The wait is almost over. For those racquet aficionados and Roger Federer fans who have been speculating for months about his current blacked-out mystery frame, Wilson has officially announced that the Pro Staff RF 97 Autograph will be in stores on October 1. The frame will be part of a four racquet collection that reinvents Federer’s 90 sq. in. model rather than creating an entirely new line.
The racquet will still have the familiar blend of braided graphite and Kevlar that give Pro Staffs their unique feel. It also will check in at an unstrung weight of 12.0 oz., which essentially equals Federer’s old frame. However, the head size has been increased seven percent—after all the conjecture, a 97 instead of a 98 was a bit of a curveball—which offers a bigger sweet spot. And perhaps the biggest change is the 26 percent wider beam width—going from 17.5 mm up to 21.5 mm—which should result in a more powerful ball. Wilson did not release any RA ratings for the frames, but it will be interesting to see if the wider beams stiffen up the racquets and what impact that may have on its signature response.
Besides the RF 97 Autograph, there will also be a standard Pro Staff 97 that will be almost one ounce lighter for players who don’t require so much mass. Two Spin Effect models round out the line: The 97LS which is an even lighter, wider version of the standard 97 and has an 18x16 string pattern; as well as a 95S, which seems to have identical specs to the current Pro Staff 95S, including it’s very open 16x15 string pattern. (Click on photo for more details.)
Unfortunately not all has been revealed as the cosmetics won’t be finalized and unveiled until closer to the release date. So expect to see Federer playing with his black matte model for a few months longer. This is the first “Autograph” racquet Wilson has launched in 30 years, the last being the Jack Kramer, which the company claims is the best-selling frame in history. Like many players who grew up with wood racquets, I spent my time using the Kramer Autograph. Given Federer’s love of tennis heritage, a nod to its past with graphics that recognize that classic frame would be quite cool, but I’m probably just being overly sentimental.
No test models have been made available, but as soon as we have them reviews will be forthcoming. In the meantime you can check out the promotional video below. It's actually not without its charm.