In recent years, the most prevalent Wilson racquet on the pro tour is, without a doubt, the Blade 98. The frame has found a loyal following in NCAA tennis, as well as the ITF junior circuit. This wasn’t always the case though; for years, the Wilson Pro Staff was one of the most used frames on the pro tour. Now, 37 years after the original Pro Staff 85 appeared for the first time, Wilson has launched version 13.0 of the Pro Staff.
Always known for its precision, the Pro Staff 97 has a medium-thin 21.5-millimeter beam, 97 square-inch head, and 16x19 string pattern. While Federer’s version weighs a whopping 12 ounces unstrung, the Pro Staff 97 is a relatively manageable 11.1 ounces. One of the defining characteristics of the Pro Staff is the Braided Graphite and Kevlar construction. With version 13, Wilson tweaked the setup by braiding the carbon and Kevlar at a perfect 45-degree angle to improve stability and ball pocketing. The technology is appropriately called Braid 45. Wilson also altered the string spacing of the Pro Staff 97 to make the pattern denser for improved string durability and greater consistency across the whole hitting surface. In a bit of a shift, Countervail wasn’t included in the Pro Staff 97, in an effort to give players the utmost precision and feel of the earlier Pro Staff models.
I played a lot of tennis as a teenager with the Pro Staff 6.1 classic, and while version 13 is obviously a different frame, I got comfortable right away. Lately, it seems like players’ racquets are produced with a balance around 4 to 5 points head light. It was immediately apparent that the Pro Staff 97 has a more old school, 7 points head light balance, and it makes the racquet feel way more maneuverable than the weight would indicate. The response from the baseline is more crisp and raw, but never uncomfortable. If you are using the Pro Staff, you want to feel the ball on the strings and know when you nail or miss the sweet spot. The racquet is perfectly comfortable but not as soft or muted-feeling as the newer Blade or Clash models. It is very easy to generate a lot of racquet head speed with the Pro Staff 97. The racquet excels at hitting shots through the court, thanks to the stability provided by the heavier weight, but it also can impart quite a bit of topspin when you need to play with more margin.
Volleys & Serves
After volleying and serving with the Pro Staff 97, I am reevaluating my thoughts on racquet balance. It is so easy to keep the frame out in front and in good volley position. I tend to use racquets along the lines of 4 points head light, and I loved the Pro Staff 97’s more head light feel. The racquet has some heft to it, but it adds stability without being cumbersome. Serving is a similar story; it is remarkably easy to attack serves with the Pro Staff 97, and the racquet serves lighter than it feels in hand. A subtle improvement over the previous version is that the string bed feels more consistent, especially just above the sweet spot, which is particularly noticeable when serving. The feel at contact is and predictable and it provides a good indication of the quality of the strike.
Feel & Comfort
The new Pro Staff effectively restores the ball pocketing and consistent response of the earliest versions of the racquet. While it has a medium firm flex and a crisper response, it doesn’t mute or distort the feel for the ball. As I mentioned above, don’t expect the Pro Staff to flex as much as the Blade or Clash racquet lines. Instead it offers enough comfort with an addictive feel that advanced players will adore.
Testing the new Pro Staff was like putting on a favorite pair of well-worn jeans. I got into my comfort zone quickly and enjoyed the rawer and connected feel of Braid 45 and the removal of Countervail. The modern black design is a subtle nod to the Pro Staff heritage with red and yellow stripes at the top of the hoop and on the shaft. Version 13 of the Pro Staff is a precision tool for experienced players who love a heavier racquet with a classic head light balance. The feel of the ball hitting the strings reminds me of the classic frames of the past.
Note: Playtest racquet was strung at 50 pounds with Luxilon ALU Power.
Highlighted by a design that pays tribute to the historic Pro Staff series, the Pro Staff 97 v13 features a new Braid 45 construction that increases precision by adjusting the angle of the double braided fibers for enhanced feel and stability. Two additional upgrades to this racket include a denser string bed that improves consistency on every shot and a new end cap that is used across Wilson's other performance racket lines for improved comfort and ergonomics. Perhaps most appealing for longtime fans of the Pro Staff franchise is the presence of red and yellow pinstripes along the throat, an ode to previous designs of this iconic series through the years. Design also features unique exposed carbon fiber weave with gloss finish above the 3 & 9 of the frame for a slick touch.