As most of you loyal readers know, I've been play-testing the Angell TC 97 Custom 18×20 for a while now and I wanted to throw in a comparison between another popular racquet: the Wilson Pro Staff RF 97 Autograph.
The reason I wanted to do this test is because the Wilson Pro Staff RF 97 Autograph is a great, best-selling racquet used and endorsed by the GOAT himself, Roger Federer, while the Angell TC 97 Custom has become a legend among a lot of racquet aficionados as a great way to get a “proper” player's racquet made to your own specs. Now you can also get the beautiful H19-inspired Wilson Ultra Tour and lead it up, which I've also been testing recently.
I also wanted to compare these two racquets since the Wilson Pro Staff RF97 is a powerful, heavy racquet (stiffness rating RA 68 strung) and the Angell is quite plush around RA 62 and more of a control and feel-oriented racquet.
Mind you, the two tested racquets are slightly different in stock weight. The RF97 is 355 grams strung while my Angell weighs 347, but I added some extra lead to it to make them as close as possible. Another difference is the string pattern, my Angell is 18×20 while the RF is 16×19, but I'll take that into consideration and the Angells are available in the more spin-friendly 16×19 pattern too.
Here is a video of me and my hitting partner playing some points (so called “elevens” and a practice set) with the RF97A and the TC97C.
What people will tell you about the Wilson Pro Staff RF 97 Autograph is that it is a lot to swing. I've been known to enjoy racquets up to 375 grams previously and the RF97A is only 355 grams, but you'll definitely feel it after a while. It just doesn't cut through the air as well as I wish although if you have Roger Federer's technique, I'm sure that's not a big issue. But I could definitely get the Angell TC 97 Custom moving much faster, also with lead. It has a lot to do with the 1,5 mm thinner beam on the Angell (20 mm compared to 21,5). A lot of times the RF 97 feels clunky to me.
Okay, the RF97 takes more to swing and moves slower through the air, but once you make good contact you're in for a treat. The ball really pancakes on the racquet and you get nice injection of power and that wonderful “thwack” sound. Volleys are amazing, the serve is as great, slice shots are magnificent. However, on average ground strokes that extra drop in racquet head speed doesn't work for me and I much prefer the ultra-fast response of my Angell racquet.
Another thing that bothered me with the RF97 is that (with a hybrid of a multifilament and a poly string) still felt some arm fatigue after an hour's play. Part of it might be the heft, but the stiffness also bothers me. Can Federer really be using a 68 RA stiffness racquet (most pro players use racquets in the low 60s or below) or is it to give recreational players more power? I much preferred the plush feel of the Angell here.
But when it came to heated exchanges where I wanted the extra juice for stability and power, the RF97 did not let me down. As long as I timed it right, I could place my balls on a dime with interest and when my opponent used the RF97 the weight it gave his shots really bothered me. Here, the Angell TC 97 Custom felt more low-powered and required better movement and more from me to get that extra injection of pace. With the RF97 I could just “block” the ball back, it wasn't as easy with the Angell.
So there are definitely pros and cons in this comparison of two great racquets. In some situations I prefer the RF97, in others I'll go with the Angell TC 97 Custom. Let's look at the different points below.
Wilson Pro Staff RF 97 Autograph
+ Decent spin
– Slow through the air
– Can bring arm fatigue
– You need good technique and footwork
Angell TC 97 Custom 18×20
+ Great feel
+ Maximum control
+ Pretty fast through the air
– Lower trajectory (get the 16×19 for more spin)
– Smaller sweet spot
Which racquet would you choose based on the above? Let me know in the comments field!
WHERE TO BUY THE WILSON PRO STAFF RF 97 AUTOGRAPH
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Question. Have you tried hitting the RF 97 with a natural gut hyrbrid? I recently demoed the raquet and loved absolutely everything about it except for the stiffness like you mentioned. I felt some discomfort in my arm after about an hour. I am wondering if natural gut would give me a completely different experience and play soft enough to purchase the stick. I believe I was playing with Wilson synthetic gut at a high tension. Any feedback would be great!
Yes, I have and it does make the racquet more comfortable to play with, but it doesn’t make it “soft”. If you feel arm discomfort after an hour with a synthetic gut, I think there might be better frames out there for you. But since you can sell the racquet lightly used for a price not too far from a new one, I’d probably buy it, string it up, properly test it and then see if it’s the right thing for you. If it’s not, you sell it and lose a little money but at least know for sure.
It was too stiff for me at least, but a lot of people are playing with it happily so it’s highly personal.
Good luck and let me know how it goes! Cheers /J
I demoed the rf 97 autograph (black version) and while the weight was not an issue for me, the racquet felt stiff and jarring even with a soft string (prince premier) in the mains and prince tour xt (soft poly) in the crosses (53×50). I was really surprised because my prokennex ki5 pse has a strung RA of 67 but has never felt uncomfortable to me (probably because of the dampening material in the frame) even though it is a slightly heavier.
I also noticed a difference in the trapdoor (the retail version is plastic, the one Federer uses is silicone like the older red and black version) so not sure what else is different in the handle material.
I will stick to my prokennex and Dunlop option 2 for now.
Thanks for your comments!
Yeah, the RF97 is a stiffer frame for sure and definitely not for everyone! Federer surely has some silicone in the handle which will dampen vibrations slightly. The ProKennex Ki5 PSE is a great frame and nothing wrong with the Dunlop option 2 either so stick with those if you’re happy!
Cheers / Jonas
I’ve been playing with a custom RF97 for some months, then I moved back to something that does not feel like a steel bar when you hit the ball (i.e. Head PT57E).
So, as many of you, I’m still wondering: is He so strong and resilient?
I mean, look at the racquet moving in slow Motion as He hits of center shots… can it be 71 RA as measured on a retail stick?!
Good question. The RF 97 does feel stiff – even with a hybrid string it like Champion’s Choice. My gut feeling says his RA is lower but the mold is the same, but unless someone gets a hold of a real Federer racquet it will be hard to tell. My arm didn’t love the RF97A a hundred percent at least. The Fed obviously strikes the ball so much better than us mortals, but you rarely see pro stock racquets with strung stiffness ratings in the high 60s.
The PT57E is an excellent choice however! Cheers / Jonas
I’ve been using the RF97 for six months. It really helped me clean up my game, but now that I’m getting better, I’m desiring something a bit softer and more consistent, but I’m used to the plow and mass.
What do you think about going with a 6.1 18×20? The specs are almost the same. I’m over the “thwack” mini-orgasm when striking pure. If you are off a little, it does not respond consistently. Oh, and even with gut in the mains, you can def feel it after a couple hours.
I’d be very furious if Fed is using the strung 68 RA. It would be almost perfect at 64-65.
Fed is apparently using the stiff RF97A but with gut in the mains and poly cross, along with his fantastic technique, I’m sure are reasons for him not being bothered by the stiffness of the frame. I love the 6.1 18×20 and could go out and play a tournament with it at anytime. It’s the racquet I started playing with pretty much (late starter here)…Cheers / J