|Wilson Pro Staff 97 Racquet Scores|
After playtesting the new Wilson Pro Staff 97 we have to say that it could be pretty darn close to what we've been expecting, and we've been expecting a lot. We're always looking for that holy grail of racquets; one that can offer the perfect blend of power, control, spin and feel. We're searching for a racquet that gives us a little taste of the Roger Federer magic but is easier for us mere mortals to swing. The Pro Staff 97 weighs in at a reasonable 315 grams (unstrung) with a very head light balance and an open 16x19 string pattern, making it forgiving and easy to use. The lively stringbed gave us easy power and loads of spin potential. The one major complaint our playtesters had was the inconsistent depth, especially on groundstrokes and returns. With such a generous sweetspot the ball would fly at times, and we'd miss long on shots that felt like they were going in. Overall, the Pro Staff 97 impressed our playtesters from all areas of the court, and it's certainly a viable option for any intermediate to advanced player.
Our playtesters found the Pro Staff 97 to offer excellent power, spin and maneuverability from the baseline, but at times they struggled to control the depth of their shots. Chris said, "I found a huge difference between how this racquet played off the ground and how the RF version played off the ground. It was so much easier to swing the Pro Staff 97 fast, and it felt very maneuverable compared to the RF. Both the RF racquet and this Pro Staff 97 had very generous sweetspots, and I found myself a little lost in the stringbed at first, resulting in trouble controlling depth. I was hitting short, then long, and I was unable to find a happy medium. This continued early in my hits for the first few outings with the Pro Staff 97. After that, I felt pretty solid with it and I learned where the power came on and dropped off. With my control dialed in I started to appreciate the comfort and spin. Even with a stiff poly, which worked best for me in this racquet, the Pro Staff 97 felt comfortable. I liked that the feedback was still clean and not overly dampened. I was generating lots of spin with this racquet. It was very easy to swing fast and allowed me to accelerate through my shot to get some added action on the ball. The response felt more like a Wilson Blade to me than a classic Pro Staff. That's not a bad thing at all, it was just a different feel than I had expected."
The specs of the Pro Staff 97 were right in Andy's comfort zone, and he was feeling pretty comfortable right out of the gate. He said, "I was feeling dialed in pretty much from the first ball I hit with this racquet. I loved the power, control and spin, along with that signature Pro Staff feel that keeps you so connected to the ball. While it's a little stiffer than its predecessor, it's never jarring on the arm, and I felt just as in control of the ball as it left the strings. The power of this racquet did cause a slight loss in control, especially when I was trying to change the depth on my shots. There were times when the ball would get away from me and sail long, but for the most part I felt very comfortable hitting groundstrokes during this playtest."
Sharing a similar opinion was Karly, who, like Chris and Andy, had a little trouble harnessing the Pro Staff 97's abundant power. She said, "The specs of this racquet were right up my alley, so naturally this was a playtest I was really looking forward to, and it didn't disappoint! I loved hitting with the Pro Staff 97, and it suited my game well. It was very maneuverable, offered an even blend of control and power, had tremendous spin, and had an extremely comfortable feel (my favorite thing). It felt soft, yet it was still stable on contact. I was able to hit touch shots easier than usual, as well as drive through the ball with ease. I'm not one who slices a whole lot, but the amount of spin that this racquet offered made it easy to do. The only thing I would've liked that I wasn't getting was a more consistent stringbed response. There was a lot of power and pop in the center of the sweetspot, but it felt dead and muted when the ball hit outside it. It took me while to adust to the response, and at the start of the playtest I struggled with my consistency. The ball would either fly off the strings or land very short of where I was aiming."
Michelle enjoyed the racquet's ease of use on her aggressive groundstrokes, but she found herself longing for the added weight that she enjoyed from the Pro Staff RF97 Autograph. She said, "Right off the bat, I was shocked at how simple and powerful this racquet was. It didn't feel like what I normally think a Pro Staff feels like. I was finding more power than control off the ground with this racquet. I think the Pro Staff RF97 Autograph ruined me because I was craving the heavier racquet so I could hit a heavier ball. I found that I was overhitting a bit, and I became a bit erratic. This racquet played lighter than I thought it would, and I was craving a bit more weight and control. I did really enjoy it on my slices, and I felt confident slicing and dicing."
