Head Ti. Radical Review

Racquet manufacturers have always used pro players to promote their products, with varying degrees of success. One of the game's most prolific pitch-men over the past 10 years has been Mr. image-is-everything, Andre Agassi. Back in the late '80s, Agassi was a teen idol, with his bleach-blonde ponytail and boyish good looks, swinging a Prince Graphite Oversize. He first started making waves in 1988 with a win over Jimmy Connors at a small tournament in Stratton Mountain, Vermont.

By 1990, Agassi had established himself as champion by reaching the finals of the French Open and U.S. Open and by winning at San Francisco, Key Biscayne and the year-ending ATP World Championships in Frankfurt. Agassi's hard-hitting and on-court charisma made him the most watched and talked-about tennis player in the world. From that point, Agassi became a household name and his star appeal helped sell everything from Donnay racquets to Canon cameras and Ray-Ban sunglasses.

At that time, Andre had recently switched from the Prince Graphite OS to the Donnay Pro One OS, which looked very much like a Prince Graphite with a new paint job. It was colorful (like Andre at that time) and Agassi's endorsement gave Donnay a temporary boost in a declining tennis market.

Head Tennis, who was having their own problems, decided to take an expensive gamble and in 1995 signed Andre Agassi to a multi-million dollar endorsement contract. Not surprisingly, Agassi's new Head racquet (the Radical Trisys 260) resembled his two previous sticks in head size, shape and beam width. The only noticeable differences were removal of the throat bar stabilizer (from the Prince Graphite) and a denser string pattern. The Radical Tour eventually replaced the Trisys 260, with the only major change being the addition of TwinTube construction to reduce frame vibration.

When Head introduced titanium racquets in 1998, they were limited to "game improvement" models. Pro player endorsements weren't much use in promoting these racquets because none of the pros played titanium. Patty Schnyder's success at the 1998 U.S. Open (pre orange juice binge) using the new Ti.S2 helped give titanium "pro legitimacy". However, Head still wasn't able to utilize the (still) most visible tennis player in the world to promote their most successful line of racquets. Until now.

After having dropped as low as #141 in the ATP Tour rankings, Agassi has once again shown that he still has plenty of game and guts. His 1999 French Open victory was nothing short of incredible. If that wasn't enough, Agassi went on to make the finals of Wimbledon, and in doing so, took over as the #1 player in the world! Now, he's shown once again why he will go down as one of the most durable performers in history by winning the 2001 Australian Open. Andre has given notice that he's back with a vengeance. And he's done it using a Head Titanium racquet - the Ti. Radical.

Replacing the Radical Tour, the Ti Radical comes in Midplus (98 square inches) and Oversize (107 square inches). The titanium/graphite weave is located in the shaft (similar to Head's other Ti. racquets) for added stability and strength. According to Head, this allows for lighter weight without sacrificing stiffness. Indeed, the Ti. Radical is 1 to 1.5 ounces lighter than other Tour models. TwinTube construction has been carried over from the Radical Tour for dampening and "optimum ball feel." Any assumptions that TwinTube was a major weight contributor to the Radical Tour can now be discarded.

In fact, the Ti. Radical's weight and balance is what separates it most from other "player" racquets. Both the midplus and oversize weigh just under 11 ounces (strung) and are just a hair head light (3/8 inch). Most traditional "player" racquets are 12+ ounces and balanced 1-1.5 inches head light. This means more of the Ti. Radicals' weight is distributed in the hoop and throat area. Consequently, these racquets don't feel that much lighter but are deceptively maneuverable.

What about power? Frankly, the Ti. Radicals aren't that powerful despite Tennis magazine's recent review which gave the midplus an A and the oversize an A+ in power. Both racquets are medium stiff and have a traditional 21 mm beam. Our composite profile of Ti. Radicals sold over the last few weeks shows the midplus having a strung frame flex of 66 RDC units, while the oversize measures 60 RDC units. Keep in mind, this is measured at or about the throat area (Flex Zone 3). We have no way of measuring the tip (Flex Zone 1) or lower hoop (Flex Zone 2). However, our playtesters believe the midplus is firmer in the upper hoop while the oversize is more flexible.

