Look at Roger Federer serving, volleying, slicing and carving his way through the 2014 U.S. Open draw.
It's a Federer we haven't seen in a few years.
Has he stopped aging?
Has he become more fit?
Is his body more healthy?
It appears so, but what else has the 33-year old, 17-time major champ added to his game in the last year?
A new racquet.
It's the Wilson Pro Staff RF97 Autograph. Federer has been using it for months now and I've had one for a few weeks.
Out of the box, holding it in your hand it feels solid and easy to maneuver.
On the court it feels even better.
I don't make this statement lightly, it might be the "perfect tennis racquet," not only for Federer, but for tennis players of all levels.
"This racket represents the most extensive collaboration between an elite player of Roger’s caliber and Wilson,” says Mike Dowse, Wilson Sporting Goods Co. President. “The result is a groundbreaking racket that will benefit tennis players worldwide.”
In my Examiner.com piece from August 3, 2014, I talk about the design and look of the frame, but I also touch on the specs.
Seven percent larger than Federer's previous racquet. This creates a 10 percent larger sweet spot. Braided graphite and Kevlar in the frame composition give that consistent "Wilson feel."
If that casual tennis fan seems to think Federer is playing better tennis with this frame, they are not just seeing things. Former ATP World Tour pro and current broadcaster told ESPN that he sees a big difference in Federer's game.
You can also feel that "feel" on the court.
Wilson says the frame has a bigger sweet spot and I have to agree. It generates power without losing touch or feel. A 10% bigger sweet spot may not seem like much when you put that in inches on a face of a tennis racquet, but think about a pro and how they are always around the normal sweet spot anyway. If the racquet is more forgiving for a former world No. 1, just think of how it can help your game.
In this age of powerful serves, the new RF97 allows Roger to block back many of the big servers he struggled against with his old smaller frame.
It can help an average or a beginning player put more balls in play and maybe even hit more winners and generate power.
Putting the frame in the hands of a 3.5 and 4.5 player, I saw both players emitting more confidence on the serve.
"It feels like I can just rare back and fire," one of the play testers said.
Both players also liked the control from the backcourt and the net. They also both remarked that they could block returns back with ease.
The only negative, and it was a small one from one of the testers was they thought there was too much going on with the design. I tried to tell him that Wilson has then accomplished their goal.
It's a new iconic design for an iconic frame.
“When I saw the designs from Wilson, I knew right away that this was the look that I wanted to represent my legacy with the brand,” Federer says. “The design is young and modern, with a classic feel. It is a fitting look for the next generation of the Pro Staff rackets.”
Tennis analyst Brad Gilbert, never one to be shy with words, says switching to the RF97 was the right move for Federer.
"It's made him a much better player. I think that now the racket is second nature for him.”
Can it can make you a better player, too?
I think so.