With the recent launch of the Graphene Touch Prestige, we thought it might be interesting to take a look back at the previous generations of Head’s classic players frame to see how it has become one of the most iconic racquets in the business, and likely the most used racquet on the men’s pro tour over the last 30 years.*
Head introduces the TX Professional (commonly known as the TXP) as its flagship racquet. Though not a “Prestige” by name, the TXP had many characteristics that would be found in later versions of the Prestige - including the most recent versions - and was definitely a predecessor of the Prestige family. The TXP had a noticeably thinner beam-width than the racquets Head had been producing in the years leading up to its introduction (including the very popular TX Edge and TX Director). Head said the thin-beam was made possible by the integration of a high-tech and super strong material called TWARON into the graphite and fibreglass makeup of the racquet. TWARON was a synthetic material developed in the early 1970s by Dutch company AKZO and was not only extremely strong, but also had vibration-dampening characteristics. This made the TXP, and later versions of the Prestige, one of the most arm-friendly racquets on the market.
The TXP also introduced Head’s now iconic C.A.P. System (Computer Assisted Protection) bumper guard and grommet strip. Head said that by creating a guard that extended to cover the length of the entire head of the racquet that it not only protected the frame of the racquet, but also protected the strings from clay and abrasive court surface. The C.A.P. system is still being used on Prestige racquets to this day.
In late 1986 Head introduced the first racquet with the “Prestige” moniker in Europe, however, it wasn’t until Prestige Pro was launched globally in 1987 that the first member of the Prestige family was really born. The first Prestige was dubbed the Prestige Pro and shared most of the same technologies (TWARON and C.A.P. System) and specifications as its predecessor, the TX Professional, but had different cosmetics than the predominantly white TXP. Although there were slightly different cosmetics in Europe and North America, both versions had an elegantly, understated cosmetics of a rich translucent brown base with gold, red and blue highlights.
In 1989 Head updates the Prestige by giving it new cosmetics and by adding the head size in square cm to the name. The Prestige Pro became the Prestige Pro 600 (600 square cm or 93 square inches). Head continued to include TWARON in the make up of the racquet and the C.A.P. System remained, but Head gave the racquet a cosmetics update by integrating dark red into the brown colour scheme. The colour red would go on to define future generations of the Prestige. The Prestige Pro 600 became widely used on the men’s pro tour and is widely considered to this day to be the holy grail of players racquets.
Head shakes things up by abandoning the brown and red colour scheme the Prestige had become known for and changed the cosmetics for a North American version of the racquet to grey and silver combined with neon green grommets and bumper guard. This was also the first version of the Prestige that did not have the C.A.P. System grommets. Though it was a North American–only release, this version of the Prestige 600 was used on tour by many pros, most notably by world number one Thomas Muster.
This update to the Prestige was significant not only because of the name change to Prestige Tour, but also because this was the first time that Head offered two different Head sizes for the Prestige. Along with the standard 600 square centimetre head size (93 square inches) they also offered a larger 660 square centimetre head size (102 square inches). Head also introduced their patented vibration-dampening suspension grip system that they had been using in their popular Discovery series racquets. They also reverted back to the classic red and brown colour scheme for both Europe and North America markets, however, because of trademark issues, the Prestige Tour was marketed as the Trisys 300 in North America. At the time, 25% of the top 100 on the ATP Tour were wielding Prestiges.
That same year they also introduced the Prestige Classic 600 in Europe. The Prestige Classic did not feature the suspension grip system as found on the Prestige Tour, resulting in a less muted feel than the Tour and a slightly different balance point. The Prestige Classic would not be offered in North America until 1996 and the North American version would not have 600 in the name, but rather “Mid” to reference the head size. Marat Safin used the Prestige Classic 600 to defeat Pete Sampras in the finals of the 2000 US Open.
