History of the Head Radical

    Nov 7, 2014 5:36:00 AM / by David Andrade

    Twenty one years ago in 1993, the famous series of the Head Radical tennis racquet would just begin while a twenty three year old Andre Agassi was spending some time off the courts due to a couple of injuries (mainly in his wrist). Many kept an eye on Andre since he was a kid, especially when he won his first Grand Slam at Wimbledon in 1992 against the no. 5 ranked player in world, Goran Ivansevic (at just twenty two years of age). When Andre was only eighteen years old (1988) he surpassed the US$1 million in career prize money and by the end of 1988 his ranking was world no.3. In his twentieth year, Agassi won (for the first and last time) the ATP World Tour Finals (Tennis Masters Cup) which he qualified for by winning a couple of tournaments and reaching the finals of two Grand Slams (French Open and US Open). In that same year and with the help of Michael Chang they obtained their first Davis Cup for the United States in eight years (two years later in 1992 Agassi helped Jim Courier, John MacEnroe and Pete Sampras to defeat the Australian team and to get the Davis Cup back after losing it the last year against the french team in the final). Naturally, Agassi turned into the most watched and talked-about tennis player in the world.

    Andre's recognition was so incredibly global, he was as popular, if not more so, in Europe and Japan than he was in the U.S. Ray Ban, Canon, Donay, Nike everyone wanted to use his star appeal to help them boost their sales (especially in a declining tennis market) and so Head convinced him, in a very strategic deal, to play with one of their racquets that would be specifically made for Agassi. That is how Head launched its first Radical series tennis racquet called: the Trisys 260 Radical also known as the Bumblebee.


    The Bumblebee Radical featured an integrated dampening system, a 50% high modulus graphite, 5 percent twaron and a 45% graphite construction. The only noticeable differences of Agassi's last two previous racquets with his new Radical were the denser string pattern and the removal of the throat bar stabilizer (from the Prince Graphite). With a 20x21 string pattern, Agassi's Trisys 260 Radical (Bumblebee) resembled his previous two racquets in beam width, head size and shape. The Bumblebee Radical was a superb racquet and was a very stiff racquet. Several website forums suggest that Agassi only used his Bumblebee for his career and that he never truly switched to the later radicals. Paint jobs done to the racquets to disguise racquets as newer models allowed professional players play with their older and discontinued racquets, casting a cloud of uncertainty on the sport.



    Agassi returned to the courts in the summer of 1993 with a new racquet, with a new serve and with a great thirst for glory. At various times during 1993, Agassi used three different string patterns 16x19, 18x19 and 20x21 (sticking with the 20x21 towards the end of the year). That summer Agassi made it to the quarter-finals in Wimbledon and lost against Pete Sampras. By the beginning of September he lost in the first round of the US open and Agassi required wrist surgery later that year. Head's deal was turning into an expensive gamble rather than a success story. Agassi's commented on the situation in the following way, "I thought my career was over". Nick Bollettieri, the coach who sponsored Andre since he was a kid, feeling Andre didn't work hard enough, severed their decade long relationship. Agassi had to switch his coach. Everything was postponed until the next season for Agassi, from his new coach to his new racquet deal.

    It all started slowly in 1994, he won a tournament in February, but soon afterward began a sting of defeats. He dropped several matches including a final in Miami, a semi in Japan and a quarter-final in Atlanta. It wasn't looking that great, especially when Agassi lost in the first week of the French Open and in Wimbledon (Grand Slams last for two weeks). He needed a turn-around type performance in the hard-court season and as fate would have it, it was. By winning the Canadian Open he was showing some promise for the upcoming U.S Open. Agassi shone and became the first unseeded player to win the U.S Open since 1966. That year he jumped from top 20 to no.2 of the world. His recent success was enough to convince Head to sign a new Radical deal with Agassi involving a multi-million dollar endorsement and a new racquet: The Twin Tube Radical Tour 690, also known as the Zebra.



    The Radical Zebra also had a 20x21 string pattern, a head size of 690 square cm, and it weighed around 13 oz (12.77 oz). Agassi played for the first time in the Australian Open with it where he beat the defending champion and archrival "Pistol Pete" Sampras for the title. The Zebra would turn in to the racquet that propelled him to the no.1 spot of the ATP rankings. 1996 was not as good for Agassi but in that year he became the first American to capture an Olympic Gold medal in singles since 1924. In 1997 Andre hits the lowest point of his career as his injury in his wrist resurfaced, sinking his ranking to no.141.

    In 1998 a new Radical tour 690 was brought into the public limelight with some slight modifications to the Zebra base. These changes were mainly aesthetic. This racquet would end up being known as the Radical 1998 or the Candy Cane. It helped Andre play some Challengers (circuit of tournaments designed for pro players outside the world's top 50) and helping him mark arguably the most successful period of his tennis career. That year (1998) Agassi made the biggest one-year jump to the top 10 in the history of ATP rankings. He ended at no.6 of the world. That same year Head launched their new series of racquets made of titanium but they were struggling with gaining professional legitimacy since no professional players endorsed it (only Patty Schnyder who was playing with a Ti.s2 and reached to the women's quarter finals in the U.S Open of 1998).


