Roger FedererTennis Equipment

Should You Buy The Wilson Pro Staff RF97 Racquet?

With the 2018 Laver Cup done and dusted for another year you'll no doubt have seen Roger sporting his limited edition all red Pro Staff RF97 design for this year's event. If you didn't see it then I've posted a picture below:

Federer Red Pro Staff 97

It's the second new paint job of this year following on from the Tuxedo Frame, and he also briefly reverted back to the all matte black frame for the US Open. The changes got me thinking about the racquet and whether or not it's a good buy — the answer is, it depends what you want it for. So let's take a look at the use cases.

I want the RF97 as a piece of memorabilia as Roger is my favourite player

I say yes, buy it. If it is part of a collection and just something that makes you feel closer to Federer then why not. They're not cheap and it's never going to go up in value as it's mass produced in China but it's a cool frame with a guy that's won 20 slams endorsing it.

It's also the closest thing you'll get to owning one of his frames without somehow getting hold of the real thing via one his Foundation Auctions. Just be aware, it is different to what Roger uses despite what the marketing tells you.

And please don't be this dumb:

rf97-review

Hahaha ‘it's autographed' cracks me up every time 😆

I'm new to tennis and want to play like Roger Federer

That's easier said than done 😀 but it's likely an RF97 is going to put you further away from playing like Roger than closer to it. You might look like Roger when you step on the court, but as soon as you need to swing this thing then the vast majority of players will struggle.

The problem is that the RF97 is a heavy frame at 340 grams unstrung. You might pick it up in the store, mimic a forehand and think it feels great, but the problems come in match situations when you're having to hit high bouncing balls or on the stretch.

The RF97 is an unwieldy frame for someone new to the game, so whilst it's brilliant when hitting balls in the strike zone when it's not you pay a heavy price. That is going to slow your improvement and maybe even take away some of the enjoyment.

So no, don't buy it, go lighter (there are lighter Pro Staff models in the same paint job if you are set on the design). For a typical adult male 300-315g is where you should be looking and I have detailed more about choosing a racquet in this post.

But I've seen the reviews on Wilson's website and tennis forums saying this racquet is awesome?

I don't doubt there are players using this frame and playing some great ball with it. But this is the internet, and most people struggle with the truth 😀 . A lot of people singing the praises of the RF97 won't be quite as good as they're making out. I'll pull no punches here and say most people using the RF97 aren't very good players. In some ways, it's a bit of a fanboy racquet and I should know, I used a Pro Staff Six.One 90 for a few years.

I play tennis regularly and I'm considering moving to the RF97

Fed Pro Staff 97

By all means, demo it but in some ways, the above still applies. Unless you're playing at a very high level of tennis, in which case you're probably not reading this, then the RF97 is unviable for most players.

I know there's some macho aspect to using a heavier frame, and in some aspects, heavier is better. For every gram you add you'll gain power, but you'll also lose manoeuvrability when having to defend. So for most players, a slightly lighter frame does a better job at balancing those two things. In the 300-315g range (maybe even lighter depending on your conditioning), you have high performance in the strike zone and the best possible performance when you're in a poor position e.g. off balance, full stretch.

I personally like to look it at from the aspect of what performs better in non-optimal match conditions. When you play matches you'll be spending time in tough spots and it's your opponent's job to make your life difficult out there.

If you're playing mugs that can't make you run and you barely drop points never mind games then the RF97 will actually be a joy to play with as it's stand and deliver. But if you're facing off against guys that are better than you, then you need a racquet that doesn't prevent you from attacking the ball when you're in a poor position due to its weight. The RF97 does prevent that which is why I don't recommend you buy it.

Other things to note about the Wilson Pro Staff RF97

RF97 ProStaff

If you're a serious player and want to buy this frame you will obviously be looking for a matching pair of them. Just be aware that Wilson's weight ranges between the same model can vary a lot.

The frame is 340g unstrung on the specs sheet, but it can be either higher or lower. I demoed an RF97 that was 356g unstrung so the tolerance levels are way out.

