Origins of the ProStaff Original
The ProStaff Original was the brainchild of Wilson marketing back in 1982. Following on the heels of the successful Ultra and Sting models, the ProStaff combined the basic racquet shape of the Sting with the Ultra's braided graphite/kevlar construction and Perimeter Weighting System (PWS). The ProStaff was introduced in 1983. Originally manufactured in Wilson's River Grove, IL factory, it had no bumper (a bumper was added in 1984). Shortly thereafter, manufacturing was moved to St. Vincent, The Grenadines. Ken Sherman was one of 4 Wilson engineers involved in the design and development of the ProStaff and was lead engineer at the fabled St. Vincent factory for 4 years, working on ProStaffs and original Profile racquets, among others.
Surprisingly, the ProStaff Original 85 was a downsized version of the 110. (Wilson originally manufactured the ProStaff in 85, 110 and 125 square inch head sizes. The 125 was phased out in 1986 and the 110 was dropped in 1991.) With most racquets, it's the other way around - first comes the mid or midplus, followed by the oversize. Ken Sherman explains, "during the development of the ProStaff 'family', I was responsible for the 110 head size. After it was completed and put into production, the layup for the 110 was then down-sized so that all of the same local reinforcements covered the same areas in both rackets. Doing this helped speed up the 85's development - it worked on a bigger frame, so it should work on the smaller one. It seemed to work. ProStaff rackets were named racket family of the year in 1985 by Tennis or World Tennis magazine."
What are the benefits of braided construction? Ken replies, "braided construction offers continuous fibers throughout the entire frame. The only starting and stopping of fibers comes from the drilling of the string holes. A complete uni-directional racket is composed of many sheets of material that may only have fibers from 2" to 8" in length, which gives the frame a different feel*. The ProStaffs also had a 50% Kevlar/Graphite inner braid (and 100% graphite outer braid) which helped in giving the rackets the feel that is so unique. Kevlar adds weight and is effective in damping frame shock and vibration. Additionally, they are foam-filled to help achieve uniform weight/balance specs and provide an even more solid feel by deadening sound." David Price, former engineering manager at Wilson's St. Vincent adds, "braided graphite/kevlar racquets offer much better feel and more consistent distribution of kevlar fibers than uni-directional construction racquets. This is why we've gone back to braided construction.
After the St. Vincent factory closed, Wilson tried to make the rackets in Taiwan using an all uni-directional layup. However, the racquets didn't have the same feel as braided construction and they are now producing frames with braided product. According to Bill Severa, Senior Designer with Wilson Racquet Sports, "the uni-directional graphite ProStaffs were a stopgap measure. Within 4 months of the St. Vincent factory closing, we went through 12 - 15 iterations of braided construction. Shortly thereafter, we were up and running with braided construction ProStaffs from Taiwan. We feel we have the closest layup to the old St. Vincent frames and most players who've played with both agree. There will always be a few, like Pete Sampras, who prefer a particular racquet for whatever reasons."
* It should be noted that the majority of current racquets produced by all manufacturers are mostly uni-directional graphite construction. Also, braided construction results in an overall heavier racquet, making it nearly impossible to construct frames under 300 grams (10.5 ounces).
All content copyright 1999 Tennis Warehouse.