Several months ago when Rafael Nadal was competing with a blacked-out frame, I contacted Babolat and asked for any hints as to the identity and modifications of this new racquet. The company was predictably tightlipped, but did offer a lone Deep Throat-inspired directive:
Follow the strings.
As opposed to the current AeroPro Drive that Rafa endorsed, the frame he was experimenting with had a more spread string pattern. That, along with other tweaks, would give the racquet more spin and power potential. Rafa would eventually put the racquet down and return to his old AeroPro, but soon after the prototype would become known. It was indeed an updated AeroPro with a new string pattern, grommets, beefier swingweight and flashy paint job. The resulting reinvention even warranted a new name—the Pure Aero.
While certainly similar to its lineage, the Pure Aero has some distinctive characteristics. The wider spacing of the cross strings and the added string movement provided by the oblong grommets—dubbed FSI Spin—are designed to enhance spin, but it also makes for a more elastic hitting surface. The outcome is a juicier sweetspot that’s difficult to miss, improved ball pocketing, and a more cushioned feel at impact. There’s also a bit more weight shifted toward the head, which adds to the more stable, dampened sensation at contact. Of the Aero models I’ve tried in the past, and even when compared to the Pure Drive family of frames, the Pure Aero could very well be the least crisp, yet most comfortable.
A noticeable byproduct of being more head heavy with a wider, springier string bed is added power. Lots and lots of intoxicating power. There’s plenty of opportunity to puff out your chest after clubbing winning forehands and serves with the Pure Aero. Even late or imprecise contact often results in decent depth. And it can be a point-saver when on the run and a fast swipe of the racquet—an updated frame shape (Aeromodular2) is designed to boost swing speed—can turn the tables on an opponent, quickly creating offensive from defense. When compared to heavier, thinner, more demanding frames, the margin for error in terms of generating a productive shot with the Pure Aero is wide and forgiving.
But as the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility. Given the pace potential and friendlier response (relatively speaking) there’s the temptation to swing with too much abandon. Plus, while directional accuracy was generally pretty good—even when really going after serves I had few issues hitting my spots— distance control was not as reliable. I found that if I was a bit casual with a stroke, simply trying to move the ball around, the shot could take off and fly long. This isn’t an uncommon ailment of “modern” power baseliner frames, and the prescription usually involves employing a greater degree of spin.
Fortunately, not only is it fairly easy to apply spin with the Pure Aero, the frame is quite adept at accentuating the characteristic. This is particularly noticeable when paired with a spin-friendly and control-oriented polyester string. I first tried the racquet with a basic multifilament, which had a pleasing feel but proved too erratic. I then switched to RPM Blast 17g (53 lbs) and, while possessing a firmer response, enjoyed more consistency and jump on my groundstrokes. Kick serves and heavy forehands had loads of life, forcing my opponents to play shots from above their shoulders. I struggled to find the same success on my two-handed backhand, which was probably more of a result of unfamiliarity—my backhand always requires the longest adjustment period—rather than a frame shortcoming. I cracked some shots off that wing, just not with the same regularity. I resorted to hitting more slices than usual, which the frame produces rather effectively.
Volleying with the Pure Aero wasn’t quite as satisfying as backcourt play, but nothing approaching a glaring deficiency. It’s a meat-and-potatoes stick at net—it’s best for punching volleys deep into the open court and smashing overheads. The balance creates a solid backbone given the frame’s weight class, as it was mostly steady and sturdy, even on off-center hits. Yet it’s not so head heavy that it’s difficult to maneuver. Touch is still not great, but the improved feel and softer response makes finesse shots more achievable than past versions.
Overall, fans of previous iterations of the Aero line and those types of racquets, should find the Pure Aero right in their wheelhouse. It delivers quite well on the promise of power and spin, and with some improved stability and comfort to boot. The latter enhancements may even make it worth a try for players who have coveted the Aero forgiveness and power, but could never warm to the response. It’s still not the most precise frame going, but if you like to play points on your terms and like your racquet to provide some help in doing so, the Pure Aero is one hundred percent capable.