Adding a new technology to the HEAD Prestige is much like McDonald's changing the recipe of its special sauce.
You know there is going to be a strong reaction.
Over at your local McDonald's, you'd surely find mixed opinions. Of course, some will love the change. Some hungry folks may even be tempted away from competing restaurants. On the flipside, others would scream heresy.
In tennis, introducing a new technology to a player's racquet such as the Prestige carries much the same challenge. Existing users may embrace the change. Others may be attracted to the racquet and away from competing brands. Of course, some are likely to stay faithful to the previous version, seeing the change as unnecessary.
The point is, whether change is a good thing or a bad thing is in the eyes of the beholder or, as is the case here, in the hands of the tennis player.
By now, you have probably guessed that HEAD's Prestige line-up has been updated with a new technology. As we have seen with other recent HEAD racquet introductions, HEAD has brought MicroGEL technology to the Prestige table. According to HEAD, MicroGEL creates a rock-solid feel and improved comfort while offering extra stability against twisting.
As with previous versions of the Prestige, the MicroGEL line-up features three racquets. The Mid and Midplus versions remain in the line-up, however, unlike the i.Prestige and Flexpoint Prestige lines, there's no extended length version here. Instead, the MicroGEL Prestige series features a standard length "Pro" version. The MicroGEL Prestige Pro -- while also a midplus -- features an open, 16/19 string pattern and a tad more heft than the MicroGEL Prestige Midplus.
With the latest version of the Prestige racquets in our hands, we were eager to find out if the MicroGEL update could add any special sauce to our strokes. Our 4.5 NTRP level and above playtesters hit the courts for a three-week playtest.
Our opinions of each racquet follow, starting with the MicroGEL Prestige Mid, then the MicroGEL Prestige Midplus, and last but not least, the MicroGEL Prestige Pro. Each racquet was initially strung with a 17 gauge multifilament string at 2 lbs above mid tension. Once a base was established with our regular string/tension setup, our testers were free to string the racquets with any desired string and tension setup.
From the baseline all of our testers agreed the MicroGEL Prestige Mid offered plenty of control, though when it came to power, opinions were split. From the initial pick-up to on-court testing, Chris found the weight and balance of the racquet to his liking. "Having used the Prestige Classic 600 back in the day, I was very excited to try another Prestige Mid. This new MicroGEL version felt great in the hand when I first picked it up and swung it around. I continued to enjoy the weight and balance during play, but I didn't find that buttery, Prestige feel I was expecting. Whereas the Prestige Classic 600 offers a lively response that's as smooth as silk, this version felt a little flat. I tried several different string setups to try to coax some life from the stringbed, but never found that lively and forgiving response I was seeking. Don't get me wrong; I loved the control and the stability of this racquet. It offered excellent plow through, and I was finding depth with ease. I actually prefer this racquet over both the Liquidmetal and Flexpoint versions, but it's no Prestige Classic. The best analogy I can give is a surfing one. The Prestige Classic is like surfing barefoot - you feel everything. The MicroGEL Prestige Mid is like surfing with booties - you can still pull off the same moves, but you feel a tad disconnected in the process."
Enjoying the control but seeking more power was Danny. "Wow! What a low-powered racquet. I think the MicroGEL Prestige Mid model had more control than its previous model. I really had to focus from the baseline when I was testing this racquet. I found the depth of my ball to be shorter than I would have liked due to the low power. However, I felt I had more control with this racquet when I was trying to hit with spin. Generally, I like to hit the ball square or flat, and when I tried that with this racquet I was somewhat inconsistent."
Preferring the smaller headsize because of its crisp feel was Granville. "I felt there was good power on the groundies, and I got good depth right from the start. It was a comfortable hit with a generous sweetspot. I preferred the crisper feel of the smaller head size as compared with the other two versions." Unlike Granville, Spencer felt the small sweetspot and lack of power stymied his effectiveness. "I really enjoyed the weight and swingweight when hitting this one from the baseline. Unlike the Midplus and the Pro, the Mid was not forgiving, though I was not expecting it to be. It didn't have the power I need to assist my game for maximum effectiveness as I was hitting too many short balls. With the smaller 93 square inch head, the sweetspot wasn't so sugary for me. For the small periods when I felt dialed in, it felt great, but those were too few and far between, thus I lacked the all too important consistency factor."
