Roger FedererTennis EquipmentTennis Racquets

Roger Federer’s Racquet – The Wilson Pro Staff RF97 Autograph

What does the RF97 bring to Federer's game and why does he use it?

Over the years I've covered some aspects of Roger Federer's racquet in detail, looking at string savers, power pads, hybrid stringing and whether or not recreational players should buy the Wilson Pro Staff RF97 Autograph as their racquet of choice.

However, I've never looked at the racquet in isolation and why Federer chooses to yield such a frame on the ATP tour. Seen as though they are temporarily sat gathering dust somewhere in Switzerland, I thought I'd take a closer look 🙂

What Racquet Does Roger Federer Use?

Rf97 Stringing

Roger Federer currently uses a Wilson Pro Staff RF97 Autograph, often shortened to the RF97A. 

Federer has used this frame since 2014, and the only changes since have been the paint jobs for different seasons and limited edition colours used at the Laver Cup.

Previously he used the Wilson Pro Staff 90, a similar frame but with a 90 square inch head size which by modern standards on the ATP Tour is extremely small.

The vast majority of players use between 95 and 100 square inches which are more forgiving on off-centre hits.

With his contemporaries equipment in mind, and a tricky 2013 season that was riddled with back problems, he finally made the switch to a larger head size in 2014. 

This was after trialling several prototypes in the summer of 2013 in Hamburg and Gstaad before eventually settling on the 97 square inch model in the offseason. 

Federer used the RF97 for the first time at the Brisbane International in 2014 and has continued to do so right through to 2020.

The Current Wilson Pro Staff RF97 Autograph On Sale

Rf97a Racquet

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What is the Specification of the RF97A?

Rf97 Closeup

The big fanfare around the launch of the Pro Staff 97 was that Federer had worked closely with Wilson to develop the racquet and that for the first time ever, the retail version would be identical to the one he was using in his matches.

For the uninitiated, most big-name ATP players will endorse racquets but not play with them. Instead, they use a pro stock frame customised to their spec with a retail paint job on it.

So is Federer using the same racquet we can buy? The answer is yes, almost.

The RF97 you can buy at any tennis retailer is exceptionally close to the racquet Federer uses on tour. But not identical and that's because all retail racquets suffer from varying quality control.

If you ordered two RF97 frames from different shops today and weighed them when they both arrived, I can guarantee you they won't be the same or bang on the quoted specification from Wilson. 

Federer isn't going to be yielding one racquet that is 350g, then taking one out of his bag at the ball change that's 355g; he needs all the racquets he uses to be identical.

That's why the batches he receives from Wilson will all be very close in weight and swing weight (most likely receiving a higher level of quality control).

They are then matched and customised by Priority 1 with the grip mould Federer likes. So while they are near identical, there are a couple of little tweaks.

The good news is though we have the specs of one of the racquets Federer used on tour thanks to Tennis Warehouse.

A couple of years ago they procured one from Tony Godsick, and before it went on sale for $15,000 with proceeds going to the Roger Federer Foundation, the team there measured it on their Babolat RDC machine.

I'm not sure who the buyer was, but they picked up a frame that was used by Roger at the Laver Cup, Shanghai and Swiss Indoors in 2017. He won all three of those tournaments so a nice bit of memorabilia!

You can see the retail specification compared to Federer's actual specification below. As you can see, although there is a small difference in weight, for all intents and purposes, it's the same racquet.

Wilson Pro Staff RF97 Autograph Retail Specification

Rf97 Autograph Specs
Head Size 97 in² / 625.81 cm²
Length 27in / 68.58cm
Unstrung Weight 340 g
Strung Weight 12.6oz / 357g
Balance 12.38in / 31.45cm / 9 pts HL
Swingweight 335
Stiffness RA 68
Beam Width 21.5mm / 21.5mm / 21.5mm
Composition Graphite braided with aramid

Federer's Actual Wilson Pro Staff RF97 Autograph Specification

Head Size 97 in² / 625.81 cm²
Length 27in / 68.58cm
Unstrung Weight *
Strung Weight 12.9 ounces / 366 grams
Balance 31.5cm / 9 pts HL
Stiffness RA 68
Swingweight 340
Beam Width 21.5mm / 21.5mm / 21.5mm
Composition Graphite braided with aramid

*The unstrung weight is essentially 366 grams minus a set of Champions Choice String (Natural Gut and Luxilon Alu Power Rough), some string savers and power pads. This is around 17 or 18g.

