RF97 Autograph long term review

After about half a year of playing and North of 100,000 ball contacts with the RF, it's probably a good time to post an in-depth review. Remember that Wilson has been stating that the racquet was co-developed with Roger, and that he is actually playing with what you can buy. So here's your chance to feel like Roger, at least a little :) So how does his racquet feel, actually?



Length: 68.58 cm (official spec - more on this below...)
Head size: 626 cm² / 97 in²
Beam width: 21.5 mm
String pattern: 16 x 19

Measured on true-to-naked-spec frames:

Strung weight: 358 g
Strung balance: 314 mm
Strung swing weight: 330 kg cm²

Wilson Pro Staff RF97 Autograph with orange Völkl Cyclone string

The 2nd generation RF97 is supposed to only be a cosmetic update, i.e. new paintjob. I have played both back to back, however not with exactly the same string and grip setup. The official specs are identical though:

Thoughts on specs, and some benchmarking

I put together a quick comparison between memorable Pro Staff models, and as you can see most of the specs are not that different:

Pro Staff RF97Six.One 95 16x18Pro Staff Tour 90Pro Staff 6.1 Original
Strung weight356349354356
Strung balance314316314315
Strung swing weight330330336326
Head size626613581613
Beam width21.5221821
Main strings16161618
Cross strings19181820
Even string spacing around sweet spot?YesNoYesNo

Most notably, head size and beam width have increased, mostly resulting in more power (and less backhand shanks for Roger :P).

It probably makes most sense to compare the RF97 and the SixOne 95 a bit more, as those 2 are the most recent racquets in the lineup. The RF97 is even a bit heavier, by ~7 grams. There are only a handful of racquets in that weight range on the market, however for both racquets the official head light balance leads to a manageable swing weight.

The RF97s racquet head is a bit wider and starts a bit lower in the throat. Compared to the 16x18 SixOne 95 you get 1 extra cross string. I can't help but think I would have preferred a 16x18 bed, but hard to tell without trying it out... The string spacing is pretty even around the sweet spot, which I do like as it helps with both power and spin.

I currently don't have a precise enough measurement tool at hand, but by placing both beams side by side they *seem* almost identical in width, at around 21.5 mm. These days that's a good compromise between feel and power. If you hit with Roger's previous racquet, the Tour 90, or the current 95S, you'll appreciate the speedy feel and precision of an 18 mm frame, but you'll likely find that it's tough to hit the ball through the court.

With current Wilson frames, I'm right between grip sizes 2 and 3 (4 1/4 and 4 3/8). I changed my set of grip size 3 RFs to size ~2.5 by replacing the leather grip with the Babolat Skin Feel. That took ~10 grams off the frame and moved the balance point by ~6 mm towards the head, making it now a tad lighter but also a tad less head light than my SixOne 95. Overall still in very close range.

Warning: Wilson's generous manufacturing tolerances lead to very different racquets carrying the same name. In addition to the weight / balance / swing weight issues, I now found that 2 of my 6 frames are actually ~0.4 cm shorter (!). Never seen or heard of that before, so it didn't even occur for me to order and check for length. So ask for what you want and measure what you get. More info here.

Playing impressions

The mass and relatively open string pattern help produce a heavy, decently spinny ball. If you end up with a frame with higher swing weight than the official spec, your shots will get even heavier, but it will also be tough to get the racquet around. If you end up with a lighter swing weight version, the RF transforms into more of a serve and volley racquet. I found a true to spec frame to be a nice all-court racquet. I've had the pleasure (pain?) to hit with all 3 variants, and insisted on receiving the all-court spec that's printed on the frame.

Product-design-wise, I am still somewhat bothered by the relatively low-sitting throat and racquet head, and the throat being a tad longer than the SixOne 95. I blame that combo for the sometimes wobbly response I receive on hits outside the sweet spot.

I've also been struggling with my topspin backhand a bit. For the backswing, I put the supporting hand's index finger inside the frame and on the strings. On the SixOne, it ends up resting between the 6th and 7th hole. Playing with the RF, I found that my finger rests a tiny bit higher, which after a few million backhands might have some impact on the rest of the kinetic chain...

Comparing the RF97 and SixOne 95 side by side, the 97 produces more spin and a higher launch angle, however the 95 is both noticeably more stable and more maneuverable. The SixOne's benefits become obvious when returning fast serves, and especially on volleys. If I was exclusively playing serve and volley, I'd stick to the 95, still probably the best racquet on the planet for that purpose. However, the 97 better suits the modern baseline game while doing well enough on serves and volleys. Hence the RF97 is probably the better all-year, all-surface racquet.

Both the RF97 and the SixOne 95 can feel a bit planky - I've had similar a similar impression hitting with the Babolat Pure Controls, or even the Yonex Ezone DR 98.

And - as common amongst today's mass-produced frames - both feel quite stiff, making it hard on the arm to use stiffer strings. I'd love to pair the RF with the 1.25 Tour Bite, but even around 20 kg / 44 lbs I end up in pain after a while.

I have a video hitting with the RF here, which you might have seen in another post on the stick.


Player type: All-court players who have (or want to develop) refined long swings, want to feel some heft in their hand, and aim to produce a heavy ball.

String: I've been playing the RF with the orange Cyclone 1.25, strung at 21/20 kgs in the summer, adding a few kgs in the winter. The 1.25 mm Tour Bite was a great fit too, but caused some arm pain. I would generally lean towards a softer but still grippy string. If money is no issue, Roger's Champion's Choice string job works nicely too.

Closing thoughts

Despite the manufacturing tolerance issues and sometimes wobbly response, the RF97 Autograph turned out to be a really nice racquet. Subjectively I'd say it's still one of the 5 most interesting frames on the market. There's not much competition in that weight range, and despite the high gram count it's much more playable than you might think. If you have - or want to develop - smooth swings, and like the thought of producing a heavy ball with a good amount of spin, give it a go.