Good stability and penetrating volleys made the MicroGEL Prestige Mid an asset at net with the majority of our team. Granville was able to get plenty of depth with his shots at net. "The Mid was very solid at the net, providing good power and feel. The crisp response was apparent at the net and gave me some added depth on my volleys. The balance was not quite head light enough for my game, but it's nothing a little lead tape can't fix." Using the weight of the racquet to his advantage was Chris. "I liked the response of this racquet at net. It felt very solid, with excellent resistance to twisting. The racquet felt comfortable and I was finding my targets with good consistency. I was able to punch the ball deep and use the weight of the racquet to hit penetrating volleys. Again, not a lively stringbed, but I was very impressed with the control."
Appreciating the stability but not volleying consistently was Spencer. "A combination of so-so maneuverability with a small sweetspot made for many mis-hit volleys when at net. I found many volleys that should have been more penetrating landing short and sitting up. If I have one glowing comment, it would be its stability." Danny felt the low power helped his consistency. "My volleys were really good with this racquet. I had good feel and stick when at net. The low power that the racquet offered allowed more consistency with my volleys. Sometimes I have a tendency to float my volleys long, but I didn't have to worry about that with this racquet."
Our team liked the feel and accuracy they were finding when serving with this racquet. Spencer was pleased with the effort to result ratio with the MicroGEL Prestige Mid. "When serving, I enjoyed how the weight of the racquet helped plow through the ball, creating a heavier ball with seemingly less effort. With this in mind, my serving was more consistent as I didn't feel like I needed to swing with any extra 'oomph' to be effective." The tight string pattern and feel from the racquet provided a level of comfort and familiarity on serve for Granville. "I felt very comfortable with this racquet in my hand. There was nice pop on the serves and good targeting. There was little to no adjustment period when switching to this racquet from my regular stick. I have come to prefer player's racquets with 18 mains, so this racquet was an easy fit for my game."
Placement was the strong point of serving with the MicroGEL Prestige Mid for Danny. "When serving, I liked how the Mid felt in my hand. It felt maneuverable and out of the three head sizes that I tried, I felt like I had the best accuracy with this model. The power of my first serve was about average, but the spin on my second serve was lacking." Chris was serving confidently with the racquet. "My favorite shot with this racquet was the serve. I was finding excellent depth and pace with little effort. Once the racquet got moving it plowed through the ball, resulting in solid, penetrating serves. I was also finding good access to spin. I had equal success with slice and topspin and was able to serve with lots of variety. I really had a lot of fun serving and volleying with this racquet."
Our team found a solid and stable response from the MicroGEL Prestige Mid on service returns. Danny found more success returning in doubles versus singles. "I found my service returns fell shorter than I would like with this racquet. My return was accurate and effective more during doubles than it was in singles. I like to take the ball on the rise, and with this model I was able to take a step or two inside the baseline to return, and I was still able to have a decent amount of control." Using the stability to his advantage when returning was Chris. "The stability I found from other areas of the court was also present on returns. When an opponent is serving heavy, it pays to have a solid stick, and this one fit the bill. I was able to block serves back with good depth and lots of control. When anticipating well or when given time, I was able to supply plenty of pace and hit aggressive returns."
Granville found hitting aggressively on returns was the key to success. "I was having my best results with this Mid version when hitting out aggressively or chipping low down the middle or to the sides. I really did not find any in-between here. This was the most demanding stick of the three versions when it came to returns." Disappointed with the lack of consistency and solid returns was Spencer. "Feeling this racquet to be less maneuverable than preferred, as well as having a small sweetspot, caused some frustration when returning serve. Not returning crisply resulted in too many put-a-ways from opponents at net when playing doubles. Returning in singles was less pressure, though leaving returns short proved to make points easy for the opposition as well."
