Prince Michael Chang Titanium Racquet Review
It seems like only yesterday that Prince was introducing the Michael Chang Longbody racquet to the world. It was the first extra-length racquet (at least the first one we hit with) designed to be a "player's racquet" (less power, more control). The previous extra-length racquets we'd seen had huge heads and funky designs. They generated an enormous amount of power and tremendous spin, but they were unfamiliar with the concept of control. The Michael Chang Longbody changed all that. It was the racquet that brought extra length to the masses.
In reality, the Michael Chang Longbody racquet has been on the market for about 3 years. In the computer industry it would be a dinosaur. Although tennis racquets don't age quite as fast as computers, three years is still a long time for a racquet to remain unchanged (There are some exceptions to this rule. The Wilson Pro Staff 6.0 has remained virtually unchanged for well over 10 years. Of course, if Pete Sampras wasn't playing with it it probably would have been discontinued long ago.). Because the Michael Chang Longbody is still one of the most popular racquets on the market Prince isn't about to change it or discontinue it. What they've done is introduce a new Chang racquet, the Michael Chang Titanium Longbody, which combines the qualities of the original Michael Chang Longbody with Prince's latest technological advances.
Like the original Michael Chang Longbody, the Michael Chang Titanium Longbody comes in two head sizes: 95 and 107 square inches. Both head sizes are 20 mm wide and weigh 11.4 and 11.6 ounces unstrung. By comparison, the Michael Chang Longbody Mid Plus weighs 11.2 ounces and the Oversize weighs only 10.3 ounces (remember this number). Both the original Chang and the Titanium Chang are 28 inches long and head light.
There are two major technological differences between the old and new Chang racquets. The first difference is the titanium in the shaft of the Michael Chang Titanium racquet. The second is the Sweet Spot Suspension System, which the Michael Chang Titanium Racquet has and the original Michael Chang Longbody doesn't.
The titanium that is braided with the graphite in the shaft of the Michael Chang Titanium Longbody (and which gives it its name) increases the stiffness of the frame and makes the Chang Titanium more powerful than the original Chang. While the power levels given to the Chang Titanium racquets by Prince aren't a lot higher than the original Chang racquets (Mid Plus Power Levels: 690 for the original Chang Longbody, 700 for the Chang Titanium Longbody. Oversize: 730 for the original Chang Longbody, 800 for the Chang Titanium Longbody) every play tester who hit with the original Chang and the Titanium Chang felt the Titanium Chang was noticeably more powerful. This was true for both the Mid Plus and Oversize frames. One play tester felt the new Chang Titaniums had the spirit of a power racquet in the body of a control racquet (We are in California, after all). The power levels are actually very near the middle of the power spectrum.
Prince's Sweet Spot Suspension System is easily one the best racquet innovations to come along in a long time and a definite improvement over the original Michael Chang Longbody racquets. While it's tough to tell if it makes the sweet spot any bigger (Prince says it does), the reduction in vibration is noticeable immediately. The Chang Titanium racquets have a lot less vibration than the original Changs and they absorb a lot more shock, especially outside of the sweet spot. A major benefit for anyone with arm problems or anyone who wants to avoid them.
The new technology on the Michael Chang Titanium racquets makes them more powerful and more stable than the original Michael Chang Longbody racquets. The extra stability should appeal to all players, while the extra power will benefit those players who want or need more power.
One area that the new technology didn't improve is maneuverability. Both the Mid Plus and The Oversize frame felt less maneuverable to our play testers than the original Michael Chang Longbodies, but the Oversize was much worse than the Mid Plus. The extra ounce of weight (compared to the original Chang Oversize ) and the larger hoop make the oversize frame very difficult to maneuver. A player will need to have good strength, great timing, or great preparation to play well with this racquet. A physically strong player will be able to muscle the frame into position and should enjoy the solid feel of the racquet. Good timing and early preparation will be required for the rest of us because you have to start your swing very early and once you start it there's no stopping and restarting. The smaller head on the Mid Plus helps to make it much more maneuverable than the Oversize. It still felt less maneuverable than the original Chang Mid Plus, but the difference is much less significant than with the Oversize frames.
Maneuverability wasn't the only thing our play testers prefered about the Mid Plus frame. The Mid Plus Chang Titanium scored higher than the Oversize with our play testers in every category except for power. They liked the stability and all court capabilities of the racquet and they also liked the spin they were able to generate with the open string pattern (14 mains - string breakers beware). The smaller hitting area on the Mid Plus frame was a non-factor due to the increased maneuverability that came with it.
The Oversize Chang Titanium scores reflect the impact maneuverability has on all aspects of the game. Our play testers liked the results when they hit the ball solidly, but it was too much work too much of the time. It's a very solid hitting frame with a nice amount of power and control, but only a small percentage of players are going be able to play well with it.
The Michael Chang Titanium Longbody racquets really show just how thin the line is between a good racquet and an average racquet. Both the Mid Plus and the Oversize Chang Titanium Racquets have the same heritage, design, and technological advances, yet just the difference in head size makes one play much better than the other. If you do decide to demo one of these racquets make sure you know which head size you're using. There is a difference.