Following the demand in the market place for longer racquets, Head introduced a longer version of the Prestige Classic with what they dubbed as XTRALONG technology. The Prestige Classic XL was 703 mm (27.6 inches) in length, and to keep the weight and balance point (325 grams and 305 mm) at reasonable levels, this model did not include the C.A.P. grommet system. Along with Prestige Classic XL Head also continued to offer Tour 600, Tour 660 and the Classic 600 models, all in the iconic red colour scheme.
The introduction of the i.Prestige in 2001 was big news in the racquet industry. The Prestige Tour and Prestige Classic racquets had gained such a cult following with Tour players and advanced club players that many thought Head were crazy to make significant changes to these models. Leading up to the introduction of the i.Prestige Head had been having good success with their new Intelligence technology in more powerful racquets like the best-selling i.S6, but many were skeptical if the use of intellifibers (which use the mechanical energy of ball impact and convert it into electrical energy) would be beneficial in a players racquet like the Prestige. Not only was the technological change to the Prestige controversial, the i.Prestige's black, silver and yellow colour scheme was also contentious amongst Prestige users. However, many of the doubters were silenced when Gustavol Kuerten won the French Open wielding an i.Prestige and then Goran Ivanisevic did the same at then next grand slam, Wimbledon. The racquet would also be used in 2001 by world number 1 Marat Safin. Initially Head offered a Midsized version and a MP XL version, but soon added a standard length MP version to the mix. Many felt the i.Prestige was the best version of the Prestige since the much loved Prestige Pro 600.
Head followed the success of the i.Prestige by updating the Prestige with their latest technology, Liquidmetal. The update also saw a return to the classic Prestige dark red paint scheme. By using Liquidmetal—a material that does not deform at ball impact—at four strategic places on the racquet's head, they created a racquet that Head claimed created the ultimate energy return back into the ball. Not only did Head make use of the new Liquidmetal technology in this version of the Prestige, they also incorporated an older technology, Twintube. Twintube had previously been used on the Radical series of racquets, Head's other popular line of players racquets, but this was the first time it was introduced into the Prestige makeup. Twintube combined a harder inner shell of graphite with a softer outer shell of Polyamide to produce both a solid and comfortable feel. Due to the popularity of the i.Prestige, the Liquidmetal Prestige was a little slow to catch on. However, this version of the racquet eventually developed a loyal following and was used by Marat Safin to win the 2005 Australian Open.
Head continued to update the Prestige every couple of years. With the release of the Flexpoint Prestige in 2006, Head stayed with the Liquid Metal technology, but also incorporated a new technology called Flexpoint. By placing two holes in the racquet's head, one at 3 o'clock and one at 9 o'clock, Head said they were able to create a new flexpoint on the racquet. These holes, or dimples, increased dwell time (the amount of time the ball is on the strings) by creating a cupping action at contact. The Flexpoint racquets had a higher flex rating (65 RA) than previous Prestiges, however, due to the Flexpoint technology users found this version of the Prestige to be less solid and to have a bit of a mushy feeling at impact. Like the Prestige Classic, i.Prestige and Liquidmetal Prestige, Head offered Mid, MP and MP XL versions of the Flexpoint Prestige.
By the time Head updated the Prestige with Microgel technology they had already updated most of their other racquet lines with the new material. Head said that by combining the Microgel with the carbon fibres in the racquet that they were able to uniformly absorb and distribute the impact load throughout the entire frame. This resultined in a more solid and comfortable playing experience. As with the three proceeding generations of the Prestige, Head offered up three versions of the Microgel Prestige. A Mid, Midplus, and rather than an XL version, Head introduced a new frame called the Pro. The Pro was also a Midplus (98 square inch head), but was slightly heavier than the standard Midplus and came with a un-Prestige like 16x19 string pattern. Most found the Microgel Prestige to be a big improvement on the Flexpoint Prestige, but it did not match the heights of the i.Prestige or even the Liquidmetal Prestige.
