The inside story on the new Wilson Blade racket being used by Stefanos Tsitsipas at the US Open

Kevin Palmer
Stefanos Tsitsipas

Stefanos Tsitsipas created plenty of headlines after his thrilling win against Andy Murray at the US Open, with his new racket on show in the five-set thriller on Arthur Ashe Stadium court.

The world No 3 and former Wimbledon champion Simona Halep are among the star names using the Wilson Blade v8 at the US Open and Tennis365 has been given an exclusive insight into how the racket was put together by Michael Schaeffer, Wilson’s senior product manager for racket sports.

In the first part of our interview, we look at the team behind Wilson’s racket development and the input of their stellar roster of players, with Roger Federer among the star names to have used a Wilson racket throughout his incredible career.

How many people are involved in the development of a new racket and how long can it take to get the finished frame?

For all of our performance racket projects, we have a cross-functional team of about 12 people. This group represents functions including advanced innovation, development, design, and product marketing. Generally for a franchise update our project time is about 20-24 months. For a new project, it usually is closer to 24-36 months depending on the scope.

What input do your pro players have into the development of a frame?

We always like to get feedback from our Wilson advisory staff if possible, and if the racket is right for that level of player. Our tour players are the most in-tune players in the world and they have the ability to pick up very small nuances between different rackets. Their insights are invaluable.

Would you have direct contact with a player like Roger Federer when you are working on a new frame, or would requirements come through their team?

Yes, Wilson and Roger Federer have a very long-standing relationship. We are focused on being the best partner possible to help Roger have the perfect product for his game. Our Global Tour Insights Manager, Ron Rocchi spent many on-court hours with Roger while we were working to perfect the RF 97 and help him transition from his previous 90sqin racket to his new RF97.

How hard is it to keep improving rackets that have helped to make Wilson such a prominent brand in tennis?

Innovation is never easy. At Wilson, we are fortunate to have a really passionate team of engineers, designers and product managers that want to continue to improve the legacy of our products. Many of our team are tennis players and genuinely enjoy the process of testing new rackets and discovering new ways to improve the player experience. This type of passion is critical to advancing racket technology.

Stefanos Tsitsipas at US Open

What are the key ingredients that make a great racket?

There are an enormous number of things that are taken into account when we are developing a new racket. Weight, head size, balance, string pattern, beam height, beam shape, flexibility, bending profile just to name a few. However, it really comes down to understand who our intended end-user is and building a product that works well for this player. The most important ingredient is spending time on court with players during the development and play testing process to ensure that players are having a positive experience with the racket.

In part two of our exclusive interview with Michael Schaeffer, we will offer advice to club players as they look to pick the perfect racket and select the right strings. Look out for the story on Tennis365 in the coming days.

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