Our team enjoyed the control and stability of the MicroGEL Prestige Mid. There's no doubt this racquet is better suited to players who like to supply their own power. One must take a full cut at the ball and use the racquet's mass. As is often the case with lower powered racquets, we found it easy to generate spin. Thanks to the need for a full, fast swing, our testers found plenty of racquet head speed available for generating both topspin and slice. The stringbed complied, providing plenty of grip and enough control for aggressive swings. Fans of previous Prestige Mids definitely need to spend some demo time with this one to see if its feel and response is for them. The MicroGEL Prestige Mid should also be near the top of demo lists for advanced players seeking a high level of control and stability from their racquet.
|The "Likes" of the racquet.|
|Danny "The two qualities that I thought were the best for the MicroGEL Prestige Mid related to my volleys and my return. I thought my volleys were solid, and I liked how my return would fall short when hitting crosscourt during doubles play."
Chris "I liked the control, stability and comfort. I also found it easy to hit with depth thanks to the weight of this racquet."
Granville "Good power, good sweetspot and the most crisp feeling of the three versions."
Spencer "The heft and feel in my hand felt excellent. When hitting it in the sweetspot, it's quite a joy. Unfortunately, I'm not at a level of consistency where this racquet would benefit my overall game."
|The "Dislikes" of the racquet.|
Danny "The MicroGEL Prestige Mid required me to swing faster with most of my strokes, which slightly wore me down mentally and physically. Also, I didn't like how stiff the racquet felt. I strung the racquet at mid and it still felt very firm. I need a more forgiving racquet."
Chris "Did not have that 'Prestige' feel of old and not as lively to boot. This one needed to be strung under mid-tension for me. The handle was also too short for my two-handed backhand."
Granville "Does not 'plow' through the ball as well as previous models."
Spencer "The lack of pop and penalty upon mis-hits were my biggest gripes with the Mid."
|Head MicroGel Prestige Mid|
(Scores are determined by averaging individual play test scores)
Our playtesters found the MicroGEL Prestige Midplus' 18/20 stringbed offered a forgiving and control-oriented response from the baseline. Finding the racquet to be a solid fit for his game was Spencer. "I really enjoyed the feel as well as the result of my shots from the baseline. The 18/20 string pattern seemed to add a firmness to the stringbed, adding control. Though the Midplus has a tight string pattern, the spin created was better than expected. It offered a fair sweetspot for a 98 square inch headsize. I was getting plenty of pop, even with hits just off center, and I was able to get decent depth. Feeling confident off both wings, I enjoyed the accuracy when hitting groundstrokes with the Midplus." Feeling the Midplus fit his game better with depth and consistency was Danny. "The MicroGEL Prestige Midplus was my second favorite racquet out of the three. The head size was more comfortable for me and a better fit for my game compared to the Mid. Although I wasn't achieving the amount of spin that I get with my current racquet, the power, depth and consistency that I was able to get was just as good."
Chris was impressed with the overall performance when hitting groundstrokes. "This was my favorite of the three off the ground; I enjoyed the response of this racquet. I was finding enough pop to help me put the ball away, even though this is a control-oriented racquet. I felt immediately comfortable with this racquet - even when picking it up after playtesting something drastically different. I was very impressed with the shot consistency of this racquet. The feel from the stringbed was as consistent as it gets. I was able to take good cuts at both topspin and slice shots without fear of over-hitting. Spin came pretty easily, and I really liked the level of spin I was getting on slice backhands. I was able to keep the ball low with lots of slice, which helped me set up for volleys when hitting approach shots. With all that performance, I thought this one blew the doors off the Liquidmetal and Flexpoint versions from the baseline." Noting the soft feel at impact was Granville. "Groundies tended to feel a little flat - not much pop in the ball, not too much depth without making some adjustments. The soft feel is a plus when it comes to the sweetspot, as it has a nice soft feel at impact, but it may have been a bit of a hindrance when trying to generate some pace to finish off a point."
Our playtest team felt very comfortable wielding the MicroGEL Prestige Midplus at net. Enjoying all aspects of the Midplus was Chris. "I loved the response of this racquet at net. It felt maneuverable and was loaded with feel and control. There didn't seem to be a dead spot on the racquet, and I was able to pull myself out of some dire positions when stretched to the limit. The racquet was moving through the contact zone with some nice crispness, and I was just loving the response on volleys." Granville adjusted well to the extra power this one offers. "The Midplus is nice at the net. Volleys seemed to spring off the stringbed a bit, so I got some extra power. I felt I needed to adjust to the racquet a bit as my touch volleys were popping up on me a bit. It also offered good power on overheads."
