Throughout the legacy of Rafael Nadal and through all his victories, one thing has remained the same, his racket. The Babolat Pure Aero (ie. AeroPro Drive) has been designed by him and for him since 2004. The saga of this racket, turned iconic weapon, has now evolved over the course of a remarkable Decima.
A surprising change altered Rafael Nadal’s game last winter: feeling the need to gain power, the Spaniard added 2 g of extra weight to his Babolat frame. It may sound like just a small detail, but 2 grams to a player who rarely changes anything, leading up to one of the most legendary slams of his career? The change was huge. Rafael Nadal has played with Babolat since his youth but he still makes changes, even ever so slight. Now encouraged by his countryman and coach Carlos Moya, the first player to win a Grand Slam with a Babolat racket (Pure Drive) in 1998 at Roland Garros, Nadal’s racket remains a staple to his game.
At the beginning, Nadal played with the Soft Drive, then with a Pure Drive during his early years in the game. “When we understood how strong he would be, we decided to build a new racquet completely adapted to his game. A racket that focuses on power and spin,” explains Eric Babolat, CEO.
This is how the Babolat Aeropro Drive (now Pure Aero) was born, a unique racket thanks to its famous aerodynamic section (hence its name). It was designed with the technical collaboration of players and the Babolat R&D team beginning in 2004. “It is still more or less the same racket even though it has evolved with technological innovations made by Babolat. We also made tweaks on the frame” explains the champion.
These adjustments, on two occasions, are the addition of a sliver of lead at the top of the frame to increase the powerful “hammer” effect of it. The first adjustment took place in 2012. At that time, Rafa was emerging from a difficult season with a series of defeats against Novak Djokovic. In an attempt to end the streak, he concluded that he had to put “more” on the ball. Thus, he added 3 grams. Now five years later, another additional 2 grams were added to the same place, at the top of the frame.
This is the work of one of two racquet specialists, one of whom is Guillaume Cambon, dedicated to Nadal’s fame. “And honestly, he is not the one who asks me the most work,” explained the Cambon. “Apart from these strips of lead at the top of the frame, there is almost no intervention on his racket. In addition, Rafa doesn’t go through that many rackets: he uses a maximum of thirty per year. ” It’s also important to mention, that Rafael Nadal is perhaps the only player in the world who can boast to never having broken a racquet (voluntarily) in his life! “On average, Rafa is given 6-8 racquets four times a year,” said Jean-Christophe Verborg, director of competition at Babolat and one of the champion’s closest friends. Nadal will use these 6-8 frames until the grips begin to mold to the shape of his hand and this is when he gets the best feeling. “Especially for Rafa who, because of his rather unique grip, it’s important for him to work the grip until it is perfectly adapted to his hand,” adds Jean-Christophe.
Nadal uses a size 2, which is small, especially for a man of his stature. He adds an overgrip, to which he grants a particular importance. “The laying of the overgrip is the only thing I want to do myself, perhaps by superstition,” smiled Nadal, who gives complete confidence to his equipment staff.
Another important precision: he plays with the connected version of the Pure Aero, the one equipped with micro-sensors built to collect data (number of shots, area of impact, power, effect, etc.) which are useful to the Nadal team in practice and match debriefs. The extraordinary Decima that he has just achieved is unlikely to be a forgotten, it has the assurance to be eternal, especially when done with a racket that was able to record every shot.
The Decima Weapon
Rafael Nadal plays with a Babolat Pure Aero Play (connected version), the same racket that we find in the market. But, like all professionals, he uses a customized version, making slight adjustments to its’ weight and balance. Below are the exact frames Nadal has used over the course of his career.
The winning rackets
Here are the 5 other rackets with which Rafael Nadal won his 10 titles at Roland-Garros. With a surprise to come …
A racket developed specifically to adapt to the Spanish player’s style of play. The racket’s speed through the air is facilitated by the aerodynamics, thus favoring Nadal’s heavy spin. With this innovative racket Rafael Nadal won his first two titles at Roland-Garros in 2005, at the age of 19 and then again in 2006. The day after his first victory on the Parisian clay, faithful to his image as gentleman of the courts, he called the employees of Babolat to thank them.
A racket identical to the previous, but with a new bright yellow cosmetic. This racket is associated with the victories of the Majorcan in Roland-Garros in 2007 and 2008, but also at Wimbledon in 2008 after an epic win against Roger Federer. For the first time, Rafael Nadal becomes number 1 worldwide! In 2009, Nadal also wins the Australian Open.
After testing at Babolat in Lyon in 2009, Rafael Nadal adopted the new RPM Blast string (black octagonal monofilament) the following year. It responds perfectly to his play mixing spin and power. In 2010, Nadal completes a career Golden Slam, which returned him to his rank of world number 1. He also wins Roland-Garros and Wimbledon with this racket in 2011 and 2012.
After adjustments made in the winter of 2011 in consultation with the Babolat team, Rafael Nadal adds 3 g to his racket head. The goal, particularly desired by his uncle Toni, is twofold: to find length in volley and service, but also confidence in his game. The goal is achieved, as the Spanaird is victorious a 8th time at Roland-Garros in 2013 and won his 13th Grand Slam title at the US Open in 2013.
For the first time between a brand and a champion, Rafael Nadal changes cosmetics during the season to promote the partnership between Roland Garros and Babolat. Nadal and Roland-Garros, an obvious association, are commemorated by a 9th historic victory of the Majorcan at Porte d’Auteuil.
Pure Aero Decima
The ultimate connection between an immense champion, his racket and his trademark tournament … It is the gift of Eric Babolat, CEO of the company, to his champion to celebrate this incredible Decima. The yellow and orange symbolize Rafa’s AeroPro Drive and the Parisian clay where Rafa has now triumphed 10 times. Ten trophies are found on the frame of this collector racket.