If you do buy, make sure you have a retailer that is willing to help get you two frames that are as close as possible in weight and balance on the RDC machine.

Wilson Pro Staff RF97 Racquet Specification

PropertySpecification
Head Size97 sq. in. / 625.81 sq. cm.
Length27in / 68.58cm
Unstrung Weight12oz / 340g
Balance12 pts HL
Swingweight335
Stiffness68
Beam Width21.5mm / 21.5mm / 21.5mm /
CompositionGraphite braided with aramid
Grip TypeWilson Premium Leather
String Pattern16 Mains / 19 Crosses
String Job7T,9T,7H,9H
String Tension50-60 pounds

Remember, the above is my opinion and it's certainly not a dig at anyone who uses the RF97, it's just purely what I consider to be true. I've used heavy racquets and I know from testing that I play better with a lighter frame and physics tells me most other players will too.

As always, let me know your thoughts or questions in the comments. What are my chances at becoming a Wilson brand ambassador anytime soon? 🙂

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 tweeting about tennis I play regularly myself and use this blog to share my thoughts on Federer and tennis in general.

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33 Comments

  1. I think the racquet looks great when Rog uses it. The red version is especially sassy. But I wouldn’t dream of getting one. It’s a pro’s racquet and at 340+g a young man’s racquet. These days I’m playing with well under 300g and lighter is definitely easier on an older arm. Only King Arthur could wield Excalibur.

  2. Totally agree with your assessment Jon. I play with an Ultra model (300 g unstrung) and its easier to maneuver, also the balance it’s something that needs to be taking into account, like you said not all of us play like a pro and a lighter racquet will help with our game more than this model. BTW, I like the Black paint job much more than the tuxedo or the red one.

    #GoRoger

    1. Yeah, I think it’s too heavy. Playing with something too light teaches bad strokes, but too heavy and you struggle on high bouncing stuff. So it’s all about finding that optimum. And for the vast majority of players, it’s way under 340g.

  3. I’ve had it for a few months and have really enjoyed using it. Roger definitely created it with his game in mind, as the frame works really well for the serve and the volleys. I prefer a heavier racquet (went from a 120 sq. inch as a teen to the 90, then the 95, and now this).

  4. I’ve had it almost from the beginning, first version with black and red (after the famous all black prototype from Hamburg 2013). It is a heavy racquet, any game over 1 hour will make you feel it. Even though is my third “signed” Roger’s racquet, it is the frindliest and most maneuverable. I tried different strings and tensions on it, personally I prefer a bit loose.
    Plus: excellent for serving and volleys, as long as you have time to adjust for volley. Very well balanced.
    Cons: heavy, for a weak or an incorrect movement you can hurt your elbow – I took a few months break after a loose serve :-(. A bit stiff.
    It is really a pro racquet by all means. Enjoy it but with care.

      1. I’ve gone from max to min specs. Better on 26 to 25 or 26 to 24.5 kg.
        I’ve used also used these Weiss CANNON Black 5 Edge, excellent for spin. Again stiff stings, but very maneuverable.
        Anyway my backend is awful so …

  5. Too happy with my PS 6.1 90 BLX to ever let it go. Tried the Autograph 97. Didn’t like it, but to be honest, I don’t like most racquets I try. The PS 90 was love at first sight and that love holds since 2012.

  6. This is all a bit technical for me.I did wander into a sports shop a couple of years ago to buy a tennis racket for my husband
    as he wanted to start playing again after many years.Naively I asked for one like Roger Federers(LOL).The man said that
    would be far too heavy so I bought a light Wilson one.My husband says he is rubbish at tennis,but hasn’t blamed the racket?yet.

  7. @Armstrong,
    Surely with your name you would have no problems wielding Excalibur.?
    Years ago I saw Richard the Lionhearts sword.To think of even lifting it up never mind fighting with it
    encased in plate armour at the same time.

