It's been a long time coming, and after a few launch delays due to the hiatus of the tour and many people not being able to play tennis due to lockdown, the new Wilson Pro Staff 97 V13 has finally landed.
For this latest iteration, Wilson has come up with a new design that pays tribute to the historic Pro Staff series with a few modern twists (or braids 😋).
At launch, there are three new models available:
- Wilson Prostaff RF 97 V13
- Wilson Pro Staff 97 V13
- Wilson Pro Staff 97L V13
The new RF97 is simply a refresh of its predecessor and maintains Federer's exact specs, wheres the 97, and 97L get the new braided graphite, carbon weave on the hoop and the rounder Wilson grip. The Pro Staff 97, 97L and 97UL also gets a new drill pattern for the grommets.
In this review, I'll be focusing on the Pro Staff 97 which Wilson were kind enough to send me to playtest and this post contains affiliate links.
New to the party on this particular model is a Braid 45 construction that is designed to boost precision by adjusting the angle of the double braided fibres for enhanced feel and stability.
While the specs of the PS97 are very similar to the previous model, the racquet packs a denser string bed that improves string bed consistency and a new style butt cap to provide improved comfort and ergonomics.
Aside from the playability and precision of the racquet, the most appealing thing for longtime fans of the Pro Staff line like myself is the return of the red and yellow pinstripes along the throat that brings back memories of the 1980s.
Anyway, enough marketing talk, let's take a look a more in-depth look at this frame and see how it plays.
Wilson Pro Staff 97 V13 Cosmetics
Those of you are familiar with the legendary original Pro Staff 85, used by Federer at the start of his career, will instantly see how this latest V13 pays homage to perhaps the most iconic racquet of all time.
I think the Pro Staff 85 original has aged incredibly well and it is one of the few, if not the only, racquets from the 1980s wouldn't look that out of place on the shelves today.
So when you combine elements of that design with a more modern matte velvet finish and some carbon fibre, I am instantly a fan.
Take a look at the old vs new below:
The Original Pro Staff 85
The New Wilson Pro Staff 97 V13
The Pro Staff 85 is certainly a racquet that deserves some tribute, so I am pleased with this new design. Interestingly, a couple of tennis friends say they find it quite underwhelming, but for me, I like the subtle cues.
We've seen brands like Babolat go for the louder designs like on the new Pure Drive, but the Pro Staff 97 has a classy, minimalist look. Albeit with few injections of colour on the throat and with some exposed carbon fibre weave between 3 and 9 o'clock on the hoop.
I think it looks top-notch, and with a white overgrip and the Wilson ‘W' stencilled on the strings its a very stylish looking frame.
It looks so slick that you almost don't want to risk scratching the grommets up by playing with it, but it'd be a rather pointless review without taking it onto the court 😀
One thing I will keep an eye on is how the paint on this racquet ages. Wilson does a lot of things well with their racquets, but I don't think the paint on some of their recent offerings has been all that great.
I'm not the only person with that criticism either as it tends to chip and look beaten up very quickly. So far with this one, I don't see any problems, but the matte/velvet or ‘elastic' finish does have a soft feel so it may be vulnerable to scuffs and ideally you don't want it brushing up against other racquets in your bag as it will get marked.
Wilson Pro Staff 97 V13 Specification
As usual, when I pick up a new racquet, it's straight on the scales to see how much it weighs unstrung. Wilson are often on the receiving end of some flak for their quality control not being the highest, but the Pro Staff 97 was dead on the money at 315g.
I currently don't have access to an RDC machine, but from my crude swinging test, I could feel the weight in the handle, so I don't think the balance/swing weight will be too far off the quoted specs.
As you can see from the chart below, the specs are very similar to the last generation, but there has been a change in the location of the grommet holes which makes the string pattern slightly denser near the top of the racquet (even though it is still 16 x 19.)
Wilson Pro Staff 97 V13 Full Specification
|Length||27in / 68.58cm|
|Unstrung Weight||11.1 oz / 315g|
|Strung Weight||11.8 oz / 334g|
|Balance||31cm / 10 pts HL|
|Composition||Braided Graphite & Aramid|
|Racquet Colour||Black elastic base, exposed carbon fibre weave with gloss finish at the tip.|
|Grip Type||Wilson Pro Performance|
|String Pattern||16 Mains / 19 Crosses|
|String Tension||50-60 pounds|
I thought I'd give this racquet the Federer treatment so decided to string up the Pro Staff 97 with Wilson Champion's Choice which is a hybrid setup of natural gut and Luxilon ALU Power Rough for the crosses.
