Rafael Nadal’s Tennis Racket
Rafael Nadal Parera is undoubtedly a global tennis powerhouse. Known as “Rafa” by his most avid fans, he is a Spanish native and has enjoyed an extensive career as a professional tennis player for almost twenty years.
His ability, speed, forehand technique, and backhand smash are all unparalleled qualities he is best known for.
Nadal’s success has often been credited to the tennis racket he uses. Rafael is known as the poster boy of Babolat, a global tennis brand.
Both Rafael and Babolat benefited greatly from this partnership that has established a very solid relationship.
Rafael had used the Babolat Racket since 2004 when the AeroPro Drive was launched.
Rafael Nadal and Babolat
Nadal’s loyalty to Babolat has garnered considerable attention over the years. Many people are curious about what racket he uses and what modifications are made for him.
In recent years, Nadal has been using the BabolatAeroPro Drive Original, which bears many similarities to the Pure Aero frame.
Some may be surprised to learn that AeroPro Drive Original is the derivative of the original prototype, with only a few tweaks here and there.
Many people often find it hard to believe that the rackets are not actually the same. The AeroPro Drive, in contrast to the Pure Aero, is fitted with Babolat RPM Blast strings.
The AeroPro Drive is painted the same yellow as the Pure Aero for marketing purposes.
This AeroPro Drive prototype was custom-made for Nadal in 2004, and he used it without any changes until 2012, during which a series of modifications were made to enhance his play. In 2017, a few further improvements were made.
Within these five years, Rafael experimented with a few different rackets, including the Pure Aero Prototype with FSI Drill Pattern.
Although it was perceived as an equally good racket, this brief trial ended, and Nadal soon went back to the old, familiar racket and has continued using it since. Talk about loyalty!
The Babolat Original Specifications
Eric Babolat, the CEO of the family-ownedBabolat Company, explained the various steps they took to build a brand suitable for Rafael Nadal.
He started with the Soft Drive racket in the early 2000s after he went pro in 2001.
He subsequently changed to the Pure Drive before shifting to the AeroPro Drive prototype in 2004.
It was tailor-made to his unique technique, frame, and torque. With a 16 x 19 string pattern, this frame is suited for slicing through the air efficiently and delivering less-resistant spins.
The specifications are as follows:
- String Pattern – 16 x 19
- Head size – 100 in2
- Length – 27 inches
- Swing weight – 360
- Balance – 13.19 inches
What modifications were made in 2012?
The initial adjustments to the AeroPro Drive were made in 2012, prompted by the losing streak Nadal suffered throughout the previous season against other notable players, including his fierce competitor, Novak Djokovic.
Only a few alterations were made at that point. Three grams were added to the head’s weight to increase the spin and power on the ball.
This proved to be very effective and went a long way in improving his chances of winning in the following seasons.
What modifications were made in 2017?
Similarly, in 2017, Nadal proposed for more weight to be added to the racket’s head. As a result, two more grams were added to the top frame. One may wonder how weight is increased in a racquet.
Adding weight to the racket is done by adding a small, one-layer strip of lead to the top part of the frame. This results in a racket with a better spin and a better throwing effect.
Nadal’s racket is also fitted with micro sensors at his request. He proposed this feature to allow for the collection of important data during practice andmatches.
The microsensors collect information on the power, swing, the number of shots, and impact area. This information is then analyzed and evaluated to improve strategy for future events.
Nadal’s Proposed Specifications as of 2021
Nadal requested a few more adjustments to his racket. The racket specifications will now be as follows:
- Head size – 100 in2
- String – Babolat RPM Blast 1.35
- String pattern – 16 x 19
- Stiffness – 72
- Balance strung – 33.5 cm
- Length – 27 inches
- Lead – 17g (12 grams at the top and 5 grams for the frame).
- Grip size – 4 ¼ inches and overgrip
- Dampener – Babolat Custom Damp
What do you make of these changes, as requested by Nadal?