    1. Annie, my “name” is as misleading as it was of my more famous namesake (the cyclist, not the astronaut). These days my arm is best served by a racquet that forgives my increasingly modest talents. The lighter the better. I suspect Roger at my age would likely feel the same. No broadsword for me. But then the Lionheart didn’t last too long, did he?

  8. @Armstrong,
    Sorry I meant Moniker.Got myself in trouble with Dr Evil also.
    Well as regarding the Lionhearted I believe he succumbed to a crossbow quarrel in what was then called the Holy Land.Perhaps it still is.Ten years a King.His queen Berengaria was the only Queen never to set foot in England.Allegedly.Sorry I love medieval history?

    1. Annie, it’s a passion worth having. Of course the authoritative text is Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I can see how a crossbow beats even a broadsword. Unfair match-up. Queen Berengaria probably played the role of a devoted Mirka. But monarchs then – like professional athletes today – tended to have short reigns. And us commoners have a rather easier time of it today. My favourite medieval king was Henry V. Another short life, Agincourt and all that, and of course immortalised by Shakespeare – himself a monarch of the language.

      1. ‘We are glad the Dauphin is so pleasant with us’Who can forget the menace Kenneth Branagh
        injected into his voice on being presented with a box of tennis balls.

      2. Annie, great film – great play. “And we will serve him up a match that will strike sons from their mothers, … that all of France shall bleed from this jest.” And bleed it did. 20,000 French knights to 300 English yeoman. Henry had a formidable backhand.

  9. Used to play with the 6.1 95, loved that stick. I broke a racket (unfortunately) and when it was discontinued I trialed a few, and loved the Yonex Vcore duel G 97 (310g), which I bought. Tried the RF97, was just too hefty for me… Though the pure black one is absolutely gorgeous!

    1. Yeah, I’m trying to get friends with a 6.1 95, but it’s tough. If I am on a good day, it’s fine. Yesterday I was on a bad day and sprayed errors all over the place because I could not find the bloody sweet spot twice in a row.
      So, an RF97 is not something I would even consider to start considering…
      A tweener is way better for a 3.0-4.0.
      280 g – 300 g unstrung, fit a soft polyester or a good nylon string and it’s good to go.
      It’s all about getting the most enjoyment possible.
      My gear:
      Favourite stick: Dunlop M5.0, weighed up to ~315 g strung, Dunlop S-Gut. Jack of all trades.
      Second: Pure Drive, stock, strung with X-One biphase (oh, dear, the power)
      Heavy stuff:
      Wilson 6.1 95, just for fun. Lux Adrenaline. 355 g strung
      Dunlop M2.0: 355 g strung. Sweet but not that powerful.

      1. Don’t take this the wrong way, but when my technique wasn’t so good the racquet mattered more to me – I felt I needed all the help I could get. Like some wannabe musicians, I thought the choice of instrument was more important than it was. But as I improved my game I felt could make most racquets work for me – although I would still have preferences. After all, you are trying to make the racquet part of your body – an extension of your arm. Feel is very important. The only thing I specifically tend to favour now is a lighter racquet, because I find it easier on an older arm (and shoulder). A pro’s racquet – like Rog’s – and with his specs – would demand too much of both my level of skill and strength. As in all areas of life, “forgiving” is a key word!

  10. After a 20+ year layoff from tennis I got back into it about 5 years ago. When I started back I thought I’d stick with my trusty Prince Graphite that I’ve kept around out of nostalgia (pushing 13oz.) Weight was never a consideration for me because I’ve only ever played with rackets 12.5oz or greater. Not having followed the game for 20 years, I wasn’t even aware it was a thing. I thought I’d try some “new” technology, see if it made a difference. I tried the Aero Pro Drive for a short while. I loved the topspin, but the debilitating golfer’s elbow it gave me led me to sell them quickly (strings didn’t matter). Around this time the RF 97 had just came out and I decided to try that after reading a heavier racket is easier on the elbow because the increased mass absorbs more of the shock, as opposed to a stiff lighter racket where more of the shock is absorbed by the arm. This proved 100% true for me as my golfer’s elbow was gone shortly after switching. I credit the RF 97 for eliminating the need for me to have surgery, which I actually had on the calendar. I see a lot of articles and reviews talking about how the RF 97 is too heavy for anyone but Roger Federer. Has everyone gotten soft? As a kid, the “old guys” I knew were using 110 Wilson Profiles, 110 Pro Staffs, and POG’s. These would all be considered way too heavy by today’s standards it seems, but I remember some pretty good tennis being played back then. I guess it’s all what your use to.

