep the ball within the lines. I generated good topspin off both sides and the racquet flexed comfortably. Off-center shots were still less forgiving than with a heavier racquet but many players will enjoy the light weight, comfortable sweetspot and modest power of the i.S6 MP." Don adds, "the weight and balance of the i.S6 MP make it tempting to 'arm' the ball. After a few minutes of this, I figured I better stop or I'd have a sore arm. When I settled into my normal medium-fast swing and stepped into shots, I played well with this racquet. I was able to hit hard, deep and with precision. Out of position shots are a cinch but you need to swing the racquet or the ball will end up short. Good topspin and slice, although balls will tend to sit up unless you hit through those slices."
"Mark offers, "the i.S6 MP is a whippity-do-dah day racquet. It was very easy for me to whip it, and whip it good! It's extremely light and maneuverable. Consequently, I needed a lot of racquet head speed to generate power. I started off hitting against a ball machine and I was consistently swinging too early. Once I found my timing, I was able to hit solid forehands and backhands. I had to swing pretty hard though, because the racquet didn't supply much power." Dan comments, "when I first picked up the i.S6 MP I expected more flexibility and control than I received. My long stroke style required a haircut to adjust to the stiffness and power level of this racquet. Fortunately, I had little trouble producing healthy amounts of topspin. Slice was another issue, though. There simply wasn't enough head weight to provide a solid feel when slicing the ball." Drew concurs, adding, "I never really found my groove on slices. They tended to float and lack control."
The i.S6 MP is maneuverable at net and will favor more aggressive volleyers. Mark explains, "I could have used a little more power from this racquet on volleys. I could place them OK but many landed short. Once I started punching volleys with more authority, power and depth improved. Maneuverability was excellent." Drew adds, "blocking balls was relatively easy. Hitting them past my opponent with any authority was harder. Due to its light weight, the i.S6 MP requires some effort for deep penetrating volleys."
Don says, "the i.S6 MP was easy to maneuver at net but I found blocking most balls just didn't provide enough power. I had to have some forward motion on my volleys in order to put the ball away, which is true for most racquets in this weight category." Granville offers, "doubles players will enjoy the i.S6 MP on volleys, as it has a good weight and balance for net play. While its light weight makes it a bit less stable than heavier models, it is certainly a capable racquet in the hands of competent net players." Dan comments, "this is a great racquet for doubles specialists with short, compact strokes all-around. It only takes a simple blocking motion for effective volleys. Maneuverability is excellent at net, which helps make preparing for overheads beyond easy. Putting away those shots is even easier."
The i.S6 MP can be swung very fast on serves, which has its pluses and minuses according to our playtesters. Granville says, "serving with the i.S6 MP was a pleasant experience. From the first warm-up serve to the last point of the set, I was simply crushing the ball. I couldn't hit the ball any harder if I'd wanted to. OK, reality check.. as hard as I was hitting the ball, I don't think I topped 100 mph. However, I was also able to place the ball seemingly at will - left corner, down the middle and into the body. Once again, this racquet's best playing characteristics were uncovered after I started hitting through the ball." Dan adds, "although I was hitting big, first serves consistently long, slice and kick serves worked well. Once I slowed down my swing a little and concentrated on applying spin, this racquet showed its strength. It should work well for doubles players, whose primary concern is getting to net."
Don offers, "the i.S6 MP's light weight demands a quick swing to generate good pace on serves. However, swinging too fast can result in mis-hits, which aren't very forgiving due to the frame's stiffness. Once I grooved my swing speed, I was able to hit effective serves with good pace and excellent placement." Drew adds, "the quick swing speed and somewhat smaller sweetspot requires a player's timing be 'on'. I was mis-hitting a lot of balls until I slowed down my serve a bit." Mark continues, "I didn't get much pop on my serves with the i.S6 MP, but I had good control and good spin. I liked the feel of the racquet when serving. It swung easily and my arm felt good when I contacted the ball."
The i.S6 MP is fairly versatile when it comes to returning serve. Don explains, "there's just enough mass to allow for blocking back booming first serves. This worked great against my net rushing opponent. Against slower serves, I was able to (and needed to) take a backswing and hit more offensive returns. Otherwise, the ball landed too short." Granville offers, "in the right hands the i.S6 MP is capable of being an offensive weapon on returns. With practice, one can hit the ball early and either block the ball short, up the middle, or hit out and drive the ball down either side of the court." Dan says, "like groundstrokes, I found I hit my best returns if I kept my stroke short. Longer strokes required extra spin to keep the ball from flying too long."
The i.S6 MP is a true lightweight, 'tweener racquet. It will favor 4.0 and higher players, who like to swing fast and play aggressively at net. This includes doubles specialists who are looking for a racquet they can maneuver quickly, and that offers good control.
(Scores are determined by averaging individual play test scores)
At 8.3 ounces (strung), the i.S6 OS is easy to swing from the baseline. Drew offers, "the tendency to flick topspin shots and try other wristy shots is hard to avoid with such a light racquet. Despite its low weight, hitting groundies with the i.S6 OS delivered a fairly cushioned feel and decent power. Even mis-hits didn't feel bad on my arm. The bigger sweetspot of the oversize was easy to find." John adds, "one of the first things I noticed when picking up the i.S6 OS was how light it was. Nonetheless, I was pleasantly surprised by the stability of this racquet. Whether hitting forehands or backhands, off-center shots weren't jarring to my arm and the racquet didn't noticeably twist or torque. Thanks to a fairly open string pattern I was able to generate good spin from both sides. When pulled wide, a simple flick of the wrist sent the ball deep cross-court or down the line. Although the frame is very stiff the racquet still had a cushioned feel. Unlike most ultra-lightweight racquets I found that I had better than average control when swinging with my normal medium-fast swing." Don says, "it's difficult not to compare this racquet with the Ti.S6. I found the i.S6 OS similar in weight, power and control. However, it seemed to provide better damping, resulting in a more solid and comfortable feel. The string pattern also seemed more open, allowing for wicked spin. However, the price for this added spin is increased string movement. Due to the racquet's light weight, players with compact strokes will want to string it at the low end of the tension range to maximize the racquet's power potential. Anything above mid range requires a medium-full swing."
