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Classic Racquets: Wilson Pro Staff 85 Review

by Jonas Eriksson
Wilson Pro Staff 85 Review

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(Wilson Pro Staff RF 85) and has a loyal fan-following despite that its head size of 85 sq inches might be a little out-of-date in these top-spin friendly, baseline bashing times.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

Wilson Pro Staff 85 Review

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.

Unstrung specs

Wilson Pro Staff 85 Review

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?

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Rob Sutphen September 17, 2019 - 12:15

Love the feel of the Pro Staff 85 and 90 ncode. I’ve been trying to find a modern racquet with a similar vibe, but to no avail. Really liked the 93P, but it had a lot more vibration going on, almost metallic compared. I’m curious how you’d compare the feel and play of the Angell custom’s to the old school construction.
I’m really enjoying your site by the way. I’ve learned ton going through your reviews. Thanks so much for your insight.


Rick September 18, 2019 - 04:06

I still have the first stick I got as a 10-year old. It’s a Donnay Pro Cynetic and I read somewhere that it is very much the same as the pro staff. Produced at the same factory even. Is this true do you know? It’s still fun to play with as you say but maybe not the most forgiving racquet… :-)

BR Rick

Tennisnerd September 18, 2019 - 08:47

Will try to find out about the Donnay Pro Cynetic! Cheers / J

Luis September 20, 2019 - 14:43

Dont forget Head still produces midsizes!

Have you tried the latest touch 93 inch Prestige mid?

Tennisnerd September 22, 2019 - 15:32

I have not! Sadly not…

Boris October 31, 2019 - 08:30

Here’s an interesting thread about the Donnay Pro Cynetic vs. the PS 85:


If you find pictures of the Donnay, it’s quite obvious that it’s the same mould as the Ps 85, minus the PWS at 3 and 9. Same construction of braided graphite and kevlar, too.

Tennisnerd November 2, 2019 - 13:03

Need to try the Donnay version of the Pro Staff 85.

A February 7, 2020 - 19:03

Hi TN.
Just thought I’d add to your list of manufacturing countries:

Chicago USA
St Vincent

From what I know:
The Donnay factory in Belgium was asked to manufacture the Pro Staff Original (85 and 110 headsizes) to reduce cost and make some space in the Chicago factory, but they messed it up. Apparently the frames were weak and didn’t feel the same build quality as Chicago so they took the manufacturing to St Vincent. I’ve read that the Belgium made racquets sometimes broke. The Pro Staff was originally designed in 125 sq in and 110 sq in headsizes. The 85 came later.
Donnay adopted the mould for the PS85 and hence the Pro Cynetic. Different drill pattern for the strings.
A friend of mine used the Pro Cynetic 1 for years, while I used the PS85 Taiwan model. He also had some St Vincent Pro Staffs, but swore by the Pro Cynetics. It’s been years since I tried his racquets, but I believe the main difference is that the Pro Cynetics are more forgiving. Pro Staff 85s are very unforgiving. Every shot has to be perfect and committed. The Pro Staff is more stable and more accurate. Out of the two, the Pro Cynetic is probably more suited to today’s game than the Pro Staff.
Lastly, if you want a racquet with the closest feel to the St Vincent models, you have to try the Pro Staff K 88. Other than that, nothing comes close – after all, the K88 was made for Sampras. Unbelievably stable and solid. Build quality is also really good, even though it’s made in China.

Tennisnerd February 8, 2020 - 07:34

Thanks for the informative comment! I actually did try the K88 a long time ago, heavy but nice!

Cheers / J

Brett March 12, 2020 - 10:31

I’ve got an original pro staff 85 and a 2011 Chinese reissue one. Played with the reissue for most of last season. Comp is at a guess and at its best NTRP 5.0 men’s doubles. Played comp a couple of weeks ago with the original and it was quite the weapon. Took me a good few games to get it under control, reducing the too long bombs you can easily let loose. I enjoyed it immensely but agree that it’s probably a take out at times pleasure. Thanks TN for the review and the informative site!

Geoffrey Dy February 12, 2021 - 06:05

I am looking forward to owning a Wilson Pro Staff 85 St. Vincent.
Heard that the solidness and feel is crisp .


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