I used this setup for a long time when I played with a Wilson K Factor 90, and it's one of the best feeling hybrids you can play with, albeit a pricey one.
It is also a set up that works well with this type of players frame as you get a nice blend of power from the natural gut and some control from the polyester.
Additional Playtest Setup
String: Full bed of Technifibre Triax at 25kg / 55lbs. More on why this was required below.
My first impressions of the V13 Pro Staff are it's an improvement on the last model. While the Countervail and all-black Pro Staffs were solid frames, I was always a bit unsure about them.
Considering the Pro Staff is a players racquet, there was something about that matte paint that gave them a dead feeling yet the stringbed was inconsistent, so they lacked control.
It wasn't like it was a lousy racquet, but I preferred the red/black version from 2015, and it was partly why I started using Yonex and Zus frames.
However, this new model felt good to play with straight from the word go, and I felt at home with it from the baseline.
I also prefer the rounded shape grip compared to the squarer/sharper-edged grip on the RF97, which even Federer has swapped out by Priority One.
Full Wilson Pro Staff 97 V13 Review
I used this frame on outdoor hard courts. During my first hit, I broke a string within 10 minutes, which was mega annoying. I'm not sure if my clamp had damaged some of the gut while stringing, but it snapped almost clean.
So it was back to the stringing machine. I had no natural gut left, so it was strung quickly as a one-piece job with a full bed of Tecnifibre Triax 16 gauge. It was quite a slapdash string job, unfortunately (those of you who are eagle-eyed will spot it) as I was rushing, but it was good enough, and I was then able to hit with the frame for around 2 hours.
I'll also be updating this review over time as I plan to use this frame ongoing throughout the autumn. I'll likely test it with a full bed of poly and again with a hybrid setup of gut/poly.
I do think a hybrid is the best set up for this type of frame though so I'd be surprised if I like either of the above more than a gut/poly combo, we shall see.
My testing of this racquet involved a short half-court / mini tennis warm-up using the service boxes, some gentle baseline hitting, a few volleys followed by some point play both handfed and with serves.
The racquet I've been playing with lately is the Yonex V Core 98, in my review I pointed out the launch angle of that frame is very high and it took a bit of getting used to.
This new Pro Staff 97 is the opposite, and the string bed felt very consistent from the word go. It didn't take long to feel like you could hit precisely and that denser string bed due to the new drill layup helps in this regard.
The previous models, even though they were also 97 square inches, felt like they had a very open string pattern, but this one feels that bit more closed. Which for a player like myself who is more a flat type hitter, it works very well. It should also help with string durability as there is less movement.
Even with a lively string bed of the Triax, I felt like I had reasonable control on both wings and was able to flatten out my shots nicely.
That doesn't mean spin is a problem though, and when pushed back, I was able to find plenty of topspin when required. It doesn't have that same loopy launch angle of certain frames, but I was able to produce a heavy ball that clears the net with margin but still has some good pace on it.
You also notice that this is a very stiff frame after just a few shots. My two Zus frames are 70RA, so I'm used to that, and the new Pro Staff 97 measures at 6.4mm SI, which is Wilson's in house method of measuring the stiffness of a racquet. For comparison, the Wilson Clash measures at 11.2mm on their SI scale so has much more flex.
You can see how they measure stiffness below, and I do think it's a better way of doing it compared to the traditional method done on the Babolat RDC machines. I don't own one of those, but I believe the Pro Staff 97 will come in at around 66 RA for those interested.
Fortunately, I don't suffer from any arm problems (touch wood), so I'm not the best candidate to say if it's too stiff, but with the right string setup and tension, I believe stiffness becomes somewhat redundant anyway.
I'll be interested to see what some of the other reviews say about arm friendliness, but I would say if you're a player who found previous generations of this racquet too stiff, then you will likely have the same opinion of this one.
Serving is where I enjoyed this racquet the most. I only hit a handful of them, but because of the headlight balance, it is effortless to swing. This again suits my style as I was able to get my arm coming through quickly.
I serve better when I can start with a slow fluid swing, then whip the racquet through the ball which the Pro Staff 97 lends itself too.
For those of you who serve more in the mould of a Wawrinka where he almost pauses at the top of the trophy position, then really uses his muscle mass to fire down serves, you will probably want more weight in the head.
But for me, I felt like I could get the ball down to the other end with good pace on it. Serving in a proper match is, of course, the acid test here but I'm looking forward to seeing how that goes.