Coming out just in time for the 2010 Australian Open, was the update to the Microgel Prestige, the Youtek Prestige. Youtek technology employed a smart material called d3o to change the dynamics of the racquet based on the type of shot being played. According to Head at the time, d3o reacted to the needs of a player in nanoseconds providing a softer touch and better feel on slow-speed impacts, like slices and drop shots, and increasing in stiffness to create power on high-speed impacts, like serves and passing shots. After the Microgel Prestige that was as white as it was red, the Youtek Prestige was a return to a predominately red colour scheme. And as the Microgel Prestige, the Youtek Prestige was offered in Mid, Midplus and Pro models. Many Prestige fans thought this was Head's best version of the Prestige since the much loved i.Prestige. Sales of the Mid version of the Prestige were, however, on the decline. This was more to do with a downturn in demand for small-headed racquets across the entire racquet marketplace than it was as reflection of the Prestige Mid.
At the tail end of 2011 Head introduced the Youtek IG Prestige, making Youtek Prestige the shortest-lived Prestige generation in many years. IG technology was more of a continuation to Youtek technology and integrated a hi-tech material called Innegra into the composite graphite structure of the racquet. Being an extremely strong and lightweight material, Head said that Innegra not only made the racquet stronger, but also absorbed more shock and vibration and improved the racquet's stability. Cosmetically the IG Prestige was similar to the Youtek Prestige, though the red on the IG was slightly more vibrant. A new design feature for the IG Prestige was a clear C.A.P grommet strip.
Head also introduced a new racquet to the Prestige family. The Youtek IG Prestige S was a lighter more user-friendly Prestige, and specs-wise, it had more in common with Head's Radical line of racquets. Though most Prestige purists did not consider the S to be a true Prestige, it did gain a fairly good following with those looking for a lighter players racquet and with those looking for a stock racquet that could be easily customized. It also likely made up for a bit of the dwindling sales of the Prestige Mid.
Again Head chose to launch the new Prestige at the tail end of the tennis season. Previously most high-profile racquets would be launched either during the Australian Open or the US Open. By this point the Prestige was no longer Head's best-selling players racquet, but the new Prestige still arrived with plenty of fanfare. Not only was the primarily black paint scheme (although it did have a red C.A.P. grommet) questioned, so was the play of the Graphene Prestige. This version of the Prestige Mid and Midplus were noticeably stiffer than the previous version, and probably stiffer than any of its predecessors. This was likely to appeal more to the modern power game and help boost dwindling sales. Making the Prestige racquets stiffer also made them noticeably more powerful.
Another change that came with the Graphene introduction that raised some eyebrows, was the alteration to the Midsized version of the Prestige. The new Graphene Prestige Rev Pro had a 93 square inch head as with previous versions of the Prestige Mid, however, this is where the similarities ended. The Rev Pro was much lighter at 10.6 ounces unstrung (300 grams) than the previous version of the Mid. It also had an open 16x19 string pattern and had a much more evenly weighted balance. The response to this new racquet was very mixed. Most found the mix of specifications to be strange, while others found the stock specifications to be a perfect platform for customization. Marin Cilic's surprise win at the 2014 US Open came using what was likely a heavily customized Graphene Prestige Rev Pro. Other racquets in the Graphene Prestige lines were the Midplus, Pro and S.
In Head's continued bid to update the Prestige in order to appeal more to today's modern power and spin players, they released the Graphene XT Prestige. Graphene XT was a continuation of Head Graphene technology that utilized the ultra-light Graphene material in the throat of the racquet in order to shift the balance more towards the poles of the racquets (the handle and tip of the head). This resulted in a faster swing and more powerful racquet. However, some found that in making this shift, some of the Prestige's true identity had been lost. Though the Graphene XT Prestiges were still the most control-oriented racquets in Head's lineup, they were noticeably less solid than the Prestiges of old. Head stuck with same assortment of racquets as the proceeding Graphene Prestige family, and they also stuck to a similar cosmetics of black with red highlights. They did, however, swap out the red C.A.P. grommets found on the Graphene for black.Check out Head's latest Prestige offering, the Graphene Touch Prestige!
* We are aware that in some cases players use racquets that are different from what is advertised.