The combination of less weight, slightly head-light balance and relatively low swingweight (312 for the midplus and 321 for the oversize) make the Ti. Radicals more maneuverable than most other "player" racquets. Are they too light for advanced players? Do they pack enough punch? Here's what we found:

Ti. Radical Midplus

"Great control racquet" was how most of our playtesters described the Ti. Radical MP. You can swing it hard and fast and still keep the ball in the court. Drew comments, "this racquet reminded me of the things I loved about my Wilson Pro Staff Original 85 - mass, stability, a predictable stringbed and the need to hit out." He continues, "most new racquets deliver so much power that deciding how hard to swing becomes another thing to think about, leaving you asking yourself 'how did I hit that ball out?'. If you supply the power, this racquet will supply the control." Which isn't difficult to do. The Ti. Radical MP's maneuverability makes it easy to generate good racquet head speed, even in a defensive position. When pulled wide, quick flicks and buggy whip shots are no problem. Dan adds, "this skinned down version of the Radical Tour allowed me the extra racquet head speed to rip forehands and serves with total confidence." The other side of the coin is that if you don't have a full, aggressive swing, the ball won't have much pace and/or depth. Don counters, "you really need to hit through every shot to keep the ball deep. I have a medium swing and found many of my shots landing short. I definitely had to crank it up a notch to keep from getting beat up by my opponent."

Like most Head "player" racquets, the Ti. Radical Midplus has a fairly dense 18x20 string pattern. The result is improved string durability for string breakers and slightly less spin potential. Players who use a semi-western or western forehand grip should still be able to generate good topspin. Another effect the denser string pattern has is less forgiveness on off-center shots. Chad explains, "I felt less control during off-center hits than with other midplus racquets of this type." Granville adds, "the sweetspot was difficult to hit with consistency - perhaps a slightly lower tension would help." In fact, Head's tension range (50-62 pounds) is relatively low, perhaps too low (psychologically) for players used to this type of racquet. However, due to the combination of its lighter weight and dense string pattern, the Ti. Radical MP performs best at about 55 pounds for most players. There is plenty of control at this tension without a harsh, boardy feel.

Thanks to TwinTube construction, the Ti. Radical MP is quiet and comfortable on most shots. A traditional handle pallet (no ShockStop) retains racquet "feedback", keeping it from feeling too mushy. The result is a solid, comfortable hit. One playtester described it as a "friendlier Pro Staff 6.1." The traditional 21 mm beam delivers a firm, solid feel, even on balls hit near the tip, with minimal vibration.

Aggressive net players will be rewarded by the Ti. Radical MP's quickness. While we anticipated good maneuverability, we were surprised at how crisp and stable the MP felt on volleys. Dan explains, "it's easy to get out in front on volleys. Very solid but flexible enough to hit the touch angle." Granville adds, "volleys are outstanding. Excellent feel, control and pop." Quick reaction and pick-up volleys, though, are less responsive than some other "player" racquets. Don comments, "I found the midplus lacked power and stability on off-balance shots, reaction volleys and half-volleys compared to heavier racquets in this category. You need to be on your toes and really go after your volleys to get good 'stick'."

On serves and overheads, most playtesters agreed the Ti. Radical MP lacks power unless swung very fast. Drew offers, "the racquet is solid but you have to have good mechanics and strength to get rewards." Don adds, "a little added weight would have helped generate more pace on my first serve and more spin on my second serve. The upside is that my arm didn't fatigue as fast as with heavier racquets. I felt like I could serve all day."

The Ti. Radical MP is a logical extension of Head's Titanium Series racquets and serves to bring this "technology" to top-level players. It is best suited to 5.0-7.0 players with long, fast swings who are seeking improved maneuverability in a control-oriented racquet. The added bonus is the comfort provided by Head's TwinTube construction. Whether you're a hard-hitting baseliner or an aggressive all-court player, the Ti. Radical MP will provide consistent, reliable results if you provide the power source.