The Pro Staff 97's lively stringbed was a little easier for our team to control at net, and for the most part they were all very impressed with it. Karly found herself venturing forward in the court more than usual because of how easy it was for her to volley with this racquet. She raved, "Of all the areas of the court, I was most comfortable at net, which usually isn't the case. I had the easiest time with volleys because of the racquet's maneuverability, exceptional touch, and more consistent response on contact. The ball didn't fly as much on volleys as it did on groundstrokes, so my shots were a lot more predictable at net. For me, the standout feature was the feel. The Pro Staff 97 was very comfortable at contact without feeling too muted or dampened, yet it was soft enough to provide adequate give for easy drop shots. I could also handle short balls effortlessly with this racquet. I have no complaints about volleying with this racquet."
Andy was, once again, in his comfort zone with this racquet. He praised, "I felt just as comfortable and connected to the ball at the net as I was from the baseline. The open string pattern expands the sweetspot, making it very forgiving on off-center hits. There was easy power for putting away volleys and plenty of responsiveness to control finesse shots. Maneuverability was great, too. This racquet really impressed me around the net!"
Michelle's favorite place to be with the racquet was also at net. She said, "Volleys were so simple to hit. I felt like I couldn't miss when volleying with this racquet, no matter what kind of ball was coming at me. I could put balls away easily, but I could also carve out some drop volleys or pick up balls at my feet without any issues. The Pro Staff 97 was super comfortable, and it was maneuverable enough to get in position against big hitters. It worked perfectly at the net for me."
Chris was able to wield the racquet with ease, but at times he wished for a bit more heft for more stability on off-center shots. He explained, "This racquet felt very fast and maneuverable at net. I never felt like there was an issue getting it into position. However, I would have liked a little more mass to help with stability. When I was digging out a hard hit shot to my feet, or when I was stretched, the racquet twisted a little and the power dropped off rapidly. I also would have liked a more solid response for drop volleys and other touch shots, as I like to loosen my grip on those shots for added feel. I did find better depth control from this racquet at net, and the adjustment period was shorter."
Everyone noticed the ample access to spin, but opinions differed when it came to the power and control of the Pro Staff 97 on serves. Michelle appreciated the lively feel but once again wished for more heft on both the racquet and her serves. She explained, "There was ample power and precision on the serve, but I just never felt like I had enough mass behind my first serve to do serious damage. I could hit big, but it felt like it wasn't hard for my opponent to block back. I could get good bite and kick on my second serves, and I was easily hitting my slices wide or to the T, so those worked well. I just felt like power alone wasn't enough to make my first serve dangerous."
Karly had a similar experience, although she thought the lack of power actually lent itself to more precision and consistency. She said, "I was a little discouraged because I wasn't hitting my serves with as much power as I'm used to. If I wanted to come up with a big serve I had to put a lot of energy into really speeding up my service motion. The Pro Staff 97 needed more weight in the head for me to drive though the ball with more force. On the bright side, I loved all the control I got on my serves. The good mobility and precision made it easy to direct my serves where I wanted. Hitting my targets in the service box took hardly any effort, and the access to spin was outstanding. My kick serves cut through the air and didn't hang in the air as much as they normally do, which was great."
Chris was using the extra spin to effectively pinpoint his serves in the box. He said, "The lively response of the stringbed worked to my advantage on serve. My serves were pushing nicely through the court with solid pace and spin. I felt like I had plenty of options with this racquet, and I was moving the ball around to various targets with different pace and spin to keep my opponents guessing. My favorite serve was my slice. I hit several aces out wide on the deuce side and down the T on the ad side with slice. I felt like I got a lot of control with that shot, which allowed me to use as much pace as I could muster and still be confident I'd find enough consistency."
Andy also liked the balance of attributes that the racquet delivered. He said, "Power and spin were easily accessed, so I was able to serve very effectively. I could get kick serves jumping, slice serves diving off the court and flat serves coming through the court with loads of pace. At times I had a little difficultly putting the serve exactly where I wanted in the box, but that's just me being picky. Overall, the racquet performed extremely well on serve."
Maneuverability was a standout feature for our testers when it came to returning serve with the Pro Staff 97. The speed of the racquet head made it easy to get the racquet around the body and into position at contact, even against the biggest servers. Appreciating this was the aggressive-returning Andy, although he sometimes got a little carried away with the easy power. He explained, "Once again I'm being picky, but returning serve may have been the shot I struggled with the most simply because of the power and lack of depth control. I found myself restraining my desire to swing big on returns because I'd occasionally lose control of the ball and send it long. However, there was plenty of stability and heft to chip returns back deep in the court, and when I stepped in and took the ball early with a compact swing I was having constant success."
Chris was having little issue with his returns. He said, "It's nice to have a fast racquet in your hands on returns, and this racquet definitely fit the bill. Taking a good cut at a serve was pretty easy -- with only tough-to-reach or really humming serves giving me any issues. Again, I was impressed by the racquet's comfortable feel. The response was plush, lively and forgiving. Off-center returns didn't feel too jarring, which was especially welcomed since I preferred this racquet with deader/stiffer poly based strings."
