How many racquets introduced in the last 30 years can rightfully claim this distinction? For wood racquets, candidates would be the Wilson Jack Kramer and Dunlop Maxply. In the aluminum category it'd be the Wilson T-2000, Prince Classic, Head Master and the aluminum/graphite crossover, Head Arthur Ashe Competition. Graphite models would certainly include the Dunlop Max 200G (of the '80s), Prince Graphite (Original) Classic, Head (Prestige) Classic and the Wilson ProStaff 6.0 (Original).
Of these racquets, the only models still being sold are the Head Classic, the Prince Graphite Classic and the Wilson ProStaff 6.0. These 3 models continue to be popular with ATP touring professionals, as well as serious club and college players. They aren't "high-tech" or "game improvement" racquets. There's no titanium or Hyper Carbon. No Power Holes or Sweet Spot Suspension. No vibration absorbing handle systems. These racquets are the epitome of "player's" racquets.
With the U.S. Open upon us, we chose to review the ProStaff 6.0 - Pete Sampras' racquet. Now available in 85 and 95 head sizes, the 6.0 continues to be one of Wilson's most popular selling racquets. In fact, the 85 still enjoys almost a cult status among 5.0+ and wannabes. This is likely due, in no small part, to some of the famous players who have used this racquet (link to ProStaff Pros). It's Pete Sampras, however, who has had the greatest influence on 6.0 sales over the last 7 years.
There's also the mystique of the long-since closed Wilson factory in St. Vincent, The Grenadines, where the original ProStaffs were manufactured. What secret brew was used to make the racquets that Pete uses exclusively? Was it voodoo? Or is it a solid formula of materials (graphite & kevlar), lay-up (braided construction) and timeless design that has extended the popularity and lifecycle of this racquet?
The introduction of the ProStaff 6.0 95 was evolutionary and necessary to broaden the appeal of the 6.0. It's not just 10 square inches larger than the 85 either. The 6.0 95 has a wider beam (20mm vs. 17mm), is slightly lighter (12.3 ounces vs. 12.6 ounces) and is balanced more head-light (10 points HL vs. 8 pts. HL) than the 6.0 85. The result is a slightly more powerful, more maneuverable, more comfortable and more forgiving racquet for players who find these characteristics lacking in the 6.0 85.
We put both models through extensive on-court testing (a few of our playtesters didn't want to put them down) and here are our findings. Although both models come with a leather Fairway grip, we replaced both with Wilson Cushion-Air Perforated grips.
Just picking up this racquet makes you feel like a player. Perhaps it's the image of Pete Sampras using this stick, or Stefan Edberg or Jim Courier. A racquet with this much heft and tiny head certainly requires a superior level of competence to bring out its best qualities. Dan offers, "There should be a warning on this racquet - 'enter at your own risk; racquet may bite'. There's not much forgiveness here. Either you're on the sweetspot and loving it or off and hating it. There is no in-between." Drew continues, "you don't need to be a pro to use the 6.0 85 but solid mechanics and some strength are a must. The best comparison is with cameras - most of us like compact racquets that auto-focus, auto flash, etc. As you become a better photographer, you want a camera that does less and less for you. Why? Because you want complete control over the final result. People choose the 6.0 85 for the same reason. They don't want the tool interfering with the shot."
From the baseline, the 6.0 85 is like a PT boat - small but deadly when fired properly; deceptively heavy (despite its size), yet maneuverable when operated by a well-trained skipper. At almost 13 ounces strung, getting the 6.0 85 in motion in time requires early preparation. Granville comments, "if you can get the racquet to the ball, then you'll hit the ball with good pace, simply due to its mass." Mark concurs, "surprisingly maneuverable for such a heavy racquet. if I could get the racquet to the ball, it did most of the work on groundstrokes. Although my arm tired after a while from the racquet's weight, there was none of the shock or vibration I feel when using a lightweight racquet."
Control is the 6.0 85's most widely acclaimed attribute. This is why it is or has been the racquet of choice for players like Jim Courier, Stefan Edberg and Pete Sampras. Drew offers, "you can feel the control of the 85. Unlike any other racquet, it seems built to keep the ball in the court." Dan adds, "control is outstanding but only if preparation is good and your timing is on. It's very easy to swing late with this racquet. However, when everything falls into place, there isn't a better control racquet out there."
Power is predictably low with the 6.0 85. "Shorter and mid-swing types need not apply", declares Dan. Indeed, the 6.0 85 requires a full swing to generate adequate power and depth. Don concurs, "I never could play with this racquet. With my medium swing, the 85 just doesn't offer enough punch. I simply need more racquet and a little less weight. Unless I have time to set up and take a full swing at every shot, my balls land too short or too soft. I found myself slicing almost every backhand because I was late. Also, the sweetspot is about the size of a tennis ball. Mis-hits are not very forgiving."
Serves and overheads are solid due to the 85's overall weight and head-light balance. Don says, "the one shot I hit well with the 85 is the serve. I could hit with good pace and spot-on precision." Dan continues, "serves and overheads were very solid but hitting either one near the top of the stringbed costs you big time (at least a 30% drop in power). Those with high service tosses beware - your timing must be that much better to hit the tiny sweet spot." Over a 2-3 set match, serving with the 12.7 ounce 85 can tire all but the fittest players. Drew comments, " obviously, the racquet is capable of hitting great serves. However, your mechanics need to be excellent and over a long match, that's hard to maintain."
