I was extremely fortunate enough to get my hands on a new 2013 Baboalt AeroPro Drive tennis racquet! This is the tennis racquet that former #1 and time French Open Champion, Rafael Nadal will be playing with during the 2013 season.
What’s new on the 2013 Babolat AeroPro Drive?
The fist thing I noticed is the cosmetic, it’s quite different than models past, though the new paint job works pretty good, I like it.
The second, and probably the most important change, is the Cortex System. Babolat introduced the new Cortex Active Technology in the 2012 line of Pure Drives, making the contact much less shocking, it’s a good thing they put it on the new Aero’s, it has been pretty stiff. So a new dampening system is very much welcomed to this line.
Some other changes that are not visually evident is the weight. The 2013 Babolat AeroPro Drive weighs nearly the same as the previous model, strung with RPM Blast and a Babolat Custom Damp, it weighs in at 11.5 ounces. Also the swingweight has come down a little bit at 325 (331 in previous AeroPro Drive GT). There was also a balance change, from 4 points head light to 7 points; I presume that Babolat wanted to make the new Aero a bit more maneuverable.
I was hoping the new technology and weight changes would make the 2013 Babolat AeroPro Drive a bit more arm friendly. Babolat also reduced the frame stiffness some, dropping from 70 to 69, not a huge change but maybe just enough to help.
2013 Babolat AeroPro Drive playtest review
To me, the new frame felt more solid than the previous version. The swingweight felt hefty and more solid, I was looking forward to seeing what I could do with it.
The pop off the stringbed was pretty good, power from the stringbed was ample. Depth and speed was no problem, in fact, it was almost too much. It was raw power. It was firm and crisp.
The one lacking characteristic was spin. I wasn’t ripping topspin forehands like I have been able to do with other tennis racquets. I received the 2013 Babolat AeroPro Drive strung with RPM Blast at 60lbs…that’s almost 20lbs more than what I would normally string with. I certainly didn’t feel that I was getting the “snap back” from the strings like I would at lower tensions. When I did get some topspin, it wasn’t that nasty, Nadal-esq kicking spin; sad yes, a deal breaker, no.
If you have played with Babolat tennis racquets before, you know there’s a particular sound they make. I call it “tinny,” you might call it a “ping.” Whatever you call it, the new AeroPro made that sound. The frame sounded very hollow and tinny. It didn’t have that plow-through feeling, it felt very empty because of that sound.
I feel that Babolat had control on the mind when designing this tennis racquet. I could, with pinpoint accuracy, place the ball where and when I needed it. Down the line? Absolutely. Cross court? Check. Change directions? You bet. All with ease. This was one of the great pleasures of the new frame.
I’ve struggled with Babolat’s stiff frames over the years, so I was happy about the dampening system and the reduced stiffness. Unfortunately, the more I played with it, the more tender my elbow became. The drop in stiffness was not enough to make it arm friendly, and the Cortex Active Technology didn’t dampen enough to reduce the shock. Even with a dampener, the 2013 AeroPro Drive was awfully stiff.
Serving with this stick was not effortless. The control was excellent, I could place it very easily. Though when going for my flat shots, I felt I couldn’t find the center of the stringbed. Most first serves felt off center and second serves felt like I couldn’t brush up on the ball for slice and kick. Maybe it was the lower swingweight. It’s not like I double faulted every time I served, I just had to push my serves in to get the points started.
It was incredibly frustrating at times, I just felt that the AeroPro was not responding to my swings, the ball would come off the stringbed funny. As if I was not getting any upward trajectory. I was expecting a bit more of a playable racquet, this just wasn’t for me.
Final thoughts on the 2013 Babolat AeroPro Drive racquet
Sure, the pop was there and control was impressive, but the frame stiffness and lack of spin made me question if this was going to be the tennis racquet of 2013.
If I were to make this my exclusive stick, I would have to beef up the swingweight and string it at a much lower tension with different strings. I think Babolat is on the right path to making a perfect tennis racquet, but it’s just not with this one. Though, that is just my own honest opinion.
The 2013 Babolat AeroPro Drive is certainly worth a try. Babolat fans will enjoy this offering and Nadal fans will like the sleek design.
2013 Babolat AeroPro Drive racquet specs:
Head Size:100 sq. in. / 645.16 sq. cm.
Length: 27in / 68.58cm
Strung Weight: 11.3oz / 320.35g
Balance: 7 points HL
Power Level: Low-Medium
String Pattern: 16 Mains / 19 Crosses
String Tension: 55-65 pounds