Head Ti.Radical Midplus
Technical & Statistical Data

Head Ti. Radical Midplus Play Test Results Chart
(Scores are determined by averaging individual play test scores)

Technical Specifications

Length27 inches69 centimeters
Head Size98 square inches632 square centimeters
Weight10.8 ounces306 grams
Balance Point13.125 inches
33 centimeters
3pts Head Light
Shaft Width21mm
CompositionTwinTube/Graphite

Babolat RDC Ratings

Score
Grade
Flex Rating66Range: 0-100
Swing Weight312Range: 200-400
Manueverability79A

Ti. Radical Oversize

First, let's clarify one thing. Unless we received totally different racquets from Head, we have no idea how our friends at Tennis Magazine could score the Ti. Radical Oversize an "A+" in power. Nor do we understand how this racquet was selected as one of two "Best Power Racquets" in their April Gear Guide. While it delivers slightly more power than the midplus, it is by no means a "power racquet". You still need a medium-full swing to generate power and depth on groundstrokes, serves and overheads. A follow-up discussion with David Dusek, Tennis Magazine Equipment Editor, revealed the "A" power score was "for racquets targeted at 4.5-7.0 players." We'll take this to mean it's not equal to the Ti.S6 or Wilson Hyper Sledge Hammer - both racquets targeted at 3.0-4.0 players. Unfortunately, this isn't made clear in their review, leading many players to mistakenly believe the Ti. Radical Oversize is a turbo charged, game-improvement racquet. It's not.

That said, the oversize is a nice playing racquet and isn't just a bigger version of the main attraction. In fact, this is the head size being used by Andre Agassi. Despite being only 9 square-inches larger and 4 grams (.15 ounce) heavier, the Ti. Radical Oversize plays noticeably different than the midplus. First, it swings a little heavier and delivers more power - not a lot but enough to notice. Don offers, "switching from the midplus to the oversize, I gained 10-15% more pace on my shots. It's still not a power racquet but allowed me to keep up with stronger opponents." In short, it doesn't demand the fast, full swing required by the midplus, making it more appealing to players with medium swings. In fact, players who take a big swing may find the oversize hard to control. Drew comments, "the extra power wasn't worth the loss in control I experienced. Groundstrokes seemed to fly more often."

As expected, the oversize isn't quite as nimble as the midplus but still scored an "A" on the RDC maneuverability test. Granville concurs, "maneuvers like a midplus racquet with an oversize sweetspot." Volleys are easy with the Ti. Radical oversize, especially for less aggressive players. The larger head and slightly higher swingweight add stability on reaction volleys and half-volleys.

While the midplus can be swung faster on serves, the oversize delivers adequate power and is more effective on spin serves. It has a slightly softer flex and the ball seems to stay on the strings longer, which makes it easier to generate spin.

The larger head produces a larger sweetspot, making off-center shots more forgiving. There was a little more frame flutter or "wobble" on balls hit near the tip compared to the midplus.

Overall though, the frame emitted little vibration due to its TwinTube construction. We did notice increased string vibration on the oversize but nothing a Gamma No-Shock dampener couldn't handle. The 18x19 string pattern is a good match for this head size - topspin is easier to generate (compared to the midplus) and slice shots are very effective. Not surprisingly, the recommended tension range is measurably higher, 58-68 pounds compared to 50-62 pounds for the midplus. This allows more aggressive players who prefer oversize heads to temper the larger stringbed's increased power. Most playtesters found the playtest racquets performed best at mid-range.

The Ti. Radical Oversize isn't a power racquet but delivers ample power. It's not a control racquet but provides good control. The combination of its light weight, TwinTube construction and (almost) even balance make it a good choice for players currently using traditionally weighted oversize racquets who are seeking added comfort, less weight and a small boost in power.

Playtest racquets strung at 63 pounds with Prince Synthetic Gut w/Duraflex Gold 17.

Head Ti.Radical Oversize
Technical & Statistical Data

Head Ti. Radical Oversize Play Test Results Chart
(Scores are determined by averaging individual play test scores)

Technical Specifications

Length27 inches69 centimeters
Head Size107 square inches690 square centimeters
Weight10.9 ounces309 grams
Balance Point13.125 inches
33 centimeters
3pts Head Light
Shaft Width21mm
CompositionTwinTube/Graphite

Babolat RDC Ratings

Score
Grade
Flex Rating60Range: 0-100
Swing Weight321Range: 200-400
Manueverability73A
Playtester Profiles
Dan 5.5 all-court player currently using a Gamma Tradition 18.
Don 4.5-5.0 all-court player currently using a Yonex Super RD Tour.
Drew 4.5-5.0 baseliner currently using a Dunlop Tour Pro +1.0.
Granville 5.5 all-court player currently using a Dunlop Tournament Pro.

Playtest racquets strung at 56 pounds with Prince Synthetic Gut w/Duraflex Gold 17.

Review date: May 1999. If you found this review interesting or have further questions or comments please contact us.

All content copyright 1999 Tennis Warehouse.

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