The Pro Staff 97 Countervail gets the tuxedo update in what has become the most usable Pro Staff in the Wilson catalog. The RF 97 is an advanced players racquet in every way but the Pro Staff 97 is much more user friendly and easier to wield. With a strung weight around 11.5 ounces, and a mobile 10 points head-light balance, The Pro Staff 97 is a fast, nimble feeling racquet for the big swinging modern game.
I found the groove quickly from the baseline with the Pro Staff 97 CV. The response is familiar and comfortable. I enjoyed the versatility from the back of the court and whether I was way behind the baseline trying to produce more spin and height, or stepping inside the court and taking the ball early, the string bed felt consistent. While the RF 97 is more stable (much heavier) the Pro Staff 97 is an easier and more forgiving racquet in every way. When out of position, I took advantage of the lighter weight and swing weight to get myself back in in the rally.
Volleying with a Pro Staff 97 is a treat. The head-light balance and Wilson’s long-standing perimeter weighting system (at 3 and 9 o’clock) make it easy to control pace when deflecting passing shots. Countervail dampens the string bed nicely, especially when missing the sweet spot or defending well-struck passing shots. The Pro Staff 97 offers a solid blend of stability and mobility in the front court overall.
Serves & Overheads
I enjoyed going after flat first serves with the new Pro Staff. This frame gets up the hitting zone with ease and I could generate plenty of pace, even after a couple of sets. The 16x19 string pattern grabbed the ball well and made it easy to hit slices or kick serves off the court.
The Pro Staff 97 Countervail is maybe the most dampened Pro Staff ever. The 21.5mm beam is not too thin and not too thick but a great compromise. Off center hits let you know you missed the sweet spot, but they are far from jarring or stiff. Players looking for more feedback can use a leather grip instead of the cushion grip. The leather grip also is an easy way to make the frame more head light, similar to the RF 97, without the 330+ swing weight.
The Pro Staff 97 Countervail is a great option for competitors looking for a more user-friendly version of the RF 97. While still a racquet for advanced players, Countervail technology makes it substantially more comfortable than Roger’s version. Because it’s such a comfortable racquet, players can string with hybrids, or full polyester and shouldn’t have to worry much about arm fatigue. Did I mention how great the frames look?
Note: The playtest racquet was strung with Luxilon 4G in the mains and NXT Power 16 in the crosses at 54 lbs.
About the Reviewer: Sam Jones currently works at Tennis Express on the Content Marketing team. He previously played at Southwestern University, taught tennis for 10+ years and earned his Master Racquet Technician Certification in 2011. He is an active USTA League and Tournament player.