I think this is the first time in my life that I've seen so many people talking about a single tennis racquet. It feels as if tennis is facing a new shift as the one it had when players stopped using wooden racquets. Federer's new racquet sure seems like a huge shift for him. But will his Pro Staff RF97 autograph tennis racquet be a big breakthrough? Or is it just another autograph racquet?
In the days of Jack Kramer, Wilson engineered the best selling racquet in the history of tennis. It was another autograph racquet designed for a tennis legend and it was a racquet made of wood. But this time is obviously different, the game and its racquets have evolved plus Roger Federer is considered the best tennis player of all time by many. So, times have changed and new approaches brought Wilson to use "racket scientists" whom were former rocket scientists to build the RF97 racquet. Yep, this time we are really talking about rocket science. Usually when a racquet manufacturer throws out to the market an identical racquet to the one that an actual professional player uses, it tends to be a huge success for the company and for the players. This time Wilson not only designed Federer's exact racquet for the customer, they designed several variations of the racquet to offer different style of players a more personalized option. Not everyone is Roger Federer so if you are not him or if you don't play like him and you want a piece of the same cake, Wilson designed four different models all with different specifications to fit your needs.
Roger Federer hadeen playing with a black matte prototype racquet from Wilson, because of that and because of his black outfit when he plays the U.S Open (where he shares the record for most open era men's US Open titles won, with Sampras and Jimmy Connors) Federer was being introduced at the beginning of his games with the "Imperial March" theme song of Star Wars and has been nicknamed the Darth Federer. But this summer the prototype racquet finally became official and red showed up in the black Pro Staff racquet. The aesthetics of the new Autograph racquet was designed by a fan. The fan-designed racquet went back to a classic look that Pro Staff's tended to have, and now with the red and black finish, it looks like Roger has a Darth Maul on his command ( another Star Wars evil character). Roger that!
The smaller the head size of the racquet the more control you get, then why did Roger changed from a 90 inch head size to a 97 inch? Federer doesn't lack the power. But with new racquet science, Federer doesn't have to give up control when switching to a larger racquet, he will be getting easier power for a more attacking and risky style of tennis. Just to give you an idea on what other top players use: Novak Djokovic, Rafa Nadal, Tomas Berdych and David Ferrer all use a 100 square inch racquet, while Andy Murray uses a 98 square inch racquet. Then what benefits will Roger Federer get by moving to a bigger head size racquet? Some people say that Federer should have switched to a bigger frame a long time ago and they hope that is not too late for him. The bigger head size will offer more power and a bigger sweet spot. Just to make the point, Pete Sampras has said he regrets that he didn't change to a larger racquet when he was on the ATP tour. No doubts about it, Federer is making a great choice.
The weight of Wilson BLX Pro Staff 90 (the previous tennis racquet that Roger Federer had been using ) is close to 357 grams, his new racquet is just 3 grams lighter but it still is sort of heavy for casual players. Pete Sampras also used a heavy racquet and this could only mean that with the pace of ball one has to face these days at professional levels, all they have to do is swing with reasonable speed and the mass of the racquet will dominate the contact. Instead of getting pushed around, they will be pushing.
At the end of the day, Federer and Wilson wouldn't like to jeopardize their promising future together and Federer also needs to get something great out of the new racquet. We might see him struggling at the beginning ( maybe by not winning the U.S Open ) but sometimes you have to take some couple of steps back in order to take a couple of steps forward (Federer ended up winning the Masters in Shanghai with his new racquet ). And that's what Federer is looking for, he recently stated that he is not afraid of risking his shots and looking like a fool when he is aiming for winner shots, especially on fast courts. Eventually we will see the sweet breakthrough of playing with an autograph racquet at this point of Federer's career. Currently ranked number 2 of the world it is definitively not too late for Roger to accomplish what some epic players like Sampras did before leaving the tour. It seems that this new racquet is a win-win situation for everyone this time, not only Wilson and Federer will be getting a piece of the cake, but we shouldn't be surprised if we see some top players switching to the new RF97. Tennis just got a little #betterer.