Karly appreciated the speed of the racquet, but like Andy, she struggled with her depth and consistency. She explained, "From every area of the court there was a different feature that stood out the most to me. On groundstrokes it was comfort, on volleys it was touch, on serves it was control and on serve returns it was maneuverability. I loved how fast I was able to swing when returning serves, which made it simple to set up early to take the ball on the rise. I rarely had any trouble bringing the racquet around for a good return. As for control, the racquet also made it easy to direct my returns where I wanted, but I had trouble controlling the depth of my shots because of the erratic response. I had to be conscious of where I was making contact, otherwise it was easy to send the ball soaring when hitting the sweetspot."
Michelle wanted more weight in the hoop to control her aggressive shots. She said, "Because this racquet was quick and maneuverable, it made returning pretty easy. Again, I was craving a bit more control, and at times I felt like I was overhitting, which is something I wasn't expecting from this racquet. I could attack balls well, though, and I was able to get the racquet through the ball quickly."
Chris - "I liked the fast feel, comfort and easy power. Just like the RF version, I love the cosmetics."
Andy - "An excellent blend of power, control and spin, all with the signature Pro Staff feel that leaves you so connected to the ball. Very forgiving on off-center shots, too."
Karly - "I loved how arm-friendly it was. The Pro Staff 97 was very easy to swing and felt extremely comfortable on contact. Oh, and I can't leave out the tremendous spin potential."
Michelle - "Loved how easy every volley was to hit."
Chris - "I would have liked a tad more stability, and I had to find the right string to get the stringbed consistency I like."
Andy - "The stringbed response was a little inconsistent at times, and I'd lose control of the depth of my shots. With seemingly the same swing the ball would go in on one shot and five feet long the next."
Karly - "I wish the response wasn't so inconsistent. Hitting within the sweetspot was drastically more powerful than hitting outside of it, which took a bit of time to get used to."
Michelle - "I was hoping for more control and was surprised with how much power I was getting out of it. I would have liked a bit more weight and mass behind my shots."
Chris - "The Pro Staff 97 reminds me of a lighter and faster Volkl C10 Pro. Both racquets are string sensitive for me, and I prefer stiffer strings at higher tensions in both. I thought the response was very lively for a Pro Staff and was right in there with the likes of the Blade 98. Of the two current Blade 98 models, the Pro Staff 97 was most similar to the 16x19 version. I'd also compare it to the Volkl Super G 10 (295g) I've been hitting with recently. While the maneuverability between the two isn't far off, the Pro Staff 97 is livelier and less control oriented than the Volkl."
Andy - "The Pro Staff 97 fits the bill as a 'modern player's frame' and compares favorably to the Wilson Blade 98 16x19, Yonex EZONE Ai 98, Babolat Pure Strike 16x19 and Head Graphene Prestige Pro. It certainly packs a punch, but I think this frame's specs sit right in the wheelhouse of a large number of players."
Karly - "I've been playing a lot lately with the Yonex VCORE Tour G 310 racquet, which has similar specs to the Wilson Pro Staff 97. Both frames offered excellent touch and feel, were extremely comfortable on the arm, provided great access to spin and had a good combination of power and control. The biggest difference to me was the response. The Yonex felt more lively and played more consistently; it didn't make much of a difference where I made contact on the stringbed, the result was similar throughout the racquet. On the other hand, the Pro Staff 97 felt softer and wasn't as stiff on my arm. I also felt like I could get better control with the Pro Staff 97 because it didn't feel as lively as the the Yonex Tour G 310."
Michelle - "The power and lively stringbed of the Pro Staff 97 felt similar to the Dunlop iDapt Force 98. It didn't feel like any previous Pro Staffs to me. Compared to the RF 97 Autograph, the Pro Staff 97 is much livelier, faster and easier to swing."
(Scores are determined by averaging individual play test scores)
Chris: 4.5 all-court player currently using the Wilson Six.One 95 S. Chris uses a semi-western forehand grip, has a fast swing style and hits a one-handed backhand.
Andy: Open level all court player with a semi-western forehand grip and a two handed backhand. Andy currently using a Wilson Blade 98 18x20.
Karly: 4.0 baseline player currently playing with the Volkl Organix 10 Mid. She hits with a semi-western forehand grip and uses a two handed backhand.
Michelle: Open level baseline player with a semi-western forehand and a two handed backhand. She currently plays with the Babolat Pure Drive Roddick.
Review date: September 2014. If you found this review interesting or have further questions or comments please contact us.
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