Nadal’s Racket Strings
Nadal’s racket is equipped with 15-gauge Babolat RPM Blast Strings, the thickest strings within the RPM string series.
They are best known for their sturdiness and strength.
This translates to better spins and more control over ball response. They are designed with agility and speed in mind.
They are made from polyester and work well with the design of this specific racket.
These strings may not be suitable for every player, so you can seek a professional to help with changing the strings.
The racket is also strung with marginally higher tension as opposed to lower tension.
Higher tension provides more control, whereas lower tension provides more power.
This delicate balance in Nadal’s racket’s string tension increases the string stiffness, which therefore causes the ball to travel and land further with minimal effort exertion.
Nadal’s racket is fitted with a size grip category of L2. However, he also adds another layer, known as an overgrip, on the top. Overgrips generally add an extra cushion for the hand, a firm grip, and are made from an absorbent material to reduce moisture from sweat.
They are also bought separately from the racket.
Some have commented that the L2 grip size is significantly tall for a man who stands slightly over 6 feet tall and with a grip as strong as his.
However, this can be justified through the evolution of tennis through the years.
Previously, during the era where Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe were champions, the rackets were almost entirely made of thick wood.
The grips were thicker because wooden grips were best suited to a wider handle.
Science and technology have reimagined the modern tennis racket, emphasizing aerodynamics, grip, and effectiveness.
Nadal’s racket is made from a hollow composite material, which works best with a thinner handle and a thinner grip. Thus, he can quickly generate topspin and move the racket around in his hand comfortably.
The AeroPro Drive racket has a strong and sturdy finish, making it the go-to brand for durability, longevity, and power.
Weighting an average of 11.2 ounces when fitted with strings, this racket is ideal for providing an excellent source of power for the player.
Furthermore, power is further intensified by the 16 x 19 string arrangement and the wide surface area provided by the 100-square inch racket surface.
Combining these features results in a racket that offers power and optimal strength and control.
However, this racket is designed mostly with control as the primary focus. The power is developed incidentally, demonstrated by the fast swing it allows.
Because of these features, the racket is deemed to be relatively inflexible, earning a rating of 67. This is one percentage away from the generally accepted rate of 68 for flexibility.
However, this lack of flexibility provides more torque, giving a sturdy control over the ball’s energy.
In an effort to address this inflexibility, Babolat have fitted the rackets with elastic rubbers at the holding positions.
This reduces the need for a complete overhaul of the design, compromising the racket’s current sturdiness. The elastic rubbers increase flexibility and control over the racket.
Nadal has attested to the great comfort this racket provides through high levels of shock absorbency.
Although lacking in flexibility due to the stiffness, this racket makes up for this with its comfort. As a result, it offers a pleasant, easy feel when playing, and your joints will thank you.
The 16 x 19 string arrangement also improves comfort and is the most preferred string arrangement.
This means more power comes from the racket without the need to exert too much effort, compared to other closed string patterns, like the 18 by 20.
Altogether, the racket provides better spin performance, power and a great deal of comfort, as seen in Nadal’s fast-paced matches.
However, it is important to note that this may not be the best racket for players with moderate to severe pre-existing joint comorbidities, as the heavyweight and stiffness can cause further discomfort and damage.
As the name suggests, both the AeroPro Drive and Pure Aero rackets are designed with great attention to aerodynamics. They aim to improve speed to allow for faster swings and greater flexibility.
Their swing weight sits at an average of 324, which falls significantly above the average medium swing weight of 310.
This relative heaviness allows Nadal to easily maneuver between shots without compromising his or the racket’s stability.
The design of the racket head also supports this flexibility. The weight is shifted in a way that redistributes additional weight towards the handle by about half an inch.
Although resulting in limited power, the racket offers greater control, speed, and maneuverability.
Nadal’s racquet is also fitted with AeroModular technology. This means the racket experiences reduced air resistance by increasing the air penetration.
The result is Nadal can move his racket quickly, smoothly and produce excellent swings. It further enables him to hit aggressive groundstrokes with great force.
