Racquet Review: Head Speed Pro 2022By May 21, 2022
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Racquet Review: Head Speed Pro 2022
Improvements to the stability and response make this update the friendliest, most playable version yet.
Published May 21, 2022
When power and spin became such coveted commodities in the modern game, players naturally sought frames that accentuated those characteristics. Manufacturers were only too happy to oblige by offering lighter and stiffer racquets with wide string spacing to help raise the mph and rpms. Not surprisingly, heavier, more restrained frames with conservative 18x20 string patterns became less attractive relics for an older generation.
But they never fully went out of fashion. Advanced ball-strikers, who don’t need much help in the power and spin departments, will always appreciate the greater emphasis on predictability and control. In fact, lately, 18x20 frames have been experiencing something of a renaissance, with several new models doing the genre proud. As the saying goes, what’s old is new again. And the impressive new Head Speed Pro 2022 is a welcome addition to this growing list.
None of the specs on this latest edition of the racquet have been altered—same weight, balance, beam width, and string pattern as the previous generation. At 11.5 ounces strung and a 320+ swingweight, it carries enough heft to merit the “Pro” label, but not so much that it would be onerous for a strong intermediate to wield. It also still possesses Graphene strategically placed around the frame for enhanced power and stability, along with SpiralFibers for better feedback. The new umbrella technology is Auxetic. It’s not an additive to the makeup, but rather a construction technique used in the yoke of the racquet that promotes a more solid response at contact. It’s intended to be particularly beneficial on off-center hits.
Auxetic has been making the rounds through the other Head silos, and like those, it proved advantageous to this one as well. The Speed Pro had a warmer, more comfortable and solid feel than the outgoing model. Yet it still produced a dependable, controllable ball that allowed for aggressive swings and targeting. It remained demanding at times, but the racquet has continually evolved into a more user-friendly model that can appeal to players beyond just the most advanced circles.
Something I really enjoyed about this latest Speed Pro was it defied and exceeded my expectations in several categories. For instance, I’ve come expect some level of stroke adjustment when trying an 18x20 frame. Typically the target window above the net needs raising in order to compensate for the naturally lower ball flight. Additionally, there would be the acceptance of a flatter ball unless a more severe brushing motion were to be employed on most strokes.
However, the Speed Pro didn’t require any such concessions. It was virtually a seamless transition to the tighter, yet well-spaced pattern. Ground strokes had easy depth without consciously aiming higher. And getting the ball to hook, dip, jump and bite were well within the racquet’s purview. Topspin shots didn’t bound like a pogo stick, but there was plenty of action to deliver a heavy ball. If I were handed the frame for a blind test, based on performance I would probably guess it had a 16x19 string pattern.
18x20 frames have been experiencing something of a renaissance, with several new models doing the genre proud. And the impressive new Head Speed Pro 2022 is a welcome addition to this growing list.
This gave the frame added versatility. There really wasn’t a shot or tactic I didn’t feel comfortable asking the Speed Pro to perform. It had the consistency to get involved in steady, protracted baseline exchanges, with just enough clout to dig out of a defensive situation or bust open a rally with one swing. Effective serving could be achieved by hitting spots, rearing back to overwhelm with pace or bending a kick out wide. Returns could be blocked or chipped to repel a big serve, or punished when serves were soft and short.
The racquet also had a mostly pleasing feel at contact, which is not something I’ve generally felt about Head’s Graphene frames. Over the generations this model has become thicker and more flexible. It’s a fine example of worthwhile give-and-take as the frame has grown increasingly comfortable and forgiving while not losing anything in the way of power or stability. Besides giving the frame a bit more pop, there’s also a more solid response, especially on off-center hits. And while it’s chunkier, this Speed still lived up to its name with deft handling and maneuverability. I might consider adding a bit of mass to the hoop and bumping up the swingweight for some extra thump, but that’s more of a personal preference rather than addressing a glaring limitation of the racquet.
At net the frame was fairly solid against incoming pace and the quickness got the head in position with relative ease. Directional and distance control were on point and there was usually enough stick to put volleys away with authority. However, I did struggle a bit employing more subtle shots. This would probably be the lone area I didn’t completely gel with the frame. Even though it has relatively low flex, taking pace off the ball proved challenging. It just didn’t quite have the level of touch of some of its thinner-beam, smaller-face counterparts in its weight class.
Short of that, this latest Speed Pro might be the most playable to date. The addition of Auxetic to its composition improved sensation at contact and created a more solid and user-friendly racquet. It’s still probably best for skilled, experienced players, but its less demanding nature should attract a wider audience. It’s one of those frames that allows players to express their games without getting in the way or detracting from any part of it.
If you’ve relegated racquets with dense string patterns as remnants of the past, the new Speed Pro might just change your mind. It’s not your dad’s 18x20.