The Pro Shop by Justin diFeliciantonio - The GOAT Racquet
Home       About Justin diFeliciantonio       Contact        RSS Categories       Archive
The GOAT Racquet 12/30/2008 - 3:57 PM

DonnayIn the January/February 2009 issue of TENNIS, the magazine has a story called, “The 10 Greatest Racquets of All Time.” Before I get to the list, I must confess that I had nothing to do with the selection process or the writing of this piece. So I can’t address why a certain racquet was, or was not, included. In other words, don’t shoot the messenger. But try to think of these frames more in terms of their impact on the game (professionally and recreationally) and not necessarily their playability. Like the players that wielded them, these racquets are icons of the sport.

With that in mind, here’s the list in no particular order:

Dunlop Maxply Fort
Prince Classic
Head Professional
Wilson Jack Kramer Autograph
Head Arthur Ashe Competition
Wilson T-2000
Babolat Pure Drive
Wilson Pro Staff 6.0 85
Dunlop Max 200G
Donnay Borg Pro

Response to the article has been rather feverish. Longtime players and readers of the magazine are certainly passionate about their racquets, and they feel spurned if their favorite is omitted. Here’s how one reader described what he saw as an obvious oversight:

“What a travesty not mentioning the groundbreaking and game-defining Prince Graphite Oversize in the Top Ten racquets column! This racquet had a greater effect on the modern game by allowing players a larger frame with which to use topspin, and opened the door to the modern baseline game. On the tour, people like Michael Chang, Andre Agassi, Gabriela Sabatini embraced this 110 square inch dream! Remove the Arthur Ashe racquet immediately, and replace it with the Black-and-Green Classic!”

Ariel Gallanosa, USPTA

There are others, but you get the picture. I don’t share the same fervor on the subject, but as we were producing the story I did manage to take the Donnay for spin. I learned the game on a wood racquet (a Davis) and wondered what it would be like to play with one again. On some strokes I was surprised at how easily I made the transition, and in other areas I was equally disappointed at how poorly I adjusted. It gave me a newfound respect for the players of the wooden era. Here’s a quick assessment:

- The leather handle is incredibly long. You could easily fit three hands on it. It’s so long that at the top it becomes boxy as the bevels disappear. Not sure if this was customary or unique to the racquet we got for the story.

- Hitting with depth is not a problem. The racquet has significant mass (13.5 ounces), so if you take a full swing and find the sweet spot, the ball will travel.

- Hitting with pace, however, is another story. When I tried to unload, I sprayed balls all over the place. I played like Dmitry Tursunov in a bad mood. Plus, the flex in the head made accelerating the frame feel like I was swinging a fly swatter. If I made contact off-center, the results looked, and felt, gruesome .

- I could get decent pop on my first serve, but the dense 18x20 string pattern in such a small head made kicking the ball an exercise in futility. It just floated over the net and sat up with no action, ripe for my opponent to pummel. My second serve wouldn’t even be acceptable for the WTA.

- Because I had to be so conscientious with my technique to have any success with the Donnay, once I picked up my regular stick I couldn’t miss. It almost felt like cheating. Probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to start every practice session by hitting for 10 minutes with the Donnay.

And that was my brush with greatness. As was his nature, Borg made playing with his signature racquet look so easy. I didn’t fare quite as well, but it wasn’t a total disaster. Unfortunately I have not been able to test out any of the other models on our list. Perhaps you’ve hit with one recently and can offer some details. Or maybe you’ve got an opinion on the list as a whole.

You wouldn’t be the first.


1 2     Next >>

Posted by Chiconinja 12/30/2008 at 04:44 PM


I recently found out there's an old Jack Kramer frame in my house so (obviously) the very first thing I did was hit the court with it. Ground strokes were no problem at all, I was really impressed when I found the sweet spot. It made me feel like a better player. It did feel like the frame was going to crack anytime.

Then of course I realized all of the things I find difficult to do with my regular frame were almost impossible with the Jack Kramer.

Still, a pretty cool experience.

Posted by sRod 12/30/2008 at 06:13 PM

I'm surprised that that Federer's K Factor isn't on there. But then again, the acticle was in February and the K Six-One Tour has really picked up since then. On top of that, if we're talking about rackets throughout history, then this one still has a few years before we can make an accurate assessment(aside from sales).