Dan adds, "at a feathery 8.3 ounces the i.S6 OS felt almost hollow throughout the head. Even so, the racquet delivers pure power. It requires only a compact swing to create swift pace. The open string pattern allowed good topspin, but my slice shots lacked solidity. The faster I swung, the fatter my slices would sit up." Mark comments, "the i.S6 OS felt very light and stiff and because it's so light I could only generate power on my groundstrokes by swinging hard. This was easy, thanks to the light weight, but my percentage of mis-hits increased. However, I was able to generate good spin."
The i.S6 Oversize's combination of light weight and 115 headsize make it easy to get to almost any volley or lob. Mark explains, "hitting volleys was very easy with the i.S6 OS. The large head, great maneuverability and stiff frame are ideal characteristics for volleying (at least for me). Short, punch volleys are most effective with this racquet." John continues, "the i.S6 OS is predictably easy to maneuver, and is a weapon at net. The large sweetspot and light weight took the work out of hitting deep, potent volleys. Even when hitting the ball late or reacting to a hard-hit passing shot, I had no trouble hitting effective volleys." Drew says, "very quick around the net and making contact with the larger head was easy. I could block volleys with good placement but had to swing to get power, and this took a toll on control."
Dan offers, "the i.S6 OS delivers plenty of pace on volleys hit in the sweetspot. However, off-center shots don't produce much power and the racquet can get pushed around a bit, perhaps due to its light weight. Manipulating spin and experimenting with 'english shots' is fun, thanks to the open 16x19 pattern in a 115 head. A great choice for doubles specialists or net rushers with a compact net game. When it comes to hitting overheads, hasta la vista, baby! Preparing early for surprise lobs is no problem and potential power is seemingly endless - no rolling blackouts here.."
Serving with the i.S6 OS is fun and easy, thanks again to its light weight and oversize head. Drew comments, "it was no problem generating racquet head speed and spin serves had plenty of action. Flat serves in the sweetspot had good pace, but anything hit outside this area was substantially weaker." Dan continues, "for an oversize racquet of this weight, the kick and spin control were impressive. It's worth mentioning again that the open string pattern will cater to spin artists. You can feel the bite on the ball as it contacts the strings." John says, "the racquet's weight made it easy to swing it fast, which added a few miles per hour to my serve. Placement was a piece of cake and the open string pattern aided in the production of spin, making kick serves really jump."
Mark comments, "it took me awhile to find the range on my serves, but once I did I was able to hit pretty good spin and kick serves. It's easy (and necessary) to generate a lot of racquet head speed with the i.S6 OS because it's so light. The wide open string pattern makes it even easier to generate spin, but I spent a lot of time straightening the strings between points." Don adds, "similar to the Ti.S6, this racquet is so light that it's easy to whip it around on serves. Players with short serving strokes will find benefit in the 115 head for power and open string pattern for spin."
Whether blocking back hard returns or taking a backswing against weaker second serves, the i.S6 OS' maneuverability is an asset. Once again, string tension is critical to taking full advantage of this racquet's attributes. Players who use compact strokes will benefit most with lower tensions, while faster swing types will prefer mid range or higher. John comments, "the most impressive thing to me about the i.S6 OS was its stability when returning serve. I was able to block back hard, deep serves with depth and pace. The racquet didn't torque or twist. When given the time to attack my opponent's serve I was able to hit offensive returns with power and precision." Don adds, "I expected the i.S6 OS to get pushed around more against serves. However, I was pleasantly surprised to be able to block back fast serves with little racquet twisting. Chip & charge returns were the natural choice against short second serves. The only caution here is to hit through the ball to avoid the dreaded sitter return." Drew says, "the light weight allowed me to adjust to difficult serves but getting the timing right was a bit of a challenge. I missed a few topspin returns, likely as a result of taking a bigger swing. I had better results when I went to a slice return, which is easier to control." Dan says simply, "concise, curtailed strokes yielded best results on serve returns."
The i.S6 OS is a worthy "upgrade" for Ti.S6 users seeking a more solid feel. Its styling is a bit more refined and the intellifibers seem to successfully dampen vibration without masking the feel of the ball. 2.5-4.0 players will benefit most from its light weight and above-average power level.
(Scores are determined by averaging individual play test scores)
|Dan||5.5 all-court player currently using a Prince Triple Threat Warrior MP.|
|Don||4.5-5.0 all-court player currently using a Yonex Ultimum RQ Ti-1700 MP|
|Drew||4.5-5.0 baseline player currently using a Wilson ProStaff 6.0 85.|
|Eileen||4.5 all-court player currently using a Yonex Ultimum RQ Ti-1500.|
|Granville||5.5 all-court player currently using a Wilson ProStaff 6.1 95.|
|John||4.5-5.0 all-court player currently using a Prince Triple Threat Warrior OS.|
|Mark||5.5 all-court player currently using a Prince Thunder 820 OS.|
Review date: June, 2001. If you found this review interesting or have further questions or comments please contact us.
All content copyright 2001 Tennis Warehouse.