When Canadian-born Thomas Wilson established a company in 1914, he could not have envisioned it would eventually become the gold standard in the game of tennis for many decades.

Thomas E. Wilson
Thomas E. Wilson (image: wikipedia.org)

Once a fledgling meat-packing company based in Chicago, Wilson Sporting Goods remains a powerful brand in tennis. Throughout the years, a high percentage of the world’s greatest players have used a Wilson racquet to win a championship at some point in their career.

Wilson Poster 1922
Wilson Poster 1922 (image: wilson.com)

Wilson operated as the President and Chairman of the Board of Wilson & Company for 35 years, making it one of the 50 largest industrial corporations in America. The American businessman first proved to be successful in the branding of processed meat products in the American Meat Institute, before creating an empire in the sporting goods industry.

Wilson is known for making sports equipment for American football, badminton, baseball, basketball, fast pitch softball, golf, racquetball, soccer, squash and volleyball. However, the company has long been recognized as the leader in tennis racquets and balls.

In the same year the company was established the first Wilson racquet, crafted in all second growth ash tree and fine-combed cedar handle was priced at only $0.75. Following that in 1917 Wilson's catalogue included 28 models in total; one of which was called the Blue Ribbon which was made of white ash, walnut and reinforced with dogwood. This racquet featured a special oval shape. In 1935 the release of the original leather tennis handle wrap known as the Mahogany Leather Grip gave athletes unparalleled feel and grip for the time.

Wilson Racquets
Early Wilson Racquets (image: wilson.com)

The business made a key strategic move in the late 1950s, joining forces with American Jack Kramer, a successful player who helped create the Open era of competition that exists today. The Kramer/Wilson partnership led to the creation of the Jack Kramer Autograph, which turned out to be one of the top-selling racquets of all time. The racquet was known for adding power to the game and was produced featuring all ash laminated construction. The racquet was used by John McEnroe, Tracy Austin, Arthur Ashe, Billie Jean King, and many others on its way to winning more Grand Slams than any other racquet of its time.

Jack Kramer Portrait
Jack Kramer Portrait (image: wikipedia.org)

Even though Wilson passed away in 1958, his tennis brand kept developing and in 1967, the company introduced the first steel racquet, the Wilson T2000. Wilson’s momentum continued when Jimmy Connors, the top player in the game, endorsed the T2000 in winning major championships.

Jimmy Connors T2000
Jimmy Connors T2000 (image: wikipedia.org)

Soon after in 1969 Wilson released the Billie Jean King Autograph racquet with Strata-Bow technology. This racquet was known for its long handle pallets to reduce torque and flexibility in the head. This racquet helped Billie Jean King win her record fifth Wimbledon victory.

In high demand in 1975 Wilson introduced a championship racquet designed to meet the needs of serious female players; the Chris Evert Autograph. This racquet was lighter and more flexible overall which increase power and included white ash and Strata-Bow construction

Early Wilson Racquets
 Early Wilson Racquets (image: wilson.com)

In 1979, Wilson tennis balls were first used at the U.S. Open, which are still prominent to this day. The Australian Open slowly followed in 2006, with the French Open scheduled to join this year.

Evolution of US Open Ball
Evolution of US Open Ball (image: wilson.com)

In 1981-82, John McEnroe used a Jack Kramer Pro Staff model to win three of his 11 career majors. McEnroe won back-to-back Wimbledon Championships and a U.S. Open, establishing himself as the top player at the time.

John McEnroe 1979
John McEnroe 1979 (image: wikipedia.org)

In the 1980s Wilson began developing racquets with an entirely new construction made with graphite and Kelvar. While in 1987 the Wilson Profile racquet was the first wide body racquet which provided a completely new level of power.

Californian Pete Sampras continued the Wilson tradition using the original Kevlar Pro Staff 85 racquet, featuring a head size of 85 square inches, for the majority of his entire professional career. The racquet was launched in 1983 and used also by Stefan Edberg and Jim Courier.

Sampras won 14 Grand Slam singles titles during his career, which was an Open Era record at the time of his retirement in 2002. In addition, Edberg finished as the No. 1 player in 1990-91, Courier in 1992 and Sampras was No. 1 a record six consecutive years from 1993-98.