As you'd expect at 334g strung and a stiff frame, the Pro Staff 97 is very solid up at the net. It's easy to manoeuvre thanks to the headlight balance again, and you get plenty of feel on your shots.
My punch volleys felt crisp, and when you got that racquet out in front to hit the ball on a downwards trajectory deep into the court, you get a lovely response and feeling you can land the ball where you want it.
The Triax string I was using is a softer multifilament so offers a good level of feel too, so touch volleys were fun to hit.
On a side note, my slice backhand was also in good form with this frame, plenty bite on the ball and I was able to get that nice fizz where he ball skids through the court. This racquet rewards going for your shots aggressively, whether it's trying to fire a winner down the line, or slice deep into a corner.
On the returns, the Pro Staff is a solid frame and won't get pushed around. For players who like to block return and take it inside the baseline, this racquet does the job well.
Of course, it's not super heavy a la Andy Murray's racquet which lets him just bunt the ball back with no backswing, but there's enough mass there to provide stability when dealing with heavy serves.
I'm not sure it's the type of racquet for Nadal like returning positions but Thiem is proving you can play that way with the Pure Strike which is very similar to the Pro Staff in terms of specs. I'll be giving it a try when I face someone with heavy topspin serves.
Overall the new Pro Staff 97 is an excellent frame. It would be hard for me to say it's the best Pro Staff ever made given I've only hit with it a couple of times and I'm still a massive fan of the K Factor Six.One 90 but I do think it's the best 97 square inch Pro Staff to date.
I'm glad they got rid of the countervail, and the racquet feels more consistent in response. You get more feel, and the denser string bed offers you that bit more control.
Like all Pro Staff racquets of the past, this is a frame that rewards full swings, and when you are in position early, it gives you plenty of power.
Muscling the ball in with racquets like this isn't easy, but if your legs are working well and you get the feet in the right position, when you swing fast, you're rewarded with a heavy ball that penetrates the court.
Who should use the Pro Staff 97 V13?
Fast arm, aggressive players who are looking for plenty of feedback and feel on their shots who can manage a reasonably heavy, stiff frame. That stiffness will give you plenty of power, but you need decent stroke mechanics to generate it.
If you're a modern baseliner who likes to hit with big spin, then there are better frames out there for you. But if you play more of a classic, all court type game, then Pro Staff 97 V13 is one for your shortlist.
- Good mix of control and power
- Very cool design & cosmetics
- More consistent response from the stringbed than previous models
- Stiff frame, so something to be aware of if you have arm issues
- Somewhat sceptical of the longevity of the velvet paint but no issues so far
Other V13 Pro Staffs
Along with this 97 version, Wilson has also launched two other Pro Staffs:
The Wilson Prostaff RF 97 v13
- Roger Federer's personal racket at 340g
- Heavy composition ideal for advanced players with experience swinging substantial frames
- Braided Graphite composition delivers a pure, consistent feel
- The all-new design maintains a sleek look with a black elastic base, exposed carbon fibre weave with gloss finish at the tip, and grey/silver pinstripes along the throat
Wilson Pro Staff 97L V13
- Lighter and more manoeuvrable Pro Staff at 290g
- Braid 45 construction arranges the double braided fibres at 45-degree angles for enhanced pocketing feel alongside incredible stability
- New string/grommet layout for a slightly denser string bed
- New Ergonomic End Cap yields improved comfort and playability
- Modern design gives the nod to classic Pro Staff heritage with a black elastic base, exposed carbon fibre weave with gloss finish at the tip, and red/yellow pinstripes along the throat.
Which Pro Staff Variant is Best?
I think the standard Pro Staf 97 V13 is the best choice for most players rather than the RF 97 V13 or the PS97L. That's the reason why I chose this model to playtest as I know I will play better with it.
While everyone wants to own the racquet, Federer uses, at 340g unstrung, that is getting relatively hefty and requires you to be physically strong and playing at least a few times a week to reap the benefits.
At 315g the PS 97 V13 is at a very usable weight for a lot of players, and it's much easier to make a racquet heavier should you want that bit of extra weight. I also think the rounder grip and change in the grommet holes make this a good buy.
Ultimately you should demo all three before making a choice, don't just smoke a few balls though, make sure you test it out thoroughly as you would during a match before making a decision.
The Pro Staff V13 is available from September 14th on Wilson.com but only to email subscribers. It goes on general sale on September 28th.
What do you think about the new Pro Staff 97 V13? Got any questions about the frame? Feedback on my review? Let me know in the comments below.