    1999 was the time to market the Titanium racquets as a pro-worthy racquet and Head decided to design a Radical version specifically for Agassi. It sent Agassi to the history books because while using his new racquet he finally won the French Open making him the first player who has won all the four grand slams and an Olympic gold medal in singles (A Career Golden Slam). When the year ended he was awarded with the ATP most improved player of the year for a second time and finished as year-end No.1 for the first time ever.


    His Ti.Radical was like all other racquets he used, oversize. This time Head made a lighter racquet which would weigh 10.9 oz but Andre would add 2.5 oz more to it. With it Agassi reached four consecutive Grand Slam finals by winning the Australian Open in 2000 and was the reigning champion of three of the four Grand Slams.


    Regardless of how successful was the Ti.Radical, Head designed a new and improved version of it: the Intelligence i.Radical. The i.Radical had an additional benefit to the racquet, the Intellifibers. It also shared many of the same characteristics that the Ti.Radical had. With this racquet Agassi defended his Australian Open in 2001 leaving behind the Aussie Patrick Rafter (who was playing his last Australian Open). He went on to reach the U.S Open final where he lost in an epic 52 game match with no serve breaks against Sampras. He ended as the no.3 of the world becoming the only male player to finish a year ranked in the top 3 in three different decades (80's, 90's and 2000's). With the i.Radical in 2002, Agassi played Sampras for the last time in the U.S Open final, where he lost against Pete in Sampras's last match of his career. But with his U.S Open finish, along with his three Masters series victories helped him finish 2002 as the oldest year-end world no.2 at 32 years and 8 months.


    In 2003 Agassi switched to the Head Liquid Metal Radical and with it he won the Australian Open for the third time in a row. Head introduced a new material to the racquet, a metal with an atomic structure of a liquid that provides a 29% more power than Titanium. It kept its twintube frame and Intelifibres that gave it a heftier/solid feel and comfort. That year Agassi recaptured the no.1 and became the oldest top player in the history of the ATP rankings. He ended the season as the no.4 ranked player in the world and Agassi signed an agreement with Head that encompassed a remainder of his professional career and post career activities.


    The Radical Liquid Metal helped Agassi stay in the top 10 for a couple of years until 2006, the year that Head designed the flexpoint Radical. The racquet featured a precisely engineered hole at the 3 & 9 o'clock positions on the racquet head, offering longer dwell time, more control and better direction on the shots. This would be the racquet that saw Agassi’s farewell from the sport. The father and King of the Radicals at his 36 years received a four-minute standing ovation from the crowd in his last match at the 3rd round of the U.S Open.


    Andre Agassi may have retired but his racquet of choice was still swinging when Head kept their successful line of radical racquets. The new MicroGel Radical was introduced and Agassi used it while he played off the record. The Microgel is the silicone-based material with the lowest density of any materials that combined with stiff and strong carbon composite fibers created a racquet with incredible responsive qualities. Players like Andy Murray, Robin Soderling and Amelie Mauresmo endorsed the racquet and with it they kept the history of the Radicals going on.


    In 2006 the Radical in hands of Andy Murray defeated Roger Federer and his 55 match streak on hard-courts. In that year he also broke into the top 20 for the first time finishing at no.17 of the world. By 2008 Murray plays his first major final and wins his first Masters titles with the MicroGel Radical. With the retirement of Andre Agassi the legendary Head Radical racquet line gets a new face and with it they launch the Head Radical Youtek Series.


    In 2009, with the help of the YouTek Radical Pro, Murray reached the quarterfinals of the French Open and the semi-finals of Wimbledon. Reaching world rank no.2 and defeating rivals such as Nadal and Djokovic in the way,the Radical successor Andy Murray made it in the Big Four group (the four most prominent players in the ATP Masters circuit). By 2010 Murray would have a constant performance by reaching the Australian Open Final and also by reaching the semifinals in Wimbledon.

    2011 was the year for another Radical racquet endorsement: The Head Youtek IG Radical Pro. Adding CAP grommets added useful head mass to the racquet. Murray and his new racquet would reach another Grand Slam final at the Australian Open and another two Grand Slam semifinals at the French and U.S Open. The Head Youtek IG Radical would finally help Murray in a major breakthrough in 2012 by taking away an Olympic Gold Medal from Roger Federer and by winning the U.S Open against Djokovic. Murray also reached to a Wimbledon final and a semifinal in the Australian Open. After four years at no.4 Murray finished 2012 as a no.3 of the world.


    In 2013 Murray finally defeated Federer in a Grand Slam (Australian Open semifinal) and he also got a Wimbledon championship, all of this and more with the new Radical racquet that Head designed: The Graphene Radical Pro. This version feels faster and more responsive than the last Radical. Murray became the second man (in the Open era) to hold the Olympic singles gold medal and the Wimbledon title simultaneously. He recently had a back surgery and struggled to reach where he is now, currently no.6 of the world and playing the ATP WTF in London (world tour finals). Murray hired a Radical successor as his Coach, Amelie Mauresmo, in a historic move, the move that makes Mauresmo the first woman to coach a top male tennis player.


    So much history within the series of the Head Radicals, and such a successful one too! The Head Radical has proved that it got what it takes to be in the main court and to perform successfully. The whole tennis world will be watching what happens this year at the world tour finals. Although Murray won't be reaching no.1 this year, he still could win the finals or reach to no.1 in the following years (by winning the grand slams that he is missing for him to complete a Career Golden Slam); all of this with the help of his racquet, the Head Radical.



    Tags: Head, tennis

    David Andrade

    Written by David Andrade