When I reviewed the Head Graphene 360+ Extreme MP and Tour tennis racquets two years ago, at first I couldn’t believe I could fall in love with them. It was one of the biggest and most pleasant surprises I’ve had in my few years of testing. Two years have passed and Head has come out with a new version of these impeccable racquets, this time with Auxetic technology, and my amazement at their performance reaches a new level. They are similar to the previous generation, but it’s details like improved comfort and connected feel at impact that make them, at least for me personally, the tennis racquets of 2022.
In this two-part review, we look at the MP and Tour models, which will appeal to advanced, experienced and tournament players. Auxetic technology made its first ever appearance in the brand new Head Boom range of racquets in early 2022. Although by design these racquets were targeted at intermediate to club hobby players, I was surprisingly impressed with the clean, comfortable, yet responsive feedback. It is the Auxetic technology that brings the racquets to life, giving them new energy and blood in their veins.
To understand how the new rackets work, I will explain the so-called auxetic reaction. This is based on a relatively recent scientific discovery in 1991, and the term “auxetic” comes from the Greek word αυξητόζ, which means enlargeable. Head has adapted this technology of magnifiability to its needs, placing a number of small compressible A-shaped elements in the frame of the bottom of the racket head, with a double baffle running diagonally from one leg of the letter to the centre of the other leg of the letter. Just look at the logo of this technology and you get the picture.
These elements expand when compressed and accumulate energy, which is then returned back out of the frame into the string. The more energy you put into the strike, the greater the auxetic response. The simple ingenious solution not only results in a more explosive racquet, but also increases the sweetspot and allows the ball to stay on the strings longer. This translates into better control of ball placement and more spin potential. And it really works, significantly more than one would expect. If I were to translate that into a feeling, it’s like catching the ball in the palm of your hand and throwing it back over the net. You are so in control of the ball’s release until the very last moment, and the connection with the ball is literally tangible.
The new Extremes once again boast a bold design that has been nicknamed “avocado” on the internet. Gone is the bright yellow colour of the previous models, replaced by a more subtle shade. This makes the racquets look like they are made of marzipan and you literally want to bite into them. I like this sneakier design. You don’t really notice it when you play, but every time I look at the racquets, my tennis heart is flooded with serenity, joy and happiness. It’s a similar situation to when you see a little puppy and can’t help that whiny feeling and want to pet it.
In light of this design, I can’t imagine that anyone would want to smash these delicate beauties on the ground or on a stake if they failed at the game. Head has taken a lot of care with the design in recent years and so has again matched the frame colours to the grip colour. This is the traditionally fantastic Head HydroSorb Pro, which in my opinion is unrivalled amongst base grips. The grip is incredibly comfortable, yet firm enough and perfectly sticky. Its sensitivity is excellent, you can feel the edges of the grip very easily and the connection to the racquet is 100%.
HEAD EXTREME MP 2022
Without a doubt, the most popular model among the general tennis players public will be the MP model. It traditionally has an unstrung weight of 300g, a balance of 320mm, a head size of 645 cm2 with a 16×19 string pattern and a solid swingweight of 318 kg*cm2. The frame hardness at 66 RA is ideal for this type of racquet. Neither soft nor hard, so somewhere in the middle. Immediately from the first strokes I was flooded with a feeling of immense confidence. For a while I thought to myself, you can’t go wrong with this racquet. This is due in part to the fact that the Extreme series is equipped with special “spin grommets” that allow the strings a greater range of motion. Again, this leads to easier energy and more RPM’s to the ball.
It goes beautifully from the racquet and even though it is a spinner, I never felt that the racquet forced me into exaggerated rotations of the ball and pulled my hand. On the contrary, I was surprised that the racquet can also handle straight shots and one-handers can also play with it. In general, the strokes from the baseline exude tremendous confidence, solid frame stability and very quick controllability. Manooovrlbity is one of the leading characteristics of these racquets in general. They are quick in the preparation phase and also very quick when swinging. This is also due to the thin, low-resistance neck, which is only 21 mm in both versions. Otherwise, the MP is traditionally slightly wider in the middle of the head with its 26 mm compared to the Tour version, which is only 23 mm.
When testing it, I initially felt that the more challenging Tour version suited me better, but I gradually fell for the MP. I didn’t have to be so “careful” with it, both in my swing and in the overall accuracy of my ball preparation. In short, the MP version not only forgives you for a bit of sloppiness, but also allows you to swing at full speed all the time without negative thoughts and doubts about your technique. It mysteriously falls into the court sort of on its own, and the greater dispersion of balls between the lines didn’t bother me at all. Moreover, I was glad for it also for the reason that I have gradually learned over the years in accuracy not to push too hard unless it is downright necessary.