Volleys are surprisingly stable for such a small headed racquet. This is likely due to the 85's weight and Perimeter Weighting System (PWS). Drew offers, "ordinarily, I'd say you couldn't volley effectively with an 85 square inch head but the mass and stability of this racquet allow you to block shots with a minimal stroke and still achieve good power and excellent control. Technique and preparation are key. If you're late, forget it." Dan continues, "volleys felt incredible and, at times, you see why Sampras loves this frame. Touch and feel are unequaled. Players with short, mechanically sound volleys will do well. Players not experienced at net or who like to hit swinging volleys should choose a different racquet."
Serve returns, approach shots and reaction volleys can be hit effectively with the 6.0 85 due to it's mass and stability. Once again, though, mis-hits are penalized due to the small head. Slice shots must be hit with a longer stroke and overall, the 6.0 85 seems to favor flatter strokes. Players who hit with excessive spin will generally prefer the 95.
There's no doubt about the limited appeal of the 6.0 85. It's not for everyone. However, for the purist player, who possesses solid strokes and is accustomed to a hefty, smaller head, the ProStaff 6.0 85 is as good as it gets. In fact, 2 of our playtesters have switched back to this racquet after 2 weeks of playtesting.
Wilson ProStaff 6.0 85
Technical & Statistical Data
"Definitely the more realistic head size of the two."
This is how one of our playtesters described the ProStaff 6.0 95 compared to the 85. Introduced in 1994, the 6.0 95 offers similar playing characteristics to the 6.0 85 but it gives the average Joe and Josephine an 11% larger hitting surface to work with. Because of its larger head size, the 6.0 95 has a much broader player appeal than the 85.
On groundstrokes, the extra 10 square inches are immediately noticeable. Dan offers, "groundies had some extra juice and topspin was easier to produce with this racquet than I remember." Drew concurs, "the 95 is easier to play with in most respects - more power, more spin and easier to get around." A dissenting voice comes from Granville, who found the 95 too flexible. He comments, "the 95 seemed a bit too flexible, bordering on whippy. There was so much flex that I could feel the torque of off-center shots, thus robbing me of some needed power." Don offers, "while still a bit underpowered for me, I could play with the 6.0 95. It offers a solid, yet comfortable feel. Off-center hits are a little more forgiving, less jarring than the 85, and it's pretty maneuverable for a 12.3 ounce racquet. This racquet still requires a full swing and early preparation to ensure good pace and depth. Overall though, it's more user friendly for the masses. I definitely prefer it to the 6.0 85 or even the 6.1 95."
At net, the 6.0 95 offers control and stability but not much power. Mark says, "the larger head on the 95 and slight increase in power helped the most on volleys. Although neither head size offered as much power as I like on volleys, they were great on half-volleys. The weight, stability and low power level made it much easier to half-volley than with my Thunder 820." Dan continues, "volleys stuck well and control was outstanding. Touch angles and half-volleys found their mark, as long as the racquet was in front and my stroke stayed compact. Volleyers with long swings or visions of laziness at net should look elsewhere. The racquet will demand your undivided attention at net."
Serving with the 6.0 95 is less demanding than the 85. The larger head size makes spin serves less of an effort. Dan comments, "if you're mechanically sound, serving bombs with the 95 is no problem. Second serves get good kick, but because of the weight, generating adequate racquet head speed still requires some muscle. I had no trouble serving in the first set but my arm became fatigued toward the end of the second set. Players who are used to 11 ounce or lighter sticks will need to adapt to the 6.0 95's heavier weight." Most players agreed that the 95 was more comfortable on serves. Granville offers, "seemed most forgiving on serves and overheads. Very comfortable, with good power and control." Finally, Don describes the 95 on serves and overheads, "I might have hit a few bigger serves with the 85 when I found the sweetspot but served consistently better and hit cleaner overheads with the 95. While it requires good stroke mechanics, the 6.0 95 allows for some margin of error without too much penalty."
Approach shots, returns and reaction volleys are solid with the 6.0 95, again due to it's overall weight and stability. The increased hitting surface allows for more effective slice shots and the added maneuverability makes off-balance shots easier to handle.
The ProStaff 6.0 95 is best suited for 4.5-7.0 players who generate their own power and have developed sound strokes. It is effective for baseliners and serve/volley players alike - quite versatile for a player's racquet. As Drew says, "the 6.0 95 is a bit like a cross between the 6.0 85 and 6.1 95. Maybe it's the 6.0 for the rest of us."
Wilson Prostaff 6.0 95
Technical & Statistical Data
Play test racquets strung with Tecnifibre NRG2 17 at 58 pounds (Prostaff 6.0 85) and 60 pounds (Prostaff 6.0 95).
Granville: 5.5 all-court player currently using a Wilson ProStaff 6.0 85 (as a result of playtesting)
Dan: 5.5 all-court player currently using a Gamma Tradition 18 MP.
Mark: 5.5 serve & volleyer currently using a Prince Thunder Ultralite Titanium Oversize.
Don: 4.5-5.0 all-court player currently using a Yonex Super RD Tour 95.
Drew: 4.5-5.0 baseliner currently using a Wilson ProStaff 6.0 85 (yep, him too)
Review date: August 1999. If you found this review interesting or have further questions or comments please contact us.
All content copyright 1999 Tennis Warehouse.