Price: $279; $559/pair
Head Size: 98 sq. in.
Length: 27 in.
Weight: 11.4 oz.
Balance: 6 pts. HL
RA Rating: 67
Beam Width: 21mm / 23mm / 22mm
String Pattern: 16x20
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Racquet Review: Babolat Pure Aero VS
The most disciplined and control-oriented option in the Aero franchise.
Published Mar 29, 2022
Price: $279; $559/pair
Every racquet search starts with a purpose. The impetus might be something fundamental—the need to replace a worn and weathered current frame; or more aspirational—a desire for heightened performance. Sometimes it's nothing more than the thrill of trying something new. My recent flirtation with the Babolat Pure Aero VS stemmed from a slightly different and wholly unrealistic motivation:
I want to hit the ball like Carlos Alcaraz.
The Spanish teenager absolutely mashes the ball. (He’s no slouch in the touch department either). His mechanics and swing speed are primarily responsible, but equipment can certainly complement the cause. Since I’ll never match the former, I can at least try to emulate the latter.
The Aero VS is not a new release—it hit the market in 2020. I’ve experimented with it occasionally, but never really sank my teeth in. It’s a stiff frame, and a tender elbow at the time of its issue deterred a thorough examination. But a healthier arm, coupled with Alcaraz’s emergence, sparked a reconnection.
Now, I’m fully aware that frames endorsed by professionals are often not exactly what they’re playing with. The racquets are customized to their specifications and can differ in various characteristics—weight, balance, length—than the versions found on store shelves. In some cases, it’s an outright paint job of a completely different frame. So it’s likely that Alcaraz uses his own unique version of the Aero VS to hit his electrifying ground strokes. Maybe I’m being naïve, but I’d like to think the stock model holds a strong resemblance.
Regardless, Babolat wants the VS label on their frames to bring a certain gravitas. Unlike their more user-friendly, forgiving models that appeal to all levels, it’s a sign that these are for serious players only. With its smaller head, thinner beam and tighter string pattern, the Aero VS is designed to provide greater precision than the other members of its family. A premium price tag with an option to be bought in pairs with a weight tolerance of just one gram, only furthers its distinction as a choice for discerning competitors.
This latest version is a total revamp of the outgoing model. The previous Aero VS was a direct descendent of the Storm family, complete with a constant box beam. This update has a completely new mold, much more faithful to the Aero frame geometry and technologies. It’s heavier than the older standard VS model, but lighter than the Tour—which has been discontinued—with a variable beam width that peaks in the middle of the hoop to boost stability and power in the sweet spot. It’s chunkier than its predecessor, but still slim when compared to other Aeros.
The result is a more refined and disciplined Aero, but still rather muscular when compared to other control-oriented player’s frames. As such, it took a few sessions to get acclimated to its playing personality; my forehand in particular was more unruly than customary. But once I found a rhythm the steadiness started to rival its explosiveness.
Where the thicker Aero models could perhaps produce greater highs and lows, the VS was more dependable. The frame was quick through the strike zone, producing lively ground strokes with plenty of pace and action. The smaller head and tighter string pattern gave the frame greater command, but still enough of a spin window to put ample work on the ball. I could play big from the baseline, trying to break open points with aggressive inside-out forehands or returns of serve; or I could engage into longer rallies with confidence. At times, I was able to unlock my inner Alcaraz.
With its smaller head, thinner beam and tighter string pattern, the Aero VS is designed to provide greater precision than the other members of its family.
The one big demerit for me was the feel at contact. It was particularly firm—even more so than its flex rating would indicate. Players who favor a crisp response probably won’t mind it, but I’m not part of that crowd. I did welcome the solid and sturdy sensation at impact and the way the ball jumped off the string bed and shot through the court.
However, it was in-and-out so quickly, connection with the ball was lacking. And when contacted outside the sweetspot the feedback turned brassy. I tested it against a heavy serve/forehand opponent and when the ball wasn’t centered, it could feel downright unpleasant. It could give pause to players with arm troubles.
This has been an issue I’ve encountered with other VS models. It’s a personal preference, but I would love to see Babolat lower the stiffness and up the weight—even just a little—to increase the plushness at contact. This might lessen the inherent power—which I’d submit may also be a bonus—but would increase the comfort and versatility of the frame. As it is, I had to use a softer, 18g poly strung at 45 lbs. in order to increase pocketing and make it more arm-friendly, even at the expense of some control.
One of the areas the VS did simplify matters was at net. While I still didn’t love the feel on touch shots, the stiffness of the frame was a decided asset when hitting standard drive volleys. All I had to do was get the strings in front of the ball, give the handle a little squeeze at contact and the ball routinely found its way deep into my opponent’s court. Yet it was just precise enough that I didn’t have to limit my shots to bigger targets.
Serving followed a similar formula. It was probably my favorite part of the test. The speediness of the frame permitted me to go after the ball and take advantage of the extra punch. Flat serves had noticeable giddy-up and kicks consistently rose to head level. Throw in good direction, and servers will have little trouble starting points on their terms. Back that up with heavy ground strokes and you've drawn the blueprint for effective offensive baseline tennis.
Overall, the revamped mold of the VS has made it quick, sturdy and powerful, but not at the expense of a relatively consistent response. It’s not as forgiving or (arguably) comfortable as the flagship Aero, but aggressive players will relish the greater ability to attack closer to the lines. While I crave a version with a softer flex and more weight for a plusher feel, it should fit easily with accomplished ball-strikers accustomed to a more modern response.
The ability to hit the ball like Carlos Alcaraz, however, is sold separately.