Roger Federer's Grip Size

Federer Grip Size

One thing missing off the spec sheet is grip size. The RF97 is of course available in differing sizes, but Federer's uses a 4 3/8″ grip (L3 for Europe) size which is customised by Ron Yu at Priority 1.

Most adult players will tend to use slightly larger grip sizes than this, but the line of thinking here is that a thinner grip allows for more access to topspin and allows the wrist to be involved more in shots and on the serve.

From my testing this is the case, having historically liked a chunky grip on my racquets, I switched to a 4 2/8 grip size, added an overgrip and immediately liked the way it played, it felt looser in the hand and more natural to whip the ball when required.

It's also much easier to make a grip bigger than it is smaller so if in doubt I would always pick the smaller size.

What is Special About the Wilson Pro Staff RF97 Autograph?

federer hybrid

You'll often hear commentators call the RF97 the Wilson Wand and a lot of the marketing around the frame makes it sound as though it can turn a weekend hacker into a touring pro.

So what is unique about it? The answer is not much 😀

The Wilson Pro Staff RF97 Autograph is simply an excellent racquet in the right hands, with a specification built to suits Federer's game which we'll look at below.

It doesn't have magical powers or the ability to make you play well; in fact, it may do the opposite.

In reality, it's very similar to a lot of other ‘players' frames out there that have high static weights, significant headlight biases and thin beams like the Yonex VCORE Pro 97. 

I'm not trying to downplay it as I'm a massive fan of the racquet, but you must remember while lethal in the right hands, it's not a magic bullet.

The advantage people like Federer have over recreational players has nothing to do the RF97. It is all about talent, technique and the hours spent on the practice court since childhood. And is probably why he'd beat most players playing with a stick of rhubarb 🙂

Why Does Federer Use a Racquet With This Specification?

Federer Johsnon Ao 2020

So why does Federer choose a racquet like the RF97A? The reason is a simple one, and it's because it is tailor-made to his style of play.

If we look at some of the individual specs like weight, stiffness and string pattern, you can see why it's so well suited to the Swiss maestro.

Federer plays an aggressive style of tennis where his serve and forehand do the damage in a bid to end points quickly.

That combination of shots get him on the front foot early meaning he can deploy the full mass of the racquet as he's stepping forward with his body going through the ball.

At 366g strung, the RF97A is a hefty weapon and because heavier racquets = more power this helps give him that pop on his shots he needs to fire winners.

The other thing a heavier racquet provides is more stability. Federer opts to play extremely close to the baseline and will move up to the net whenever there is an opportunity.

When you choose to take the ball early against opponents who hit with such pace and spin, a heavy racquet prevents it from twisting in the hand and stops a player from being pushed around.

Lighter frames tend to produce weaker, shorter replies from defensive positions that would prevent Federer from being able to stay neutral or transitioning into attack during a rally.

The same is true at the net where Federer is having to hit volleys off heavy passing shots, that extra mass stops the racquet twisting on those stretch volleys.

This area of his game is also aided by the stiffness of the RF97, at RA 68 on the scale, this is a stiff frame which means the less it deflects or bends on impact. Therefore, more power is kept within the ball rather than absorbed into the racquet.

In terms of string pattern, the Wilson Pro Staff RF97 Autograph has a 16 x 19 pattern. This is a reasonably open string pattern which means more spin potential, but on the RF97A the strings aren't spaced that widely compared to some other 16 x 19 patterns.

This gives Federer access to spin when he needs it but plenty of control (although not as much as on the 90 square inch racquet) to aid with direction when he's trying to hit flatter and find the lines. Couple that with his hybrid string setup with gut and poly, you have a great blend of power and control.

What are your thoughts on the Wilson Pro Staff 97 Roger Federer Autograph? As always let me know in the comments.

Jonathan

Huge fan of Roger Federer. I watch all his matches from Grand Slam level right down to ATP 250. When I'm not watching or writing about tennis I play regularly myself and have a keen interest in tactics, equipment and technicalties of the sport.

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33 Comments

    1. I have never used one of the RF97A, but I did use one of the previous 90” racquets and they are too heavy for a non pro player and the small head size was also less forgiving. Like Jon said it fits Rogers game style and it also looks great but its not a stick that fits your game unless you are kind of an advanced player.