Danny had to ease up to control the power when volleying. "Due to the larger headsize, I had to take some of the pop off of my volleys with this model. I noticed a little less feel with the Midplus. However, I was able to add more spin to my volleys. I think the control and consistency was just as good as the smaller head version, I just had to take a smaller back swing on my volleys." Feeling at home at net was Spencer. "Volleys felt very controlled and precise. Maneuverability was good and punch was sufficient. I felt very comfortable whether I was coming in on approaches in singles or camping out and poaching in doubles. The forgiveness provided was key for me, allowing and promoting more courage and confidence at net."
Consistency and control were standout characteristics of the MicroGEL Prestige Midplus on serve. Also finding some useful power from the racquet was Danny. "Again, this racquet was noticeably better than the Midsize version for me. The amount of power and spin potential were improved, and it was a better fit for my game. I simply didn't have to work as hard with this one. The power of this racquet was still not at the mark that I would like it to be, but it was manageable." Feeling the Midplus' power was reminiscent of an oversize was Granville. "I felt I was getting some extra pop on the ball with the Midplus headsize. It felt somewhat like an oversize Radical to me on the serves and groundies in that much of the power seems to come from the stringbed rather than the racquet itself."
Chris was pleased with the accuracy and spin. "I continued to enjoy hitting with this stick when it came to serving. The racquet offered a decent level of power - not as much as my Babolat Pure Drive Roddick - but it wasn't under-powered, either. I was able to move the ball around with slice and topspin and was pleased with the amount of kick I was getting. I felt well connected to my serves and the response from the racquet was always consistent." Spencer agreed. "Much like the groundstrokes, I thought the control was excellent. It had some decent pop, but nothing substantial. I liked the accuracy I achieved as well as the consistency, though I didn't get the kick or spin I had hoped for. The Midplus was a comfortable stick when serving."
Thanks to the control-oriented response and forgiving stringbed, our testers found the MicroGEL Prestige Midplus made it easy to return serves with variety and consistency. Granville appreciated the forgiveness of the racquet on returns. "Good, forgiving racquet on the serve return. If properly positioned and out in front of the ball you can do whatever you want with it." Chris was able to go after all his shots while returning with the Midplus. "The racquet felt solid on returns. Again, what impressed me the most was the consistent feel from the stringbed. I loved the level of feel I found, both when blocking and when hitting more aggressively. I was able to hit all my shots with this one and find plenty of power - enough said."
Danny consistently found the sweetspot when returning with this one. "Not surprising, the Midplus was more effective when returning serves. I had more control with this model. I was able to find the sweetspot easier when I had to block the ball. The sweetspot on the smaller version was harder to find." Liking the versatility when returning was Spencer. "My returns felt good off both sides. There was enough stability to handle harder paced serves, yet maneuverable enough to direct shots where I wanted them to go...for the most part. I liked the results in both singles and doubles when returning."
In the MicroGEL Prestige Midplus our testers found a lot of control and a forgiving response. The control-oriented response allowed for some confident hitting from all areas of the court, with the majority of our testers preferring this stick to the midsized version. Most impressively, the stringbed offered a soft and forgiving response. Comfort was impressive, and our testers noted the soft feel from a flexible frame and a generous sweetspot. Some useful liveliness off the strings was noted at net, and our testers found depth easy to generate. All in all, this is one of the more impressive of the recent Prestige Midplus offerings, and one that's well worth some demo time.
|The "Likes" of the racquet.|
| Danny "The Midplus was a better fit for my game. It provided the feel that I normally look for in a racquet."
Chris "I really liked this racquet. Not enough power here to tempt me away from my regular stick, but I liked everything else. My favorite Prestige Midplus so far."
Granville "Another solid offering in the once vacant, and now crowded, 'performance' spec. A solid racquet in its own right."
Spencer "I really enjoyed the amount of control I got from the Midplus. This one was undoubtedly my favorite of the three MicroGEL Prestiges."
|The "Dislikes" of the racquet.|
Danny "I didn't like the string pattern, and I didn't like the length of the grip. The power and spin of my shots were lacking due to the dense string pattern. My comfort was compromised due to the length of the grip. I have a two-handed backhand, and when gripping the racquet for my backhand, the ring finger of my left hand curls around the frame. It's somewhat uncomfortable."
