Roger Federer told reporters that he will try a new, larger racket at the German Tennis Championships this week.
The 31-year-old Federer said he plans to play a Wilson racket with a 98-square-inch head after years of using one with a 90-square-inch head. The 17-time Grand Slam champion faces Daniel Brands in his opening-round match on Wednesday in Hamburg.
Federer has been using a 90-square-inch head for more than a decade — a very small frame for a top pro. Though Wilson rebranded his racket numerous times over the years, the head size never changed. By comparison, Andy Murray plays with a 98-square-inch head and Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic both use 100-square-inch heads.
Here’s video of Federer practicing with the new racket in Hamburg:
Some tennis commentators have suggested for a while that Federer should upgrade his racket size to give himself more margin for error with the larger sweet spot, more power and more spin. He told The New York Times in 2011 that he wasn’t inherently opposed to the idea.
“I’ve tried bigger,” Federer he said. “The problem is we don’t have enough time to do racket testing, you know? I’m always talking to Wilson about: ‘What else do you have? What else can we test?’ And who knows? Maybe down the road, I’ll change again.”
Before Wimbledon this year, Federer said he experimented with different strings during exhibitions at the end of 2012.
“I’ve been in close contact always with Wilson,” he said in an interview with good friend Ivan Ljubicic. “Just listening to the new technology they have, because I feel like it’s a wrong philosophy just to say, ‘My thing’s the best, there’s nothing better, and that’s the only thing that can work.’ And I actually was really close to playing with a different racket, just one tournament to see, at the end of the year in the exhibitions in South America. I played with a different string just to see how that was going to react. So I’m constantly testing and trying out.”
The racket change comes amid a subpar season by Federer’s lofty standards. Federer, who is set to play his 10th tournament of the year, has made one Grand Slam semifinal (Australian Open), reached two tour finals and won one title (Halle, Germany). His record quarterfinal streak at majors ended at 36 when he lost to 116th-ranked Sergiy Stakhovsky in the second round of Wimbledon. As a result, the Swiss fell to No. 5 last week for the first time since June 2003.
After his loss at Wimbledon, Federer said he wasn’t planning any midseason changes to his routine.
“Just got to reassess at the end of the season,” Federer said. “If you do it during, there’s got to be a good reason for it.”
A week later, he announced he was adding clay-court tournaments in Hamburg and Bastad, Switzlerand, to his schedule. And now comes this equipment change.
Pete Sampras, who stuck with an 85-square-inch Wilson head throughout his career, admitted in 2010 that he regretted being so stubborn about new technology and embracing equipment changes.
“I would have tried some technology. I really would have — especially for the clay,” Sampras said. “[B]ut I was closed-minded and mentally felt like this was the only racket I could play with. Listen, when you’re in it, you just believe in what sort of got you there. But I wish I was little more open-minded to it. I remember at the time, talking to a few different ex-players about trying something, I was so against it.”
ESPN commentator and Adidas coach Darren Cahill held an impromptu Twitter contest on Monday night in which he asked his followers to name Federer’s new stick. Here are some of the best suggestions:
@thirty_fifteen: GOATStaff 6
@xenon21: The RF Express HumbleStick
@Ethan_Noah: Black Mamba
@_VanYeWeset: The K One Seven (referring to his 17 major titles)
@StaufferTim: RFx (with Shock and Awe technology)
Cahill preferred the suggestion from former ATP pro Amer Delic but named a different winner:
(Video via YouTube user TennisHH1)