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Carlos Alcaraz, Leylah Fernandez celebrate launch of Babolat Pure Aero 2023 in NYC
Alcaraz and Fernandez were joined by Félix Auger-Aliassime to debut the new line of racquets before the US Open began last week.
Published Sep 01, 2022
WATCH: Carlos Alcaraz famously won an all-Babolat battle against idol Rafael Nadal in Madrid earlier this year.
The new Pure Aero has officially arrived. In a launch event with Babolat brass and three of its brand-name endorsers—Carlos Alcaraz, Felix Auger Aliassime and Leylah Fernandez—the 8th edition of the famed power and spin frame made its debut. The festivities took place a few days ahead of the start of the US Open at Court 16—an innovative tennis learning facility in Long Island City where the touring pros hit with dozens of aspiring players.
Beyond the star power, the other headliner of the afternoon was the updated Aero. Babolat wanted to do something different with this generation by giving each member its own distinctive playability. Rather than simply adjust the weight and balance, the frames have specs and technologies that make them unique and intended for a particular type playing style.
Babolat considers Pure Aero users “Strong Spin” players. These are aggressive ball strikers who use big cuts and lots of spin to push opponents around and seize any opportunity to finish a point. This meant giving the new version better command over the outgoing model with a tighter string pattern, smaller grommets and a new technology (flax fibers) which replaces the previous vibration filtration for enhanced feel.
“We wanted to work on the power and control ratio,” says Olivier Carlier, Babolat’s Global Marketing Manager (Expert Racquets). “The 2013 Aero is somewhat renowned, so we went to that type of string pattern. We decreased the flexibility in the shaft as well to allow a bit more control compared to the current racquet.”
But the changes are not uniform even for players within the Strong Spin segment. For instance in addition to being lighter, the Pure Aero Team still has a more open string pattern, the previous SMAC vibration dampening at 3 and 9 o’clock—however, it has the flax fibers in the handle—and a stiffer flex.
“We noticed that players using the Pure Aero at 300g have more natural strength,” says Carlier. “The Pure Aero Team, Pure Aero Lite, it’s not the same category of players. The sweet spot is a bit bigger, the string pattern is a bit more open, so the racquet can generate more of the power and the ball rotation itself.”
Then there’s the “Fast Spin” category of players best-suited to new Pure Aero 98, which comes out in January. With its smaller head size, heavier weight (305g) and thinner beam it’s designed for aggressive players who prefer to move inside the baseline and use angles and precision to dictate points. Compared to Pure Aero VS it replaced, the 98 has flax fibers at 3 and 9 o’clock—but not in the handle like the standard Pure Aero—and a bit lower flex for better control.
“We brought the flax fibers for the feel and filtration,” says Carlier. “And the sound. The sound is very unique. Top players down to club players have noticed at impact the feeling is very special and the sound is part of it.”
One of those players is Alcaraz. He’s been using a Pure Aero for the entirety of his short professional career. He sees this latest 98 as improvement over the older model.
“I would say everything has improved,” says the No. 3 seed. “More spin, more control, more velocity. I have more confidence in every shot.”
Alcaraz claims he doesn’t do much customization to his Pure Aero 98. He says there’s really no difference between it and what you’d find on a store shelf. Just strings it up with RPM Blast 16g at 25/23 kilos (55/50 lbs) and lets it rips.
On the other hand, Auger Aliassime also uses the Pure Aero 98, but his model is more unique. It’s the same version he’s been using since 2017 and has different playability from the in-line model.
“As you can see, the frame is a little bit different, customized for me,” says last year’s Open semifinalist. “There are many different versions of the Pure Aero, but this is the one that fits me the best. It gets me the best compromise between power and precision. It’s different from what’s on the shelf or what Rafa’s playing with or Carlos.”
Auger Aliassime also adds several grams of lead tape under his bumper—the racquet is approximately 338g unstrung—and strings with RPM Rough at 25/24 kilos (55/52 lbs). Although he hasn’t wavered from his frame of choice for several years, he is more willing to tinker with his strings.
“Honestly, after every year I try different strings, and after the last season I felt like I wanted to get more grip on the slice, or the kick serve or the volley,” says Auger Aliassime. “Having little cracks or edges gets a little more spin, a little more grip on the ball.”
The final class of players Babolat wanted to address is the “Heavy Spin” category. After all, that’s what the franchise is known for. These are players who do business from deep in the court and control rallies with power and excessive spin. Much like a highly decorated Spanish player who first put the Pure Aero on the map. For that reason, there will be a pair of frames in honor of the current Grand Slam King, one with his exact specs.
“We have a Rafa racquet coming that’s dedicated to extreme power and spin,” says Carlier. “With more of the weight and stiffness in the head you can get more ball rotation and power. It’s coming soon and completes the collection.”
Expect the Pure Aero Rafa to hit stores in March 2023. Word has it, the cosmetic will be something to see. In the meantime, the new Pure Aero is currently available at tennis specialty retailers.