Tennis Industry magazine

 

New Racquets: Now You See It!

Head’s new MXG racquets feature something not seen in years — visible technology. But for these frames, there’s more here than meets the eye.

By Bob Patterson

It seems that for the past few years, technological innovations for racquets have centered on information-gathering — call them “smart racquets” — and we continue to see developments in that arena. However, it has been a long time since we have seen new racquets introduced to the market with what is often referred to as “visible” technology.

Think back to the introduction of metal frames from traditional wood racquets, and then the debut of graphite composites. There also were the developments of oversize heads and wide-body frames, and most recently, O-Port frames. These are all examples of visible technology, which often is critical when it comes to convincing consumers to buy something new.

While new frames are introduced every year, it’s been more than 10 years since we’ve seen anything physically different in a frame. That changes this month, as Head is launching two new frames — the MXG 3 and MXG 5 — both of which feature a new technology that is unquestionably visual.

According to some of the dealers I spoke with who participated in a recent playtest held in Miami, Head’s newest technology goes well beyond the visual and enhances the performance of the racquet itself.

Investing in the Product

“It is nice to see something new in a racquet, and not just a new version of a current racquet,” says Ken Arnold, manager of Swetka’s Tennis in Mountain View, Calif. “Head has promised ‘power under control,’ and I think these racquets deliver.”

In March, Arnold was among a group of some of the top dealers in the U.S. who were the first to see and hit with the MXG racquets.

“Not only is this an exciting product,” he adds, “but it is great to see Head stepping up and proving to dealers they believe in this technology by investing in advertising to drive players into our stores, providing demo events across the country, and having great visual displays available for our stores to showcase the products.”

According to Head USA President Greg Mason, MXG technology has been in development for more than four years. The “M” stands for magnesium and the “G” represents Graphene Touch, the third generation of Graphene that was recently introduced in some Head models. Graphene Touch enhances the dampening effects of the super lightweight and strong material, with the addition of “Kraibon” for enhanced shock-absorption.

“From concept to completion, this project did not follow the normal process,” Mason says. “Normally, a concept goes through a lot of looks during the development — marketing, sales, research. But we knew this had to be developed on performance, so very few people saw this until it was complete.”

Magnesium Throat Bridge

Combining a metal and composite material in a tennis racquet is certainly not new. Over the years we’ve seen combinations of various metals, including tungsten, copper, boron, titanium and even magnesium with traditional high-modulus graphite materials.

However, previous uses of metal in composite racquets have been limited to fine fibers used sparingly in strategic placements. With MXG, this is most certainly not the case. The magnesium is a structural part of the frame and plainly visible — the entire throat bridge is made of it.

The MXG frames feature revolutionary design and engineering, with the precisely formed, injection-molded magnesium bridge providing stability at a very low weight. The molding process, which is relatively new, has been used in other industries with great success, but combining it with a composite material in a tennis frame was not easy.

“We chose magnesium because it accomplished what we wanted, which was to greatly enhance the torsional stability of the racquet without adding weight,” Mason says.

“However, incorporating it into the racquet was no easy task. The injection-molding process has been used in the automotive industry and other products such as high-end camera bodies, but incorporating it into a carbon-fiber tennis frame took many prototypes and a lot of testing to get things just right.

“But, when we finally got it done, we knew that it would be a game-changer.”

Free-Moving Strings

One of Head’s taglines for the new MXG frames is “power under control.” The power comes from the frame’s design, including the construction of the bridge that allows for longer, free-moving main strings. The longer mains provide a larger sweet spot and increased power compared to a traditional racquet of the same head size. The free-moving strings add to that power while also providing comfort with less shock.

The control comes from the frame’s solid magnesium bridge. The unique component keeps the hoop from deforming and twisting, increasing torsional stability of the racquet.

Head says the MXG frames are “designed like no other” and “play like no other.” Many of the dealers who played with them seemed to agree.

“We knew it had to perform, so instead of taking the normal track, most of the people who saw this during the research and development process were players doing play tests,” Mason says. “We had players of all levels — from Andy Murray to retirees on Hilton Head Island — hitting with the racquets and providing feedback to our development team.

“When our top professionals were excited about the racquets, we knew we had accomplished our goal.”

The dealers we spoke with all agreed that the MXG racquets live up to Head’s promise of not only looking different, but also performing like no other frame on the market.

To assist dealers in communicating the MXG racquet release, Head is launching “tease” ads and will follow with additional print, digital and television advertisements. The campaign will be supplemented with demo events throughout the country to help dealers get MXG racquets into the hands of players. Dealers will also have access to custom-made store displays.

New Racquet, String and Grip

The MXG 3 racquet features a 100-square-inch head size and an average unstrung weight of 10.4 ounces (295 grams). The slightly head-light balance of the 27-inch racquet is maneuverable without feeling too light. The 16/18 string pattern offers plenty of pop and bite on the ball, with comfort as well.

The MXG 5 features a 105-square-inch head size and an average unstrung weight of 9.7 ounces (275 grams). The 27.2-inch-long frame has a balance that is 0.4 inches head-light. It also features a 16/18 string pattern that with the increased head size offers even more power and spin potential.

Both models are offered in grip sizes 0-4. The suggested retail and MAP price for each frame is $239.95.

Head didn’t stop with the new frames — there is a new string and grip available as well. The Primal String is a hybrid packaged string specifically designed to complement the newly introduced frames, featuring one string comprised of eight micro-strands of polyester and a full polyamide multifilament string. Both coils are 20 feet in length and are 16 gauge (1.30-mm diameter). For more power, install the strings with the multifilament as the main and poly on the crosses; for more control, switch them around.

The new Ultimate replacement grip features a three-layer design with a cushion layer topped with a polyurethane foam and a unique micro-textured surface that gives the grip a soft suede-like feel, and provides comfort and a secure grip in all conditions.

Unquestionably innovative, the new gear is only the beginning for Head.

“We look at this as step one of a sustainable technology that we will continue to build on,” says Mason. “We are looking at all options for expanding this technology.”

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About the Author

Bob Patterson , the founder of the RacquetMAXX customization service, is a Master Racquet Technician with more than 20 years of experience. He was RSI's Stringer of the Year in 2005. He is Executive Director for the U.S. Racquet Stringers Association.

 

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