The AeroPro Drive uses the Cortex system technology to enhance comfort.
This system was ingeniously designed for this racket, which uses a lot of power to tone down the vibrations caused by the air and the impact caused when hitting the ball.
The vibrations would otherwise travel through the handle to Nadal’s hand. This system provides great comfort and saves much-needed stamina on the court.
Not just used for sound systems, the Woofer technology is integrated to enhance performance.
Since flexibility is a key component of Nadal’s play, Babolat applied a piston and pulley system that equips the strings with great mobility, despite the high tension.
When the ball comes into contact with Nadal’s racket, the strings bend slightly to accommodate the sheer force to allow him to hit back with full force.
This technology enhances Nadal’s performance through increased flexibility of the strings and application of great force.
How Many Rackets Nadal Uses in A Year
Nadal, in comparison to his competitors, does not use many rackets in any given year.
On average, he uses around thirty rackets a year. This is impressively cost-efficient for a 19-time Grand Slam winner.
To add yet another feather to his cap, he is allegedly one of the few champions who have never intentionally broken any of his rackets.
According to the marketing director at Babolat, they give Nadal an average of seven rackets a year.
This can be attributed to the fact that Nadal likes the feel of a well-used racket, as is not only already broken in, but it also molds better to the shape of the hand, making it more comfortable than a brand-new one.
The familiarity of a used racket also helps Nadal effectively work his unique grip on the molded frames.
It appears to be very important to Nadal that he uses a racket that’s been broken in, for quality grip and ease.
How Does Using Rafael’s Racket Feel?
The few people who have had the opportunity to use Rafael’s racket seem to unanimously agree it is not for everyone.
This comes as no surprise because we all know it is tailored to his physique and power, not to mention his technique – his forehand and topspin techniques are legendary.
At six feet, one inch tall, and weighing eighty-five kilograms, Nadal sits on the stocky side.
Nadal is known for his fast pace and spins, attributes that informed the design of the racket. When using it, people commented they could generate more spins and whips in their game without too much effort.
The racket also feels a little heftier in comparison to others. This may prove challenging for players who have smaller physiques.
The weight is ideal for someone with Nadal’s body composition to comfortably hold and swing it without too much strain, and for faster maneuvering.
Who Should Buy This Racket?
Nadal’s racket is recommended for strong beginners, intermediate players, and professionals with a knack for a fast-paced and flexible game.
This is credited to its fast swing weight of 324, which is above average, and the lightweight head balance.
The racket is made using the carbon ply stabilizer technology, incorporated into the racket’s throat for better swing and control.
The power is further enhanced by the wide head surface, 16 x 19 string pattern, and the stiff, sturdy frame.
Like Nadal, if you like stealth and putting a fast spin onto your shots, this racket would be suitable for you.
Nadal uses the racket’s combo of head surface and string pattern to make unpredictable moves to offset his opponents.
Can You Buy Nadal’s Racket?
As we have already established, Nadal’s racket is custom-made for him.
Therefore, buying the exact model Nadal uses is virtually impossible. The best available option for most prospective buyers is to purchase copies, as most tennis pro rackets are not available for retail.
The AeroPro Drive racket was designed in 2004 and is no longer in production. This means finding a new one that was among the 2004 originals proves even more difficult.
Nadal’s racket is the modified version of the Pure Aero series by Babolat, and can be purchased easily.
Moreover, as their designs are responsive to current trends, Babolat continually improves aerodynamics in order to improve its spin.
To all tennis players who love to put a spin on their shots, the Pure Aero series is a good fit.
What Nadal’s Racket Would Mean for Your Play?
Using Nadal’s racket does not mean you would automatically possess Nadal’s technique and power to you, but you can generate more, heavier spins.
You could also play forehand and backhand shots more easily.
The string material and pattern are also suitable for those who want to emulate Nadal’s style.
If you also enjoy a jam-packed, fast-footed game, his racket would be ideal because of the control, comfort and perfect weight that it provides.