Gear Q&A: Racquet Quandary
Is the Babolat AeroPro Drive Plus strung with Babolat RPM Blast at 54 lbs a good racquet for a 12-year-old? – Fernando Andrade
(Click to submit a question to the Pro Shop.)
If you believe there’s safety in numbers, then the AeroPro Drive is a sound choice. It’s an immensely popular frame, especially among the junior ranks. The midplus head size and open string pattern are quite inviting for topspin baseline warfare. I demoed a different version of the AeroPro Drive last summer and found easy access to power and spin. The model you're interested in checks in at just over 11 ounces and is rather head light, so it shouldn’t be a problem for an athletic 12-year-old to generate good swing speed.
However, a characteristic of the frame that gives me pause is its stiffness. Someone who hasn’t even hit his/her teens obviously still has plenty of growing to do. Playing with such a firm racquet can put added stress on still developing muscles, joints, and connective tissue. Plus, you’re contemplating pairing it with a fairly rigid polyester string, thereby basically doubling down on the firmness of the stringbed. Unless the 12-year-old is a chronic string-breaker, perhaps start out with a softer nylon multifilament. If it turns out that string durability is indeed an issue, or the player would like a firmer feel, then graduate to the RPM Blast. Don’t start any higher than 54 pounds, and don’t be afraid to experiment at even lower tensions.
Lastly, having the extra half-inch afforded by the Plus version can be a blessing in terms of extended reach and extra leverage on shots, most notably the serve. But sometimes that can come at the price of maneuverability. A 12-year-old is far from a finished product and needs to work on all facets of the game. Even if roaming the baseline is the player’s future, nobody wants a frame that feels sluggish at net or when pressed for time. Trying out the standard version for a comparison is probably a good idea. If there’s no compromise in handling, and the Plus is the better performer, then stick with the longer reach.