Create
Notifications
New User posted their first comment
Advertisement

Rafael Nadal's racquet choices over the years

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal
Rudra Biswas
ANALYST
Modified 23 Mar 2021
Feature

Rafael Nadal has enthralled tennis fans for the better part of the last two decades with his heavy baseline artillery and never-say-die attitude. Few players in the sport, if any, have shown the power and the grit that the Spaniard has been displaying ever since he burst on to the scene back in 2003.

But while a lot of his success has to do with the man himself, Nadal would perhaps not have been so potent with his shot-making if he didn't have the services of his trusted Babolat racquet.

A few days ago, Rafael Nadal and Babolat completed 20 years of their association. And they marked the occasion by launching a special anniversary edition of the Spaniard's trademark line of racquets.

Rafael Nadal's newly launched signature racquet is called Pure Aero Rafa, but he has tried out several other racquets in the past. Here's a look at all the different racquets that Nadal has used over the years, and how they have differed from one another:

Rafael Nadal's first racquet as a professional was the Babolat Soft Drive

Rafael Nadal serves at the 2003 Monte Carlo Masters
Rafael Nadal serves at the 2003 Monte Carlo Masters

Having turned pro in 2003, Rafael Nadal first played with the now defunct Babolat Soft Drive. Here is a look at the specs of the racquet:

Head size: 100 sq. inches

Length: 27 inches

Unstrung weight: 9.5 oz. / 270 grams

Advertisement

Swing weight: 270

Stiffness: 65

Beam width: 22-26 mm

Composition: Graphite/Fiberglass

String pattern: 16 Mains x 19 Crosses

Back then the game of tennis was not completely power-based, as the courts were faster and slicker. Taking big, horizontal cuts on the ball was far from the norm; players would instead take the ball from inside the baseline, early and on the rise, and with great racquet head speed.

While Rafael Nadal is not exactly a player who thrives with that style, he did play quicker in his early days compared to the physical brand of tennis he came to establish later on. And helping him in that was the Babolat Soft Drive, a racquet that was lighter on the arm compared to its descendant models.

Rafael Nadal's second racquet of choice - the Babolat Pure Drive

Rafael Nadal played with Babolat Pure Drive at Wimbledon 2003
Rafael Nadal played with Babolat Pure Drive at Wimbledon 2003

The Spaniard only played with the Soft Drive model for a few months, switching to the Babolat Pure Drive later in 2003. Here is a look at the specs of the racquet:

Head Size: 100 sq. inches

Length: 27 inches

Unstrung weight: 10.6 oz / 300 gr

Advertisement

Beam Width: 23-26-22 mm

Swing Weight: 323

Stiffness: 68

Composition: Graphite

String Pattern: 16 Mains * 19 Crosses

With the game slowly transitioning from an aggressive style to a more neutral one, pro players started looking for more power in their strokes. The beams around the neck were made thicker and more aerodynamic, designed to cut through the air with an open frame.

That said, the power level of the Pure Drive model wasn't as high as the racquets that Rafael Nadal played with in later years.

most notable difference between the Babolat Soft Drive and the Babolat Pure Drive was that the weight of the latter was around 30 gm higher, which gave the Spaniard more bite on his groundstrokes. Incidentally, Rafael Nadal was playing with this model when he first faced arch-rival Roger Federer - at Miami 2004.

Babolat launched Rafael Nadal's signature racquet - the AeroPro Drive - after his Slam breakthrough

Rafael Nadal playing with Babolat AeroPro Drive
Rafael Nadal playing with Babolat AeroPro Drive

In 2005, the French racquet equipment company launched the famous Babolat AeroPro Drive, handing Rafael Nadal his signature weapon. Here is a look at the specs of the racquet:

Advertisement

Head Size: 100 sq. inches

Length: 27 inches

Unstrung Weight: 10.6 oz / 300 grams

Beam Width: 23-26-23 mm.

Swing Weight: 343

Stiffness: 72

Composition: Graphite/Tungsten

String Pattern: 16 Mains * 19 crosses

Rafael Nadal won his first Grand Slam title at Roland Garros in 2005, dominating his opponents with his lasso-like forehand swing. The Spaniard would go on to play with this model for nearly a decade, albeit with variations in specs after every year or two.

Aristote once said that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and that was particularly true in the case of Rafael Nadal and his signature racquet. The Spaniard's tenacity enhanced the properties of the racquet, whose many different elements - including the heaviness of tungsten - coalesced to give birth to Nadal's topspin-dominant style of play.

Rafael Nadal kept tweaking his Babolat AeroPro Drive before switching to the Pure Aero in 2015

Rafael Nadal hits a forehand at Roland Garros 2015
Rafael Nadal hits a forehand at Roland Garros 2015
Advertisement

Rafael Nadal played with the AeroPro Drive model until 2015, when he was forced to add extra weight to his racquet. Novak Djokovic had started dominating the big titles regularly, and the Spaniard was left with no choice but to upgrade his racquet.

Nadal would have an additional three grams added to the head of the racquet in 2012, before switching to a completely different one - the Babolat Pure Aero - in 2015. Here is a look at the specs of the racquet:

Head size: 100 sq. inches

Length: 27 inches

Unstrung weight: 10.6 oz / 300 grams

Beam Width: 23-26-23 mm.

Swing weight: 324

Stiffness: 67

Composition: Graphite/Tungsten

String pattern: 16 Mains * 19 crosses

2015 was the year when Rafael Nadal went through a major slump, failing to go deep at several big events. In that context, it made perfect sense for the Spanish bull to try out new something new.

The new Babolat racquet model optimized 'FSI Power string' pattern, combining an open string pattern with oblong-shaped grommets. The purpose of that was to impart extra spin, especially since Nadal's forehand was landing rather short during this period.

The racquet didn't immediately help the Spaniard, who suffered his two worse tennis seasons in 2015-16. Nadal then tried to gain more power rather than spin in 2017, adding an extra two grams to the head of the racquet.

Advertisement
Rafael Nadal at 2020 Roland Garros
Rafael Nadal at 2020 Roland Garros

These new adjustments turned out to be fruitful for Rafael Nadal, as he made his comeback to the top of the sport that year. Since then, the Spaniard has played with the same model - albeit with different paintjobs on the face of the racquet.

The Babolat Pure Aero is more flexible in its swing path and lighter in weight compared to the more conventional Babolat AeroPro Drive. That said, there have been far fewer discrepancies between the models that Rafael Nadal has used in his career compared to the racquets of Roger Federer, who plays with Wilson.

All said and done, Rafael Nadal's racquets have helped him fine-tune his heavy topspin game over the years. And Babolat have continued to push the envelope when it comes to tennis racquets designed for their greatest champion.

Published 23 Mar 2021, 20:46 IST
Advertisement
Fetching more content...
App download animated image Get the free App now