The MP is surprisingly a very powerful racquet, which will suit you especially on returns to the middle of the court under your opponent’s feet. There’s no point in driving the balls too close to the lines, because that might not pay off. Aim it more towards the middle, hit it head on and let your opponent get away with it. It doesn’t mean that the MP loses its playability, that’s for sure. Driving out of the court, playing the small corner, shortened balls or on the contrary long monster spin shots nobody likes are her own. What you’ll enjoy most with her, however, is the carefree shooting in the middle of the court.
EXCITES ON THE VOLLEYS
I was already excited about playing on the net when I reviewed the previous generation of the Extremes with Graphene 360+ technology. The clean feedback, the instantaneous response of the frame to ball contact, the rawness, the excellent stability and the punch of the volleys have charmed me. However, it had one minor drawback – the racquets sometimes gave the impression of a dull board. For some they could be too hard and raw, let’s say. With this latest version, you get a similar feeling of ball control and punch, but with a slightly softer and friendlier response. The racquet can also playfully handle shots played underfoot in a crunch situation, but it needs a little help.
I remember one critical hit at the net during doubles that I played into an empty court. Both opponents were driven off the court, and I went to the net and finished the situation with a volley close to the ground. I felt I had done everything right, setting the racket at the proper angle beautifully in front of my body, but the ball bounced very lazily off the racket and ended up a few inches below the net cord. In short, the ball stayed kind of stuck on the racquet. There was no auxetic reaction at this point because the input energy of the ball was very low. It was probably the only time I was caught off guard by the racket on the volleys, but there’s no point in making a big deal out of it. You have to constantly feed the MP by going for the ball and not just rely on the weight of the racquet, which is after all slightly lower than the tournament version.
FLAT SERVE, SPIN SERVE
One might expect that Extremes would spin like crazy on serve, but this is not the case. Top spin with the MP model is slightly above average, but it’s not a wilderness. Personally, I don’t mind it at all. I enjoyed the lateral spin much more with it, cutting the ball sideways rather than driving it to exaggerated heights. The Tour model is more advanced in this regard. In terms of accuracy, the MP version doesn’t stand out much on the serve, but again, with it you have a great chance of a punchy serve to the opponent’s body. When I was aiming at the t-point with it, usually the ball ended up half a meter from the line. In contrast, with the Tour version I was able to hit the line with a tolerance of 10-20 cm. The difference in accuracy of the serve is pretty significant.
In terms of speed of serve, I enjoyed the MP version more. The larger head and more pronounced trampoline effect bears its fruit in similarly very good speed at the cost of significantly lower power requirements. This does not mean that the MP is ultimately a more aggressive racquet compared to the Tour version, not by a long shot. You do have to work a little harder on with the Tour on the serve, but then it has all-in-one parameters – accuracy and power. Likewise, the combined rotation or kick serve is a little easier to play with the Tour version due to better acceleration of the racquet head after the ball is hit. In short, the higher swingweight, the smaller head and the overall narrower frame of the Tour version help you to push the end of the serve to the limit, so to speak. Those who can master this technique will be thrilled with the Tour version on serve.
HEAD EXTREME TOUR 2022
Now that we’ve got a feel for the service on both versions at once, let’s take a closer look at the Tour model itself. The 305g unstrung weight, coupled with a fairly significant hand balance at 315mm, makes this racquet a surprisingly easy weapon for more experienced players and juniors with tournament ambitions. Compared to the MP version, the head size is only 98 inch2 / 630 cm2 combined with the now traditional 16×19 string layout. I measured the swingweight of this model at a surprisingly relatively high 323 kg*cm2. And as I am fond of saying, once the racket exceeds 320 points with its swingweight, you should be able to play tennis very well to fully enjoy the racket.
However, this is not quite the case here, and again it is the “fault” of the Auxetic technology, which forgives enough shortcomings in the form of worse ball hitting. By focusing more on control and accuracy, the racquet has a lower frame stiffness of 63 RA. This can already be considered a soft frame and you don’t have to worry about a very decent comfort. The more flexible frame also translates into better control and responsiveness. This is noticeable on all strokes. Some might start to break a stick over the Tour version for fear of the difficulty, but that would be a mistake. In the category of racquets with a 630 cm2 head size, or 98 inches2 if you like, this is one of the best handling racquets on the market.
JUNIORS SCREAM WITH JOY
Everyone has a different idea of a junior’s racquet and it also depends on the context. In this case, I’m talking about a group of young players under the age of 18 years who are playing tennis at tournament level. For them the Tour version is perfect. While other competing racquets with similar parameters target more the senior population with a fully developed muscle base, this model can be recommended to a younger audience due to its friendliness. Especially nowadays, when tennis is back to where it was many years ago – played on the whole court again, including at the net. As I mentioned with the MP version, you can expect from both racquets a mix of all the features needed for a varied pressure game.