Chris "Again, the handle was too short for two-handed shots. Other than that, nothing but praise for this one."
Granville "Like the Mid and the Pro, there is not much to dislike here - all solid sticks, they simply are not in line with what I would call a heritage Prestige. They are somewhat under powered in comparison to the original."
Spencer "I did not like the handle shape as it was a bit too rectangular, which I have found with HEAD racquets. I can get used to it on groundies, but I seem to find serving a bit uncomfortable."
|Head MicroGel Prestige Midplus|
(Scores are determined by averaging individual play test scores)
The MicroGEL Prestige Pro offers a more open (16x19) string pattern compared to the other two MicroGEL Prestige racquets. The open string pattern, combined with a 98 square inch head and a very maneuverable swingweight (316 RDC units), resulted in a spin friendly response from the baseline. The performance of the racquet from the baseline impressed Danny enough to contemplate switching. "The MicroGEL Prestige Pro was by far the best model for me from the baseline. The amount of power, spin, consistency and feel was to my liking. It's not often that I can find a racquet that would make me switch brands, but this was the one. The specs for the MicroGEL Prestige Pro are exactly what I look for in a racquet, so I wasn't too surprised that it worked out for my game." Liking the bite and spin produced by the stringbed was Chris. "I felt comfortable with this racquet from the first hit. I had good depth and directional control on all my shots. Early on I had some shots fly on me, but I soon got dialed in with the racquet. I then felt confident hitting my forehand to the corners and found good results hitting flat and with spin. On the backhand side I continued to find plenty of bite from the stringbed. No matter if I hit one-handed or two, this racquet did its job. This was also the only one I preferred strung with a co-poly string instead of a soft multifilament. I would have been more impressed by this racquet if it werenÕt over-shadowed by the 18/20 Midplus version. I was just more comfortable with it over this Pro version."
Enjoying the feel, but thinking the string pattern made the Pro a bit lively, was Spencer. "A generous feeling racquet that offers nice spin and feels pretty lively with the 16/19 string pattern. The feel was good, and I enjoyed the weight of the Pro, but the control wasn't as dialed in as the 18/20 Midplus when hitting from the baseline, as the open string pattern seemed slightly more erratic." Granville compared the racquet to previous Prestige Pros. "The Prestige Pro version seems to be slightly underpowered when compared with the heritage Prestige Pro racquets. Not enough plow-through. String sensitive, this one was better for me with a soft multifilament string."
Our team enjoyed the response and feel of the MicroGEL Prestige Pro at net. Chris felt at one with this racquet when volleying. "At net I was volleying well with the Pro. I liked the power level and was able to put the ball away when given the opportunity. The racquet felt very crisp and responsive. I felt well connected to my shots and felt I had good control over the direction and depth of my volleys. I was finding plenty of bite from the stringbed and found some good accuracy on touch volleys." Appreciating the forgiveness at net was Danny. "As expected, this racquet had the most power out of the three versions, but the control was still good for my game. I think that I had the most feel at the net with this version. The sweetspot of this racquet is open, which helped out with my touch volleys. I didn't have to be as precise as I did with the smaller Midsize version." http://img.tennis-warehouse.com/reviews/M300-3.jpg
Granville liked how the MicroGEL Prestige Pro performed at net. "It's a good volleying racquet. Maneuverable and very soft - it provided excellent touch on the drop and angle volleys. At over 12 ounces it provided a very stable platform." Enjoying enough stability and power to be able to put away volleys was Spencer. "Much like the Midplus 18/20, the Pro was maneuverable at net while providing a solid sweetspot. This stick felt stable and proved to have plenty of pop, making put-a-ways rather easy."
With plenty of power and spin coming off the racquet, our crew had good results when serving with the MicroGEL Prestige Pro. Granville felt control was the racquet's strong point when serving. "The Prestige Pro was very solid on serves. I had great results when I served with this racquet; targeting was on the money. There was plenty of heat when I really needed it, although it's a control racquet all the way."