In 1990 Wilson introduced the more user friendly Hammer technology which provided the recreational player with more power and the largest sweet spot of any racquets of it's time. The Hammer 2.7si weighed only 10oz and was one of the lightest and most powerful racquets. The Sledge Hammer 3.8 released in 1993 took the Hammer system one step further. Lighter than any other previous racquet at 9.2 oz, the weight distribution, “fan” head shape and string pattern raised the sweet spot to the upper part of the frame where most balls are hit for optimum power. In 1998 the Hyper Sledge Hammer 2.0 quickly became the number one selling racquet in the US market with: Hyper Carbon- the lightest, stiffest and strongest material.

Wilson Racquets
Wilson Racquets (image: wilson.com)

In the early 2000s Wilson's TRAID 3.0 made its way into the industry with the revolutionary tri-component which separated the entire head from the handle joint with a new polymer called Iso-Zorb. This allowed those who enjoyed the power from Hammer frames with arm-friendly absorption and a bit more control. Later in the 2000s Wilson introduced nCode 2004 (up to 2 times stronger, 2 times more stable and 22% more powerful than ordinary racquets) and [K] Factor in 2007 which Serena Williams and Roger Federer switch to for the Australian Open to take home the title. Both players switched to BLX in 2009.

Wilson Racquets
Wilson Racquets (image: wilson.com)

Wilson continued to position themselves among the game’s legends by signing both Roger Federer and Serena Williams to endorsement contracts, still in effect today. Perhaps the two best players of all-time, Federer and Williams have used Wilson racquets to win a stunning 43 combined major singles championships in their careers.

Serena Williams 1st Grand Slam 1999
Serena Williams 1st Grand Slam 1999 (image: wilson.com)

Federer 1st Grand Slam 2003 @ Wimbledon
Federer 1st Grand Slam 2003 @ Wimbledon (image: wilson.com)

2014 marked 100 years of Wilson! At that time Wilson also celebrated 500+ Tennis Grand Slams, 61 Golf Majors, 20 Basketball Final Four Championships, 93 World Series and 47 Super Bowls.

Technologies introduced in the 2010s included: Spin Effect 2014, DNA design 2016 and Countervail technology. Countervail is an all-new patented material integrated exclusively into Wilson performance frames that directs the ball's energy within the frame instead of the body. This resulted in less exhaustion and vibration and increased accuracy and control.

Wilson Racquets
Wilson Racquets (image: wilson.com)

One of the most popular racquets currently on the market is the Clash. This racquet is the first of its kind with an added technology effect known as FreeFlex, which basically allows players to swing at any angle and construct a quality shot.

Clash Racquet
Clash Racquet (image: wilson.com)

The Blade is another household name amongst the many racquets. The racquet is currently used by professionals Serena Williams, Milos Raonic, Simona Halep and many more. This piece of equipment is specifically designed for power players who want more feel for finesse shots.

Blade Racquet
Blade Racquet (image: wilson.com)

Serena’s racquet differs a bit to the stock versions. Not only does it have a larger than average head size of 104 inches, but it is an extended total length of 28 inches.

Roger Federer began using the Pro Staff RF 97 in 2015, a similar racquet model to that of Pete Sampras.

Pro Staff Racquet
Pro Staff Racquet (image: wilson.com)

Over its rich history, Wilson has become a sporting goods conglomerate, also owning the brands Atec, DeMarini, EvoShield, Louisville Slugger, and Luxilon, and providing sports equipment and protective gear for baseball, lacrosse and softball, as well as tennis.

The company has also gone through several ownership changes. In 1985, Wilson was acquired by Westray Capital Corporation through subsidiary WSGC Holdings. In 1989, WSGC merged with Bogey Acquisitions Company, which is affiliated with the Finnish group Amer Sports.

Even with all of the changes, the iconic “W” is recognizable on every Wilson tennis racquet and brings a distinct level of excellence to the court.

Comments

Gordon Cheng on June 03 2020 at 10:45AM

Love the history on Wilson👏.
As a WAS member for over 20 years, proud to promote the great products with rich history🙏

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