“Have you thought,” my coach started with an air of gentle inquiry, “about changing the strings?”
After recommending Head Hawk, I played with the strings in his racquet and was instantly converted.
Hawk is punchy, even aggressive, but still controlled (on most surfaces). If you wanted an extra boost of power while maintaining precision and topspin, this is a great choice to have in your racquet.
Want more details? Read on for this full Head Hawk playtest and review.
Head Hawk Specification
When the perfect balance of control and explosive power comes together in a string, we call it HAWK…Highly durable and with high spin potential, these strings are the perfect weapon for the high-level Tour and tournament player. How Head pitches their Hawk String
- Co-poly monofilament
- Round cross-section
- Gauges – 1.20 mm/18 g, 1.25 mm/17 g, 1.30 mm/16 g
- Colours – Previously there was just white and grey. But during this year’s Australian Open a black version has been released.
Racquet Setup For Testing
I play with a Head Prestige S from 2018. Prestige racquets are Head’s series for precision and control and typically come with a smaller head size as a result. Mine has a 95 square-inch head with a 295 g unstrung weight.
I went through a period of experimentation, where I asked for higher tensions. At 55.5 lb it was a bit rigid but tolerable. At 56 lb the power was suddenly sucked out, and it was like playing tennis with a plastic tea tray. 55 lb was ideal for me, though I suspect anything below 53.5 lb will cause the ball to become too wild.
Part of the reasoning for wanting to try Hawk was an extra injection of power. Initially, I felt the racquet provided me with great aim, but a smaller head size came with a relative diminishment in power. With the tweaking of Hawk, I felt the racquet now had the perfect balance of control and power.
It may be something to bear in mind as racquets on the larger end of the head size scale may become too powerful and again result in an uncontrollable ball. Going for a string that offers a faster ball regardless is tempting, but make sure it won’t come to disadvantage your game later on down the road. Your own topspin and timing are needed with Hawk to keep the ball within the lines.
How Head Hawk Plays
Initial Thoughts and How It Felt
Once I got Head Hawk in my racquet, I excitedly dashed out to the court to give it a go. I was surprised at how much punch it had. The power was almost effortless, and I found no problem with swinging with a complete follow-through.
The racquet did not shudder and stutter with the impact of the ball. Though the outside is hard, Head cites the inner crystalline core or “crystal core” technology, which is responsible for the softness and control that sits alongside the power features. Indeed, the hitting sensation is not abrupt, and the string offers great touch and feel for more delicate moments at the net.
Head Hawk is a very shiny, reflective string, even with the white colourway. I never had to move the strings back as they had great snapback. As a result, the opportunity for topspin is abundant and had no issue generating it off the rounded cross-section. It’s certainly not a stiff string to play with and provides moderate levels of comfort.
A few balls did land far beyond the baseline, but after 10 minutes, I was able to adjust and could really ramp up the pace of the rally without making too many unforced errors. You still need to give the racquet a good swing, and no power can come from Hawk with minimal effort, but it does noticeably give the ball additional speed.
How It Played
The dual ability of power and spin make the string great for transitioning through the stages of point construction. Trading high topspin shots on artificial clay from the baseline was easy. On hard courts as well, the advantage of Hawk was that I was not compromised on the depth and length of the ball.
With a lesser-powered string, I would have given my opponent more opportunities to come forward on shorter balls. But the string managed to keep my shots landing close to the baseline and avoided putting myself in a defensive position. If I wanted to build or attack, I could easily change to hitting a flatter ball.
The best aspect of Head Hawk is hitting down the line with a flat racquet, right on the sweet spot. The strings give a satisfying “pop”, and the sudden input of power either ends the point or gives you great dominance in the exchange.
Even far behind the baseline, Hawk allows you to hit hard and deep. This makes turning defence into offence easy, as the speed increases the effectiveness of passing shots.
On the return of serve, the string bed's punch and stability made deflection and redirection simple. Hawk coped well with stepping forward and converting an out-wide serve down the line with a block return. For the same reason, Hawk is also great for volleying and deflecting any passing or attacking shots into open space for a winner while at the net.
The only criticism I would have is on slicing. Though great for topspin, Hawk is still decent, though not as good, when it comes to the backhand slice. There was just not as much grip on the ball as I would have liked.
Similarly, attempting a slice drop-shot requires a more acute angle on the racquet face to get the revolutions up enough for the ball to come to a stop. A flat serve is eminently achievable, though a slice serve is relatively less so. Hitting a hard, flat serve down the “T” with Hawk is very satisfying.
If you pay on real grass, artificial grass or “Astro”, then you need to have excellent technical control of the ball if playing with this string. With the increased rally speeds, there is a temptation to swing for the fences on faster courts.
In the early stages of the string, I sometimes found Hawk problematic here as it is less natural to hit with heavy topspin on a slick grass court. The power becomes harder to tame, and my unforced error count hitting balls beyond the baseline increased.
Be sure to come to the ball early, otherwise hitting from below without any spin at the end of the decent will surely send the ball out with Hawk’s speed. It may take a while to get used to, but being able to play aggressively with this string on faster, lower-bouncing courts is a joy.
Hybrid Stringing and Variants
Hawk is a great foundation string to have in the mains to further customise with a different string in the crosses. I had no problem with Hawk's comfort and control, but my period of experimentation led me to add Babolat Xcel in the crosses. Being a multifilament, Xcel was able to add a touch of softness and gave great feel when at the net.
After 8 months, I went back to using pure Hawk from missing the speed. But Hawk's stability and power served as a good platform for the more subtle characteristics of Xcel. This experience has definitely left the door open for potential hybrids in the future.
If you try Head Hawk but want more spin or control, then another option is the same string variants. Head Hawk Rough is the same internal makeup, but with a grooved cross-section. The edges help create a more significant spin potential. Hawk Touch is the original round shape, but is more responsive inside with a larger crystalline core, offering greater control.
Durability and Price
I probably need to change the strings every three to four months from the loss of tension, playing four days a week in normal times. The cost of the string is $14.95 (~£11.00) for a 12 m set.
This is not extortionate and seems a reasonable price for the quality of the product. As a co-poly, I have found no problem playing with this string in the rain if caught in a shower outdoors.
Spontaneous breakages without warning occur rarely – perhaps once or twice a year; more likely due to force than the elements. The slick coating and resultant lack of friction make for a string with great integrity and durability.
Who is this String For?
Due to its punch, I would recommend Head Hawk to the mid-level intermediate and above. Though the string itself does offer control, more importantly, reasonable control in your playing technique will be needed to make sure you don’t hit the ball out of the court.
A beginner could try the string if they wanted, though would probably struggle if playing on fast grass courts. Again, I would advise not putting the string with one of the larger head sizes, as it would be overpowered.
Hawk would certainly suit the counterpuncher and the aggressor player. It’s useful for keeping in the rally while maintaining pressure on your opponent and keeping points short. Casual, defensive players or “pushers” are not likely to get much out of this choice.
I love the sudden burst of power Hawk can bring. It’s really good to support a flat, aggressive playing style, but I like the potential for topspin. For a polyester string, the comfort is excellent.
Though there is one issue with not being able to grip on the backhand slice as well as it can for topspin, it’s not a major problem and it’s still my favourite string to-date.
- Easy power
- Smooth comfort
- Great topspin generation from the snapback
- Boosts flat, attacking shots
- Good control, especially at the net
- Superb deflection capabilities
- A good foundation for hybrid setups
- Probably not suited to the beginner
- Backhand slice not as easy as topspin
- Takes a while to get used to on grass but eventually resolves itself
Have you tried Head Hawk? Have any questions about it? Let me know in the comments below.