Roger Federer to try new, larger racket

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Roger Federer

Roger Federer is shelving his smaller-headed racket this week. (Carmen Jaspersen/AFP/Getty Images)

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

 @kimrueger: RFlex

@xenon21: The RF Express HumbleStick

@MichaelTMorgan1: aiRFrame

@AmerDelic: RF1

@Ethan_Noah: Black Mamba

@_VanYeWeset: The K One Seven (referring to his 17 major titles)

@Shake_en_Blake: Fedscalibur

@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)

  • Published On Jul 16, 2013

    I remember Sampras saying that he regretted not moving to a larger racquet head earlier in his career. With such advancements in racquet and string technology in the past decade, might as well use what's available.


    A welcome change. I'm glad Fed is the one changing his racket technology. If it were Nadal, we'd be in for a smoking diatribe against illegal enhancements from Michael9. Always different yardsticks depending on who the player is, be it illness, injury, schedules or technology. 


    his problem is his fading eyesight and slowing reflexes.. as shown by his poor returning.. a larger frame is not going to help that.. sad to see, but ageing happens to all..


    A good time to change, he's only a year past a WImbledon victory and a number 1 ranking, I think the old 90 has served him well. Took a long time to rip that T-2000 out of Connors' hand. Playing clay will help him get use to it before the hard court season.


    It's about freekin time. That old Pro Staff 90 is ridiculous.


    @mangstadt  Put your money where your big mouth is: show me one post where I criticized Nadal for "illegal enhancements".  You're disingenuously spewing nonsense again based on delusions.  

    I've not mentioned this before, but the facts are: Nadal has made at least three racquet/string changes in the past 3.5 years: at the start of the 2010 season, 2012 season and 2013 season (there may be other changes we don't know about) -- on all three occasions, he had practiced with his new racquet/strings for weeks/months before playing an official match at the start of the season. So whenever Nadal has been under threat of being overtaken by other players, he has relied on new technology to help him out.

    Unlike Nadal, Federer is not changing racquets with the same head size at the start of the season. Roger is making a change to a significantly larger head (which changes the sweet spot area/location, changes the swing, etc.)  in the middle of the season, after only a few days of practice.  Federer stuck with one racquet and string for all his 17 slams and 6 year-end championships -- giving his opponents an advantage in racquet technology all these years. But, at this stage of his career, Federer can do whatever he wants.


    @Michael9 @mangstadt If Fed chose not to switch racquets, if he chose to stick to his one-handed backhand, don't blame his opponents for his choices. Of course it wasn't illegal enhancements hat Nadal used, that was meant to be taken with a pinch of salt, but once again, as always, you compare Roger's decisions with similar decisions taken by Nadal and the output, your output, is of course biased. While Nadal enhances his topspin, making life difficult for other players (it's not illegal, of course, but you make it sound as if it were), Roger chooses to play with a smaller racquet over the ages, making things easier for other players. While Nadal rehearses his racquet change for weeks and months and introduces it at a convenient time, right at the start of the season, Roger has to do it in the middle of the season. So what! Let them do whatever they need to do, whatever they choose to do, whenever they please.

    This sentence portrays you perfectly well: "So whenever Nadal has been under threat of being overtaken by other players, he has relied on new technology to help him out." It may not be illegal but it makes him look suspicious as hell if you ask me, as always in your posts.

    As you say, at this stage of his career, Federer can do whatever he wants. As for Rafa, well, anything he chooses to do will ultimately come under your relentless, biased criticism: playing as a left-hander when he's naturally a right hander, being so stinkin' good on clay, using better racquets to enhance his topspin, avoiding part of the hard court season, not being good indoors, taking injury leave (it's always a fake)... you name it, he can't get credit for anything he does.