Danny experienced consistent power and spin on his serves. "My serves were the best with the Pro version. The consistent power and spin is what I noticed most about this racquet when hitting my serve. I think the pop and power that I achieved with this racquet were due to its headsize and string pattern. I was consistantly hitting the sweetspot, giving me reliable results." Able to create nice second serve kickers was Spencer. "Of the three Prestiges, I had the most success with the Pro when serving. The Pro offered a nice combination of control, power and spin. Being able to produce a high kicker on my second serve with consistency helped me to relax and go after the first serve with confidence."
Liking the spin and accuracy of his serves was Chris. "I was finding some solid spin and lots of control on serve. I was also able to coax a bit more pace out of this one compared to the Midplus version, but didn't find the weight and pace I found with the Mid. I liked the amount of spin I was getting and felt very in control of my serving. I basically got out what I put into serve, with no unwanted surprises and definitely no disappointments. I was reminded of the Liquidmetal Radical Tour when serving with this one, such was the consistent response and similar feel in weight."
The MicroGEL Prestige Pro's attributes allowed our testers to be more aggressive when returning serve. Spencer felt confident with the pace and control he found with the racquet. "A nice combination of pace and control made returning with the Pro very effective. Of the three Prestiges, this was the one I felt most confident with when returning serve."
Granville was successful being aggressive on returns. "I was having the best results with this racquet when really swinging out and going for the big return. While it is stable and well balanced, it does not offer much power unless you really swing out. The soft flex of the frame (63 RDC units) seems to absorb more energy on serve return than it dishes out."
Combining power and accuracy on returns was Danny. "This was the most powerful racquet out of the three MicroGEL Prestiges. My serve returns were the best with the Pro. I was able to combine power, consistency and accuracy with this racquet, which put my opponents on the defense when they were serving."
Chris enjoyed being able to use spin to keep the ball landing inside the baseline. "I continued to be impressed by this racquet from all areas of the court. When returning serve I found lots of control and felt comfortable taking an aggressive cut at the ball. I was able to generate plenty of spin to help me find angles. The bite from the stringbed was also helping keep my returns from going long and enabled me to control my opponent's pace."
With its open string pattern, the MicroGEL Prestige Pro offers a unique feel in the Prestige line-up. Our testers enjoyed the level of spin they found hitting with this racquet. Both on serve and off the ground, the maneuverable response and grip from the stringbed resulted in plenty of action on spin shots. The open string pattern also offered a livelier response off the face of the racquet, providing a little more pace to flatter shots. Players who like the feel and response of an open string pattern in a player's racquet will likely appreciate what this Prestige brings to the court. There's no doubt that this Pro version is another racquet well worth a demo for 4.0+ level players.
|The "Likes" of the racquet.|
|Danny "What did I not like about this racquet?! I loved the feel of the racquet. It felt great on my arm. I liked the overall power, consistency and spin that I was able to obtain. The headsize, length, weight and string pattern are exactly what I look for in a racquet."
Chris "I liked the feel, control, spin and stability of this racquet."
Granville "I liked the weight and balance. I liked the aggressive cosmetic."
Spencer "The spin I could produce and the power when needed were my favorite aspects of the Pro."
|The "Dislikes" of the racquet.|
Danny "Again, the length of the grip needs to be longer. The index finger of my left hand curls around the frame when hitting my backhand. It was somewhat uncomfortable and annoying."
Chris "Other than the short handle, no dislikes for me with this one, either. Another solid Prestige and an interesting option with the open string pattern."
Granville "Does not 'pancake' the ball on the stringbed. 'Wow' factor, just no 'plow' factor."
Spencer "Other than the grip shape, at times it seemed too erratic or less consistent than its 18/20 counterpart."
|Head MicroGel Prestige Pro|
(Scores are determined by averaging individual play test scores)
|Chris||5.0 baseline player currently using the Babolat Pure Drive Roddick. Chris uses a full-western forehand grip, has a fast swing style and hits a two-handed and a one-handed backhand.|
|Granville||5.5 all-court player currently using a Wilson K Factor Six-One Tour 95. 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.|
|Danny||Open baseline player currently using a Volkl Tour 10 Generation II. Danny uses a semi-western forehand grip, a two-handed backhand and has a long swing style.|
|Spencer||4.5 Baseline player currently using a Wilson K-Blade Tour. Spencer uses a semi-western forehand grip, and hits with a one-handed backhand.|
Review date: Jan 2008. If you found this review interesting or have further questions or comments please contact us.
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