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Racquet Review: Babolat Pure Aero 98
The most control-oriented member of the Aero family caters to aggressive ball-strikers who like to dictate points.
Published Jan 25, 2023
WATCH: Carlos Alcaraz has employed the Aero family of Babolat racquets throughout his rise up the ATP rankings.
Price: $279 ($559/pair)
Head Size: 98 sq. in.
Length: 27 in.
Weight: 11.5 oz.
Balance: 6 pts. HL
RA Rating: 64
Beam Width: 21 mm / 23 mm / 22 mm
String Pattern: 16x20
The Pure Aero 98 replaces the outgoing VS model. It’s more of a name change than an outright revamp, but there are some notable updates. For starters, the string spacing in the upper portion of the hoop has been tightened for enhanced command. Another notable change is the SMAC vibration dampening has been removed and replaced by NF2 Tech at 3 and 9 o’clock. 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. However, unlike the standard Pure Aero, it is absent from the handle. This gives users, typically more discerning players, heightened feedback. Along those same lines, the flex has been lowered from the VS model, improving comfort and ball connection.
When compared to the rest of the Aero family, the 98 has the smallest head, densest string pattern and thinnest beam. Which makes it the model with the greatest measure of control and versatility. But it’s still an Aero, capable of producing a lively ball packed with pace and spin. It just requires more of a swing and cleaner contact from the user, which is something better players—the frame’s target audience—will certainly appreciate.
The tighter string pattern and smaller head improve the targeting on serves and ground strokes, yet there’s still enough inherent power to provide quick strike damage with either. The frame offers a confidence to go after the ball without a fear of overhitting that wasn’t quite there with the previous VS, and certainly not so from the standard Pure Aero.
It’s also perhaps the most comfortable, arm-friendly Aero. Maybe ever. The lowered flex can seemingly be felt at contact, which is not typical of this franchise. It also elicits more trusted feedback. There’s a greater predictability of what to expect when the ball is struck off-center.
Another area of noted separation from the standard Pure Aero is at net. The heightened ball feel and softer flex lead to more versatile and controlled volleying. Same goes for touch and specialty shots; there’s no limitations when it comes to taking pace off the ball, finding angles and employing guile.
As with the outgoing VS, the 98 will continue to be offered as a single or in matching pairs. The two matched racquets are intended to have a maximum weight variance of just 1 gram, well below industry standard. This is a welcome assurance for competitive players who generally require more than one frame.
What Needs Work
In most situations the frame’s stability is on-point. However, there are instances when contact above the sweet spot draws flutter, and toward the edges can cause twisting. This is most noticeable when returning forceful shots from a compromised position. There’s not a great deal of shock or discomfort, but the subsequent ball performance is certainly lesser. This is not entirely unexpected of a frame slotted into the player’s category, but it might be something certain users need to address with added weight.
Also, depending on expectations, there’s a chance this Pure Aero isn’t Pure Aero enough. There’s not the same help with pace and spin as the standard model, and there are other similarly spec’d 98s that also provide a bigger boost in both departments. It’s designed to be the more restrained sibling in the family, but at times it could feel almost too contained.
“The lower-powered response of the 16x20 string bed produces a nice balance between bulldozer and race car.”
“If you have a high racquet head speed from the baseline, the extra jump off the bounce was noticeable.”
“My favorite Aero model to date.”
Babolat designed the Pure Aero 98 for aggressive players using spin for control and precision to dictate points. To that we say: mission accomplished.