Posted by Ron 12/30/2008 at 08:00 PM

Memories of rackets gone by:

Dunlop Maxply Fort-the most beautiful racket ever made-paintbrush of Evonne Goolagong Cawley
Wilson T-2000 (and 3000)-incredibly powerful for its time-J.S. Connors' workhorse
Wilson Jack Kramer-as classic as its namesake
Arthur Ashe Competition-revolutionary and flawed, forerunner of new technologies
Donnay Borg Pro-long grip didn't convince me to give up a one-hander

Thanks for the walk down tennis memory lane of over 30 years and counting

Posted by patrick 12/30/2008 at 08:49 PM

It seems whenever racquets are being mentioned there is always one being left out. In order to talk about all the frames we've come to love maybe we should just come out with an all-racquet issue. This way we can have categories for everything, we love to make lists and put things in an agreeable order. It's the little control we have in life. There should be 1)frames that changed the game from a technological standpoint (woody, ashe compitetion, graphite, speedport, ect.. )where the frame leads towards a trend of new types of racquets. 2)best playing frames of all time (maybe subsections for oversize, tweeners, midplus, and midsize. 3)most popular frames of all time (ones you see on the court everywhere regardless of skill level.) And my personal favorite; heritage racquets. There as a few special frames that find a way to constantly reinvent themselves, mostly because of the popularity of a few dominant players but sometimes they're just that good of a frame. We could look at the prince graphites, head radical and prestiges, the wilson pro staff and 6.1's , the dunlop 200's and I would assume that pesky babolat pure drive line is going to be hanging around. That in itself coule probably take up way more than one issue but I thinkg we'd all love to hear as much as possible about these beloved racquets, even if we'll never master using them. Thanks

Posted by Marcel in Montreal 12/30/2008 at 11:22 PM

Nice job in listing the significant racquets of the modern era.
Good point made about the Prince Pro - but as a player from the wood days - I don't see any really serious omissions.
Only thing about the Borg Pro - he played with the similar Donnay All Wood for most of his French and Wimbledon titles.
Ah! Mac and the old Max 200G - it seemed then like a halfway house between the woods and the graphites.
Philippoussis served with a wood racquet a few years ago in Australia and was only two mph slower than with his graphite frame. So it's not totally a night and day difference.

Posted by Ryan 12/30/2008 at 11:24 PM

I LOVE playing with wooden racquets! Where can I find one of these??

Posted by BK 12/31/2008 at 05:34 AM

I am suprised that the Head Prestige did not make the list

Posted by kot 12/31/2008 at 05:57 AM

Hmm. Shouldn't it be `The GROAT' rather than `The GOAT Racquet'? ;)

Posted by Gerry 12/31/2008 at 04:40 PM

"My second serve wouldn't even be acceptable for the WTA"--OUCH!
I know a couple of top junior players who regularly practice with an old Maxply that is freshly strung. They still crush the ball with it. It really emphasizes to me that despite the huge physical benefits of the modern rackets, the changes in technique since the 70's (kinetic chain, etc.) have had a huge impact as well.
I agree that the Prince graphite oversize has to be included.

Posted by Anwar 12/31/2008 at 07:03 PM

I play regularly with the Wilson ProStaff 85 and the wood Dunlop Maxply McEnroe. Apart from the playability factors mentioned of wood vs. metal/composite/graphite etc., and the serve speeds not varying much (mostly true), there are a couple of other striking differences:

the return-of-serve suffers distinctly, especially at advanced-level play

the arm tires much quicker if one is going for heavy spin on ground-strokes (unless one is Borg, I suppose!)

(Ryan, you can try ebay and

Posted by Andre 01/01/2009 at 08:28 AM

people should forget about the wooden raquets..they're gone and never coming back!
the other thing i dislike is photographers using them in photo/fashion shoots.come on who's using a wooden rquet today?!

Posted by Eric 01/01/2009 at 10:45 PM

The Wilson Profile 2.7 should be included as Wilson started the widebody revolution by licensing Siegfried Kuebler's patent and producing this frame in the late 1980s. For recreational players, the revolutionary effect of the widebody frame was rivaled only by that of the oversize Prince frame.

Posted by Donal Lynch 01/02/2009 at 12:51 AM

Hi Jon, I seem to remember reading a piece a while ago (possibly on this site) in which Kuznetsova was handed a wooden racket and claimed she could beat some of the WTA players with it. Also what about that Yonex butterfly net that Martina used to beat Chris with in the 80s? It always seemed to me that Martina should have been obliged to wear a floor length Victorian tennis dress just to even the odds against Chris and her little wooden paddle.

Posted by GS 01/02/2009 at 09:25 AM

I learnt to play with a wooden racquet in the 80s and then moved to a Head Professional. A few years ago I played match with a wooden racquet again and it felt great. I would switch to a "standard" head size if they were regularly available.

Posted by nelson 01/02/2009 at 09:55 AM

I dislike the overall tone of the article. The journalist writes as if "This is all you can get. If you don't like it, then don't read it".
I think this subject deserved a more enthusiastic writer, perhaps someone with more love to the tennis heritage.

