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Racquet Review: Babolat Pure Aero (2023)
The latest in the hugely popular spin franchise adds more control and feel to its winning formula.
Published Aug 05, 2022
In the jungle of power and spin racquets, the Pure Aero is arguably the apex predator. While each installment brings subtle differences to the court, the racquet always delivers tons of pace and action to overwhelm your prey. Some players decry the excesses, but tell that to its legion of users. This time around the racquet offers more guile to offset some of its brawn, but as usual the formula is undeniably effective.
When a racquet has a large, devoted fanbase, changes are going to be in the margins. For this 8th generation of the Pure Aero, Babolat decided to go back to the slightly tighter string pattern of the 2013 version. It’s plain to see as the drill pattern is clearly different from the outgoing model. The grommets at 6 and 12 o’clock also don’t appear as wide, so there’s less string movement. This gives the frame a bit more feedback and control, if at the expense of some power and spin potential.
Another notable change is the SMAC vibration dampening has been removed and replaced by NF2 Tech at 3 and 9 o’clock, as well as inside the handle. It performs a similar function, but is made from flax fibers—commonly used in alpine skis—which is a more natural product designed to give better feel at contact.
(The other obvious revision is the new cosmetic. Your mileage may vary on the preponderance of yellow in the previous model, but I think the increased gunmetal gray and glossy finish in this one is an upgrade.)
While these are the modifications made to the Pure Aero, they’re not universal across the line. Rather than just make a weight or head size alteration, Babolat opted to make the technologies found in each Aero frame suited for particular playing styles (Own Your Spin is the tagline). For instance, the upcoming Aero 98 (formerly the Aero VS) will not have the NF2 in the handle. This will increase feedback, which Babolat believes is more coveted by that racquet’s audience. The grommets are also different—more cone-shaped in the Aero (enhanced string movement and spin), and more cylindrical in the Aero 98 (better ball connection and control).
That said, so much of the franchise’s success has been linked to otherworldly spin production, and this latest chapter was no slouch in that department. Groundies and serves had plenty of life to bully opponents around with good margin for error. Slices were respectable, although I felt the frame could use more heft to knife through the ball for a nastier bite. However, the tighter string spacing and more conservative grommets seemed to have reduced some action on shots, as well as a more tempered power supply.
It’s possible that users of the past few generations could find the reduced levels a step backward. The racquet was still suited to playing hero ball—bashing serves and spin-laden groundies—but in a more conservative fashion. I actually found the greater restraint emboldened me to let loose on the ball since there was less fear of overhitting. And for counterpunchers with spinny strokes, the racquet certainly seemed perfectly capable of inhabiting a middle ground of steady if unspectacular play.
So much of the franchise’s success has been linked to otherworldly spin production, and this latest chapter was no slouch in that department. Groundies and serves had plenty of life to bully opponents around with good margin for error.
Another classic trait of the Pure Aero was its ability to salvage dire situations. When backed into a corner and fighting to stay in the point, it had a knack for bailing me out of trouble. It was quick through the hitting zone, and with one off-balance swipe could turn the tables on a point. Again, it didn’t have the same get-out-of-jail power as its predecessor, but I felt more confident playing those shots closer to the lines.
In fact, the tighter string pattern noticeably turned up the control dial on the frame when compared to the outgoing model. Over the past several generations, the Pure Aero has also established an increasingly softer flex—although I wouldn’t classify it as flexible or arm-friendly—which may have also contributed to the better command. Contact was more crisp and clean than plush, but it was comfortable enough, especially with a hybrid of RPM mains and VS natural gut crosses. The feedback was a subtle improvement as well, which felt more muddled in the past few iterations.
That said, wild streaks were not out of the question. The power might be less boisterous, but there were still a few incidents of shots landing closer to the back fence than the baseline; most notably when I caught my backland late and didn’t put enough spin on the ball. While improved at performing flatter put-aways and subtle in-between shots, it was still not a natural in those situations either.
Though more adept in baseline situations, net play was nevertheless solid. When I got the racquet face in front of the ball the routine asks were clockwork. Anything shoulder-height or above could be punched through the court with authority. The stability was also quite good for a frame in this weight class, although highly advanced players may need to add a bit of mass. It wasn’t as suited to touch and an off-speed tactics—the ball just wanted to jump off the string bed. But players aren’t buying this racquet for its genius on drop volleys.
All in all, the Pure Aero did Pure Aero things. The updates tinkered in the fringes of the feel and control without overly diminishing what gives the racquet its credentials. It should be welcomed by its current users, while potentially attracting previous deniers who wanted more command. If you like to hunt down your opponents with pace and spin, it’s still one of the premiere weapons for the job.
The Pure Aero 2023 is currently available for pre-order. Racquets will ship on 8/25.