The ball ultimately goes a bit more from the the Tour version, but it’s not for free like with the MP version. Plus, it’s a racquet that downright grunts its way through a fast wrist swing technique. Especially with the forehand, you can tell when you shorten your swing as close to your body as possible and then fire your arm in a vertical direction. However, this doesn’t mean that the racket doesn’t like the older horizontal swing line. I myself use a combination of horizontal and vertical swing and sometimes more direct flat hitting. Both versions of the Extremes handle this technique surprisingly well. I’ve also tried a one-handed backhand just for fun, and I was surprised how this flatter stroke is enjoyed by the racquet itself.
THERE IS A SMALL WEAKNESS… BUT JUST A SMALL ONE
I wouldn’t be a nitpicker if I didn’t mention a flaw in almost perfect rackets. And frankly, I have to admit that I’m actually glad I found one. It was a last-minute training session with an experienced young woman. It was only at that moment that I realized that rackets can run out of breath at certain moments. Both racquets are designed for more aggressive players who have a very fast, modern swing and who tend to constantly dictate the pace. But what happens when the situation is reversed? The rackets don’t really like this “state of siege”. Heavy defensive play and balls played in crunch time don’t have the necessary energy.
It’s that awkward situation when your opponent’s ball literally hits you. In these rackets, the speed of the opponent’s ball is absorbed to such an extent that a kind of paralysis occurs and the racket no longer has the energy to return the ball with sufficient power and length. Especially if you get a long straight ball under your feet and try to overpower such a shot with a half-volley. Either the ball ends up in the net, or it is so short that your opponent can easily finish you off. At that point, it’s best to step well back behind the baseline and throw an overhit “hop” to your opponent’s side at least a meter or two behind the service line. Such a stroke requires a very fast wrist swing using efficient full-body energy transfer. Other, heavier racquets would be able to do this with the finger in the nose due to the higher swingweight, but these Extremes lack this feature somewhat. The perfect tennis racket for all situations simply does not exist.
AS GOOD AS THEY CAN BE
Head has created a separate category of racquets with this version of the Extreme line. If I were to give them the classic 1-10 numerical rating, they get the cleanest 8 that can be awarded. But it’s an 8 at most even. Eight points would be given to a racket for both baseline shots and volleys and serves. With other racquets, we may find that they excel in some ways, but are mediocre or only slightly above average in others. This then makes them very narrowly focused racquets for just one style of play. Extremes, however, are versatile. These two reviewed frames have the amazing feature of having no significant weaknesses. Except for the shortcoming mentioned at the end in the form of worse defensive properties of both racquets (the MP is little bit better in defense after all), I would have nothing to criticize.
What I enjoy most about them is the fact how easy they are to play with and how fast you can swing them without losing control. The sensitivity is excellent, they excel in stability especially at the net, and they give you a very nice feeling of connection to the ball. I was searching for a word to describe the racquets and it came to me in the last moments of writing this review – the racquets are incredibly “predictable”. Meant in the sense that in every situation you know what to expect from them. This feature will make the game significantly easier. It’s been a long time since I’ve reviewed a racquet in the same sense as a clear buy and as tennis racquet of the year. In fact, it was similar last year with the Yonex Vcore Pro racquets.
However, in comparison, these Head’s are much more accessible to the general public. The MP version will be enjoyed by upper beginners to intermediate men or intermediate women. At the same time, the racquet will also serve experienced tournament players who need an easier racquet to handle. The Tour version already tends more towards purely competitive tennis. But I don’t see any reason why it couldn’t also serve someone who only plays as a club amateur, but is already damn good at it. I think Head has dealt a serious blow to the competition with Auxetic technology. And it’s a double blow, because the price tag of these rackets is still solid compared to other brands. I can’t wait to see what my neighbours from Austria come up with next.
+ PLUSES OF THE EXTREME MP 2022
- Excellent manooovrlbity
- Easy power
- Large sweetspot
- Nice spin potential
- Very good comfort
- Great frame stability on the volleys
– MINUSES OF THE EXTREME MP 2022
- Lower precision
+ PLUSES OF THE EXTREME TOUR 2022
- Fast and easy to use
- Very good accuracy using spin
- High punching power
- Impressive volleys
- Very good comfort
- Sensitive feedback
– MINUSES OF THE EXTREME TOUR 2022
- Playing defense is limited
🌞 Check out also these videos:
HEAD EXTREME TOUR 2022 vs. YONEX EZONE 98 2022 Tennis Racket Comparison
HEAD EXTREME TOUR 2022 AUXETIC First Impressions – Get it!
HEAD EXTREME MP 2022 AUXETIC First Impressions – It’s Goood!
HEAD EXTREME 2022 AUXETIC Tennis Rackets 🎾 – All Versions Explained
HEAD EXTREME 2022 Auxetic Tennis Rackets – AUXETIC Technology Explained
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