It is called the “Holy Grail” by many tennis nerds. It has been used by Federer, Sampras, and Edberg. Here is my Wilson Pro Staff 85 review.
The Wilson Pro Staff 85 was released in the early 80s and is one of the most iconic tennis racquets of all time. Used by Pete Sampras, Stefan Edberg, Jim Courier and Roger Federer (before he switched to the Pro Staff 90), this racquet has quite a few grand slams to its name. But the question is: can it be used today? I took it out for a play-test.
The Wilson Pro Staff 85 have been re-released a couple of times. In 2011 and 2017 (Wilson Pro Staff RF 85) and has a loyal fan-following despite that its head size of 85 sq inches might be a little out-of-date in these top-spin friendly, baseline bashing times. My Wilson Pro Staff 85 review focuses on the St Vincent edition, which Pete Sampras swore by.
St Vincent Edition
Why would a large-scale racquet company have a part of their production on a Caribbean island? Well, partly due to tax breaks, but the people working at the Wilson factory in St Vincent also seemed to have work morale and attention to detail that is rare these days. You can read about the St Vincent factory story on the TW website. Other manufacturing locations of the Pro Staff 85 were Chicago and China.
When I brought my Pro Staff 85 on the court, I had not strung it up with a proper string. I was using an old synthetic gut (it should be strung with natural gut of course!) but the racquet still played great and was a lot of fun to use. This racquet is definitely not for baseliners who like to hit with a lot of topspin, but for crafty, slice and dice and serve and volley players, this racquet could work well even today. You won’t see it anymore on the pro tours though, the game has become too fast and demanding for this kind of head size.
Head size: 85 sq inches / 548 sq cm
Length: 27 inches / 69 cm
Weight: 340 grams / 12 ounces
Balance point: 30,5 cm / 11 pts head-light
Beamwidth: 17 mm box beam
Materials: Braided graphite, kevlar
Stiffness rating: 69
Swingweight: 330 (with strings)
As you can see, it is not the most forgiving racquet to use. But when you attack the ball and come in for a volley. It is buttery and stable and gives you pinpoint control. Defending with this racquet is not easy however and requires some masterful footwork and speed to get the racquet in place.
Federer used this until about 2002 and then he felt like he needed a bigger head size and moved to the Wilson Pro Staff 90, which he used under various paint jobs and specifications until 2014, when Wilson released the Wilson Pro Staff RF 97 Autograph (click for review).
Wilson Pro Staff 85 Review – How does it play?
When you are on your game and going for your shots, this racquet is brilliant. When you are not moving well and playing on the defensive, this racquet makes you look even worse. It is a racquet for good players who like to attack, nothing else. It will probably not make many successful tournament appearances on any level these days, but it is fun to take out and it forces you to watch the ball like a hawk and move your feet.
I really like playing with the Pro Staff 85 and the best modern equivalent I can think of (besides the discontinued Pro Staff 90 which I will also review at some point), is the Prince Phantom Pro 93P (18×20), which reminds me a lot of the Pro Staff 85. The 93P has a slightly larger head size and a rounder head though.
I will keep this racquet for those times when I want to travel back and time and move to the net as often as possible. Just one of the best racquets of all time. Worthy of its holy grail and goat status. There is nothing wrong with the Pro Staff RF97A that Federer uses these days, but the comfort and feel is better with this one. But I can understand why Federer needs more power, forgiveness, and spin for today’s game.
What do you think of the Wilson Pro Staff 85? Have you tried it? Is it worthy of its legend status?