      #GoRoger

    2. You need to be playing multiple times a week and be in decent condition to make max use of the RF97.

      I can use it if I’m just smoking balls from the back of the court in practice. In matches when you are moving out to the corners it’s harder to play with.

  1. I own 4 versions of the RF97 autograph, two of which I use extensively the 2014 red/black and the black/white version. My personal experience with strings (after some experimentation 😁😉) is that natural gut or a good multifilament is a must in the mains if not a full bed. A full bed of poly even a soft poly at lower tension like volkl Cyclone tour @53 LBS didn’t work too well for power unless I hit the ball dead center more or less though spin and comfort were great. I now use gut mains @57 lbs , prosupex big ace micro @54 lbs crosses or multi mains @55 lbs prosupex big ace micro cross @52 lbs and this is perfect for me. You need serious conditioning to use a full bed of stiff poly at high tension in this frame or it will rip your arm off.

    1. Cool. I have never used Prosupex strings before.

      I would like to try them out, just looking at the site now. Some of these obscure brands produce really good stuff, Toalson for example.

      1. Indeed, Genesis makes great strings as well. I use genesis spin X as a full bed. I prefer smooth poly’s myself and I like goldenset power cord too. I tried snakebite but it’s too stiff for me.

  2. The Pro Staff RF97 is a great racquet. I’ve tried it and like it but I actually prefer the VCORE Pro 97 to it, it actually gave my shots a bit more life.
    Also on another note, I also really like the Pure Strike 98 16X19.

  3. Thanks Jonathan.
    Given Fed’s body and age, ¿perhaps it isn’t too heavy for his arm? Maybe that’s why he isn’t finishing the swing in his shoulder, making that whip instead.
    Anyway, I’ll always say that he lost 4 years with the old racket, he could have done a lot of damage in 2010-13 being a lot younger than afterwards. Everyone were screaming he should have changed it eons ago, but he didn’t.

    PD: ¿Should the players use a bigger frame and lighter now? Like 105′ or 110′, it would be more easy to hit the shots for them, since the rackets got bigger and bigger.

    1. Very big heads make you feel a bit “lost” in that ocean of strings. Personally I see a difference when I pull out my old Dunlop 90 sq.in. thin beam, just for the sake of pretending I’m 25 again: I shank a lot more because it’s harder to hit that small sweet… but when I do it’s a great feeling.
      Above that, 95, 98 or 100 sq.in. it does not make that much of a difference.
      For me, 310 g unstrung is the upper limit. And swing weight below 320 because
      Mother Nature wasn’t very generous with me with muscle mass, hahaha.
      That said, the closest to the RF97 I have is a 6.1 95 18×20 which feels very stable, comfortable and has great control… for 1 hour of easy hitting. I use it only for showing off 😀

    2. Nah I don’t think so. The buggy whip is when you are a bit later on the ball. Happens if you are trying to take it early sometimes. The only argument you can make for going lighter is on high backhands which use smaller muscles so you tire quicker. But then he loses the benefit of the racquet elsewhere.

      I believe quite a few other former players believe Fed may have been able to win even more if he’d decided to pack on some more muscle. But who knows, all speculation.

      105 and 110 is too big for how pros hit the ball with pace and spin, it becomes unwieldy at those sizes. You lose control of the ball, swing speed etc.

    3. That must be a trade-off in the return of serve and the rest of the game. I play regularly with a guy who goes above 100mph on the first serve. I the winter season on carpet it’s a difficult return even with a PS90BLX with a hybrid stringing at 22.5kg (50lbs), but if I get a racket on it, it’s likely to go in. That was not as much the case with a Babolat Puredrive even when the serve not close to that.

  4. Good article. One comment…heavier racquet weight does not by itself result in more power. Leaving frame stiffness aside for the moment, racquet head speed also must be factored in in combination with the weight/mass of the frame.

    From basic physics…Force = Mass x Acceleration. If the mass (of the racquet) increases AND the acceleration (racquet head speed) remains the same, then, yes, the total force (power) increases. But, a heavier frame might slow the swing speed/acceleration for some players and the resulting force could be the same or even less than with a lighter racquet.

    Of course if the frame is lighter and acceleration is not increased, then there is a decrease in force generated by the swing.

