You’d think that after winning his fifth grand slam title in 2012 and ending the year ranked No 1 for the second time in a row, Novak Djokovic would be a satisfied man. Well, he probably is, but that doesn’t mean he’s resting on his laurels and in 2013, he will be using a new racket, the Speed MP. Its development has been highly secretive but The Tennis Space has had a sneak peek to see what all the fuss is about.
The first thing to note about the racket is its weight. It’s light. Very light. Of the two prototypes I tested, one was around 284g, including strings, while the other was a more normal but still light-seeming 318g. Both certainly felt good in the hand.
In terms of the way it looks, of course it is likely that the final version of the racket will be a little jazzier than the prototype. For obvious reasons, the prototypes have no information about weight, recommended string tension or in fact, anything that could give away its secrets before its launch on January 11. All black, with a light hexagon effect on the inside of the throat, the ones we used were plain in the extreme, but sleek and perhaps nicer because of the simplicity. Perhaps the idea is to let the racket do the talking, at this stage at least.
Power and feel
Because it’s so light, it’s obviously more manoeuvrable than its predecessor and Djokovic’s current racket, the YouTek IG Speed MP. While that one feels substantial in your hand, the Speed MP is faster through the air and therefore will be perfect for those players blessed with high racket-head speed. Faster through the air and through connection with the ball, power is not going to be a problem.
The balance is pretty even – as for most Head rackets you’ll find it is just about the bottom of the frame itself – but its weight means that controlling the racket head behind you is something to be aware of, if not a significant issue. At times, it can feel as if the head is getting away from you a little too much.
On serve, the extra speed through the air makes it easier to hit topspin and to get that bit of extra whip with the wrist. This is assisted by the string pattern of 16 mains, 19 vertical. And at the net, the “soft” feel of the racket – the feeling on impact is of the racket going with you and therefore dampening the vibration – will be good for touch players and those who love to play the angles.
Of course, the quality of the strings you use will also have a huge effect on playability but the overall impression I got is that the Speed MP is going to reward the aggressive player. Djokovic has obviously had some input into the racket, telling them what he wants, so perhaps he’s looking for an ounce more aggression in 2013 to go with his outstanding defence, stunning athleticism and flexibility and the confidence gained from winning all those grand slam titles and being No 1.
To be a real success, the racket will need to sell at non-professional level and I am sure good players, in particular, will love it. The problem for many players might be switching from their existing Djokovic racket and taking the risk of the new one not working. Time will tell.
The Speed MP will be officially launched on January 11, three days before Djokovic begins his quest for a third straight Australian Open title.