Posted by Ernie 01/02/2009 at 11:35 AM

Some people are missing the point as to the significance of the original Prince Classic racquet. The point is that it was the first oversized racquet that would revolutionize the game...just like Roger Bannister was the first to break the 4 minute mile or Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier. I bought a Prince Classic on eBay sometime back for it's historical value and not it's playability. I did grow up in the 80's playing with the Prince Oversize and Midsize graphites that are classics in themselves.

It's a shame premium wood racquets like the Maxply Fort and Wilson Jack Kramer Prostaff are no longer manufactured. There is no modern substitute for the flex and feel of a nice wood racquet. It's obvious detractors of wood racquets have no clue what that is.

Posted by John R. MacKinnon 01/02/2009 at 01:57 PM

I really like your comments about the Donnay Borg Pro, because a couple of months ago, I tried again, for half an hour with one old (but still almost new) Jack Kramer Autograph. I fully enjoyed the wood disvantages that you describe and forced me to be more "technical". By the way, I have played with five of the "top ten" rackets of the list. When I started to play, in Chile, at 13, I used to play with a Dunlop Maxply Fort; then I switched to the Head Arthur Ashe. In my senior High School year, I went to the States (NC) and played with a Donnay Borg Pro. Then, after I came back to my home country, I switched again, this time to the "woody" Wilson Jack Kramer Autograph. After I started university, had to stop playing tennis due to a very bad and painfull rotator injury. Now, almost 25 years later, I took tennis back, and I'm playing with a Babolat Pure Drive (plus). But, after all this time and changes, I still think that the most playable and enjoyable racket is that old artisans piece of art, the Jack Kramer Autograph.

Posted by Jon 01/02/2009 at 02:39 PM


Are you referring to the actual article in TENNIS magazine? Or this post?

Posted by Hmmm 01/03/2009 at 09:38 AM

I agree with Nelson that the article's depth and tone is disappointing for what should be a fascinating topic.

(Also it would be nice to know the NTRP rating of the writer, because that makes all the difference! He'd better be at least 4.0, otherwise all his comments are pretty pointless.)

Just want to add one thing... the Wilson Pro Staff 6.0 85 has won a TON of Grand Slams... Sampras + Courier + Edberg + Federer (until he switched). Not too shabby...

And when Sampras played Federer at Wimbledon, I believe they both had the same racket... the Pro Staff 6.0 85.

Posted by Deb 01/03/2009 at 09:25 PM

The prostaff 6.0 85 IS the n six one tour 90, which itself is the same as the k factor 90 thing that federer uses now

Posted by Anwar 01/04/2009 at 04:07 AM


The Prostaff 6.0 85 is not the n six one tour 90, nor is it the K factor 90.
The K factor Prostaff, with an 88 sq inch racquet head, will be on sale very soon, and that is the true successor to the 6.0 85.
It is true that Sampras play-tested the prototype and so the racquet is really according to his preferred specs, but the same can be said of the K factor 90, which was developed according to Federer's preferences.
The K Prostaff 88 is probably the closest successor to the 6.0 85.

Posted by tourneur 01/04/2009 at 09:41 AM

Perhaps not a revolutionary design (as far as I know, used only by its namesake pro) the wooden Vilas signature racquet by Head was a nod to the future with its split shaft and laminated head weight. Beautiful, head heavy and capable of generating significant power. Vilas used to add additional lead tape. It was too much for my more ordinary arm and I switched to the MaxPly Fort.

Posted by Tennis fan 01/04/2009 at 04:23 PM

Not much to say...

But... my favorite Wilson Pro Staff 6.0 95 for me the all rounder.

I have nice memories of my old Wilson Maxply McEnroe... the edge of wood...

Have a nice day.

Posted by Marcus 01/04/2009 at 10:02 PM

About the photo, I don't know if anybody remember how hard Bjorn Borg had hi racquets stringed, 80lbs And his coach used to walk on the to feel if it was hard enought or not. Imagine a wood frame 80 pounds,

Posted by Bosco the Great 01/05/2009 at 01:23 PM


Someone wake me up when I'm done reading this.

What should have been an interesting topic was made painfully boring by someone with no writing skill.

1 2     Next >>

We are no longer accepting comments for this entry.

<<  Pete's New Toy - The Review Appraising Apparel   >>

Question of the Day: Leather Grips
Question of the Day: Blistering Hands
Question of the Day: Two Sticks for Net Rushers
Tennis Radar: App., Zap, and Co.
Question of the Day: Performance-Enhancing Grip Sizes
Question of the Day: Power Pads
Question of the Day: Oversized Sticks for Sore Elbows
This blog has 0 entries and 3591 comments.
More Video
Daily Spin