    Also, in comparing frames, the stiffness of the frames needs to also be taken into account. Heavier racquets tend to be, but are not always, less stiff than lighter frames. The stiffer the racquet, the less it flexes at ball contact and more of the total swing energy is transferred to the ball. Energy that goes into flexing a racquet at contact is lost to flexing the frame and does not transfer to the ball.

    Definitely one of the advantages of a heavier frame is greater stability at ball contact and through the swing. This will tend to increase apparent consistency in a player’s shots.

    Great advice I picked up is to go with the heaviest racquet that does not reduce down your maximum swing speed. Keep in mind that going lighter does not always mean that you will swing faster…at some point, you reach your maximum possible swing speed and going lighter in frame weight will not result in more swing speed.

    All in all a good article. I agree with your comment about Yonex vCore Pro…I think that it is actually closer to the traditional Wilson Pro Staff feel than the RF97 frame is.

    1. Lighter racquets let/make you swing faster but it reduces the shot precision and make you lazy.
      Heavier ones force you to do things the “right” way: prepare earlier, swing more smoothly. But it can get tiring.
      As with most things, it’s a matter of compromise.

      1. Ain’t that the truth. I consider my PS90BLX to be my trainer. I do stupid, it punished me immediately. In the winter, when I get to play much less, I feel that the loss of muscle really hurts my serve. Probably should start doing push-ups again. Still, cannot imagine switching.

  5. Good read thanks, I’d love to see Fed play with a rocket launcher like Aeropro Drive lol would have been some site Or even Pure Drive but those things have next to no feel.

    1. Haha ye, it would be fun to see an exhibition tournament where they have to play with different racquets. Fedal could swap. I guess the only issue would be the risk of an arm injury…

      He did hit with a Wilson Clash last year for a bit. I think there is some footage somewhere…

    2. Whoaa, and I thought that the problem was me with the PD! The results are good, no doubt about that, but I’ll be damned if I get a good ball feel with that frame. I guess the only way to get half decent feedback is to put a firm string bed on it, either polyester 22-24 kg or nylon at >25.

  6. Hola…tengo un par de de 97.. simplemente hace magia… Hay que dedicarle tiempo…y entrenar bastante para dominados…pero una vez que lo logras es un placer jugar tenis con ella. Todo lo hace fácil y potente….la cuerda que mejor le va es la tripa natural…vuela….. Todo jugador debería probar una …en la vida.

      1. Precautionary, I’d guess. There probably weren’t enough people at the Challenger to make it worth cancelling, but the “Fifth Slam” is a different matter. Hope these tournaments have insurance to cover such things …

  7. Good article, now I’ve read it, instead of putting other comments in the wrong place! Thanks, Jon – very informative.

  8. Good stuff !! The RF97A has been my main playing racket for the past 2 years. The weight is really not an issue once you’re used to it. I do hear people complaining about the arm getting tired after an hour. I usually play for 2-3 hours. I don’t feel the weight maybe because it’s so headlight. Before you ask, I’m a relatively small sized guy. Scrawny arms. So for most guys, I don’t see why the weight will be an issue. If you find Fed’s 90 sq in sticks hard to play with, don’t let that deter you from trying the RF97A. I have problem hitting with those 90 sq in ones especially on the serve. Even if the HL reading says they’re the same as the RF97A and the static weights are the same, they actually feel a lot heavier when you’re hitting. The other thing I want to mention is the string tension. Don’t go above 50 lbs with poly strings even though recommended tension is something like 50-60 lbs. I use either 17 or 18 gauge strings. Mostly strung at 48/46. It’s a stiff racket. Need the tension to be a bit on the softer side. It’s also a scalpel. You’ll find adjusting for direction a bit of a challenge in the beginning as the racket amplifies the mistake.

  9. Hi ,

    This was a great read. And more informative are the comments. I used to play with Babolat Drive Z Lite, its 255 gm unstrung. 100 head. I started hitting in wrong manner ( trying to generate top spin from wrist ) , and due to bad form I started having pains – around my tennis elbow. After some break I started using my very old Wilson K-faktor K Six one tour – 90 head size and 320 gms.
    ( I thought I was stupid using a heavier raquet )
    Surprisingly , with a heavy Raquet my form improved and I no more have any pains in my hand.
    In my case using heavy raquet reduced the pain.

    But this ( Wilson K faktor ) is a very old one, so I am going to buy Yonex V core pro 300 gms 97 !!!!! Hope it is good.

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