Racquet Review: Wilson Pro Staff 95S
Head Size: 95 sq. in.
Length: 27 in.
Weight: 11.5 oz.
Balance: 8 pts. HL
RA Rating: 62
Beam Width: 18 mm
String Pattern: 16x15
For those that think not much has changed recently with the Pro Staff, along comes the Spin Effect version. A 16x15 string pattern certainly gives a frame a new perspective. It’s still highly maneuverable and control-oriented with a classic feel, but the wide-open string configuration offers greater access to spin and perhaps an even juicer sweet spot. I gave the frame a two-set tryout and here’s what I found.
Racquets in this mid-11 oz. weight class tend to have chunky beams and lately can be rather firm. The opposite is true of the Pro Staff 95S; it’s got no body fat, and it flexes like a gymnast. That construction, along with an extremely open string pattern, gives the frame a cushy response. Even when strung with a stiff polyester, the ball deeply pockets on the string bed. Those players who crave a fast-swinging frame but struggle with the rigidity of many of the current offerings will like what the PS 95S brings to the court.
(A note about strings: The 16x15 pattern makes polyester or some kind of endurance string practically a must. The extra string movement is great for that desirable spin snapback, but it’s punishing on durability. I played with Luxilon 4G and still needed to readjust my strings after every few points. A heavy hitter would snap a soft multifilament in less than a set. I believe that even a hybrid with a soft multi in the crosses would be doomed to a quick death. If that’s your current setup, you may have to swap out the multi for an 18 gauge poly. It should last longer and feel plenty playable given the flex and string pattern.)
The low power and easy handling of the PS 95S makes big swinging from the baseline quite inviting. I enjoyed revving to fifth gear on my forehand and using that string pattern to put serious work on the ball. There were a couple of forehands I hit that I wish I could bottle. One in particular was an inside-in winner that had a perfect banana-shaped ball flight that tailed away from my opponent as it jumped into the back curtain. I’m a sucker for a thin beam as it makes manipulating the ball with top or underspin to create wide angles a valuable weapon. As typical with previous Pro Staffs, you can be very precise with this version.
The extra lift from the open pattern also seemed to give my two-hander good depth, if lacking a little pace. And there lies the rub of the PS 95S: It can feel like you’re playing with a BB gun in a world of bazookas. With the head light balance, soft flex, and absurdly low swingweight, there’s not a lot of clout in the head. On the plus side, you do keep a lot of shots in the court, but if you don’t strike the ball cleanly it lacks penetration. Hurting your opponent can prove challenging; to compensate, it’s tempting to overswing or muscle the ball. When that happens the results aren’t always attractive. I saw this most often on my two-hander; the stroke doesn’t flow, contact isn’t ideal, and the shot suffers. When I was rushed and contact was late (on either wing, really), I didn’t feel I could do much more than roll the ball back down the line.
Even serving, my best quality, fell victim to this problem on a few occasions. However, when I employed a relaxed, fluid swing and let the racquet do its thing, I could put the ball wherever I wanted. There was enough pace to draw free points and short replies, and not surprisingly, I could dial up high-bouncing kicks that were difficult for my opponent to attack. My serve morphed more into a setup shot than a finisher. Which in the end worked out just fine—in the two sets I played with the PS 95S, I didn’t drop serve once.
This is probably why the testers that liked the PS 95S most were the ones with the most talented games. Two in particular had stellar college careers and spent time on the pro tours (one of which wondered if this isn’t the best racquet he has tested in years). Generating pace from their strokes without help from their racquets is not a problem for either. They loved the control-oriented nature of the frame and still generated enough plow-through on their shots to push opponents around.
And when an opponent is defensive, transitioning forward to hit volleys with the PS 95S is definitely a highlight. I often have control issues at net with frames that have extreme string patterns, but it’s not true of this one. It’s so maneuverable and has that trademark Pro Staff touch – devilishly effective at carving angles and the dampened feel is great for drop volleys. If I had one quibble, I would have liked a touch more stability to combat hard-hit passes. A few that landed outside the sweetspot resulted in a tad too much wobble.
Will I switch to the PS 95S? It's definitely my favorite of the Spin Effect frames. I love the feel and the shot-making potential, but I'd probably need to make some modifications. I played well with it in stock form, but I’d still have to add weight, particularly in the head. Wilson has fortunately put ruler markings along 3 and 9 o’clock of the frame to make applying lead tape even easier (it’s on all new Pro Staff and Six.One models). I don’t mind that it’s underpowered, but I believe the extra heft would give me some margin for error when I don’t pure the ball in the sweet spot. And it wouldn’t hurt for the racquet to feel a bit more stable and a little less whippy.
Overall I do like that it encourages me to play a more tactical game rather than just slugging away. It can be added work, but I also commit fewer mistakes. Players who prefer that style and can supply their own power will really like this frame, especially if they seek a soft feel. Throw in the massive spin potential and precise control and the Pro Staff 95S is a real asset for the accomplished all-court player.