  11. I can understand this author ‘s idea but his reasoning is not strong and maybe false leading.
    If one play against a better player, like your coach, one is always under pressure and late for anything. No matter how light or perfect of your racquet weight, it will not be easy. This said, this author’s argument against rf97a is false. However, one definitely need some muscle to wave this racquet. For me, my single back hand swing is always slower than I wanted to be. This means more work need to be done. With heavy top spin that jump fast and high, it require more speedy swing. The weight also slow down the swing. This ultimately lead to need of a more muscular arm. Not tennis skill. It’s similar to a k88.

    As other reader mentioned, ps90 at same weight is much easier to swing.

    1. I don’t think the reasoning is false. If you play with a racquet that’s too heavy, which in most cases the RF97 is, then you are going to struggle when you are on the run/stretch. Your muscular arm point doesn’t really work for heavy topspin against a one-handed backhand as you claim. You aren’t using those muscles on high bouncing balls, you are using much smaller muscle groups that tire quicker and are less developed. A heavier racquet makes them tire quicker.

  12. I’ve had pro staffs since 1991. From the Taiwan 85 to the latest 97a. I weighted all my rackets to 365-370g each after some time. Sampras was never a wristy player, hence his racquet weighed almost 400g. I’ve recently purchased a few St Vincents (weighted to 370 each inc lead, overgrip (4g) and dampener (2g) – strung) and the RF97a (367g inc overgip and dampener – strung). The commercial RF97a, I have to say feels just like a stiffer pro-staff original with almost too much power. The St Vincent models are the best in my opinion, the feel is just so accurately defined in every shot. The K88 is the closest to the St Vincent models, even though they are made in China. As a long-term user of the PS family, I have to agree with you Jonathan. Unless you have a lot of strength in your arm and wrist, good stable technique and have the muscular endurance to wave almost 365-370g around for 3-4 hours, I would avoid the RF97a or you will get injured. Either that, or you have played with heavy racquets for a long time and know how to ‘manage’ the racquet with your play style. The balance is also different to the usual pro staff series, and mine is almost as heavy in standard form as my weighted 85s. I play with a wooden JK Pro Staff sometimes, weighing over 370g as standard. I would suggest to anyone to imagine comparing playing with a standard wooden racquet – it’s not much different. Reflexes, defence and wristy shots are seriously hampered with a heavier racquet. You have to know how to ‘stretch’ with a heavy racquet with proper technique or you will tear muscles and inflame tendons/ligaments. Been there. From seeing some comparisons with Roger’s actual fame, this is a very close set-up, his average specs are the same. One has to remember that these pro players are very strong in the arm and wrist and do this all day long. Nobody I know plays with a setup anywhere near mine (I hit mostly flat off fh and bh). I stopped going to the gym, played less, and my arm was struggling after a few weeks. Even most pro’s are around the 350g mark max (except the flat hitters like Berdych). Don’t be fooled, the RF97a is a proper pro stick.

    1. Sorry, I forgot to add that most people don’t realise that Roger has a similar grip to Sampras for his shots. They are not from the modern ‘extreme grip’ era, hence why they can play easily with heavier racquets.

  13. Swing weight is only 335. Serena’s racquet is 341.Therefore Serena’s racquet plays heavier. Sledge hammer racquets have a higher swing weight than RF97. The RF97 is very head light and whippy. The extra mass is in the handle making it stable on hard shots. It is actually racquets that are too light that introduce bad technique (arming shots) and lead to injuries.
    You are right about the quality control, I bought one RF97 that was basically even balanced. Now that felt heavy!

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