Personal Attention: A firsthand look at Wilson's Custom Racquet

by: Jon Levey | September 02, 2017

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18 possible frame colors. 20 shades for the 3 and 9 positions and the logo on the racquet. Throw in four different paint finishes and the same number of bumper and grommet options, and the design possibilities offered by the Wilson Custom Racquets platform are virtually endless. Finish with a 12-character personalized inscription on the throat and it’s easy to make your new Wilson frame truly all your own.

To be honest, the amount of choices can be a little overwhelming. Fortunately, when presented with the chance to conceive mine, I had a useful assistant: the face of the platform, Grigor Dimitrov. At a recent media event prior to the US Open, the world No. 9 walked me through the particulars of the design process.

The first decision is which of one of the seven Wilson frames offered to customize. There are two Pro Staffs (97 and RF97), two Burns (100 CV and 100S CV) and three Blades (98 18x20 CV, 98 16x19 CV, 98S CV). Having played with a previous generation model, I opted for the Blade 98 16x19 CV. Ironically, the Pro Staff 97S, the frame Dimitrov endorses—and the one I’d pick of all the Wilson models—is not available. Reason being, for the rollout of the platform the company wanted to go with a handful of their most popular frames—the PS 97S has a more limited following—as well as a grouping from the same production factory. If things go well, expect to see additional models from their lineup available for customization.

The next step is base color. This is an important decision as the Wilson design aesthetic has evolved to be a distinctive base color with accents at 3 and 9 o’clock. With choices such as neon pink and green there’s opportunity to be pretty bold. Or, potentially make a mistake. I was Dimitrov’s last “appointment” that morning, and asked if his guidance was particularly needed with any of his earlier assignments.

“Someone wanted to do purple,” he says, “but I talked her out of it.”

After some discussion, and not having a favorite, we settled on an old standby: school colors. There’s no exact match for maize and blue, but a navy base with yellow accents is pretty close. Wilson actually believes that high schools and colleges could take advantage of this opportunity, with players outfitting their racquets in team colors. In fact, a major Division I coach placed an order for his own school-colored frame the day the platform went live.

I knew I didn’t want a gloss finish, but was ambivalent toward the other three options. Dimitrov told me he prefers matte, so I did likewise. None of the bumper colors were natural fits for the blue/yellow setup, and Dimitrov suggested the neon green, what I had deemed the least appropriate possibility.

“Seriously?” I asked.

“No,” he said with a laugh. “That looks terrible.”

We flirted with white for a moment, but played it safe and went with black for the bumper, grommets and grip. At Dimitrov's urging gold coloring was chosen for the Wilson franchise logo along the outside of the throat (right). If users like Dimitrov’s taste, and want the exact graphics of his own custom frame, it’s one of the four featured designs available on the program. It’s the only one that has the special grey/white/red camouflage at the 3 and 9 positions, which could be a staple in the future if demand warrants.

Determining the appearance is tempting, but as a racquet junkie, being able to tweak not just the colors, but some of the specs—adding a little length, tinkering with the weight, swapping in a leather grip—would have been even more enticing. But I’m part of a niche group willing to modify off the shelf frames; the larger playing audience isn’t as discerning.   

“I don’t think the average player really understands the difference of adding a couple grams to the head of the frame,” says Dimitrov.

Wilson believes while their consumers will be eager to personalize the look of their racquets, they trust the company when it comes to the frame’s playability. Moreover, there’s the additional increase in price—customizing brings a $50 premium; the tailored Blade is $269 versus the $219 stock model—and production challenges of fine-tuning specs.

But even if all the measurements are the same, and it’s technically possible to have the same coloring, the frame can be one of a kind thanks to the 12-character inscription in block or script lettering on the throat. Brand it with your name, give it a number in your racquet lineup, inspire with a battle cry or tactical directive, or go Game of Thrones and title your new weapon (say, TrophyHunter) like a Valyrian steel sword. Since I had help navigating all the choices, I opted for a dedication that showed appreciation to my caddy:

Thx Grigor.

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