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Rafael Nadal Trying New Racquets at Monte Carlo
After a tough start to the 2015 season on the hard courts, Rafa Nadal is looking to his equipment for some answers. The long time Babolat user, Nadal trying new racquets, in search of even more power and spin, for the first time in over a decade. Often criticized for his superstitions and ticks, Nadal has been incredibly successful with the same racquet, used to win all 14 of his grand slam titles. One may ask, “Why fix what’s not broken?” The speculation is, other than his lone title in 2015, which came at the Rio Open, Nadal is yet to produce a top 10 victory in the start to the year, and is looking for similar racquet changes as Federer was last year.
A combination of an injury plagued end of the 2014 season, and the slight change in racquet to start the 2015 season, Nadal is surely looking to make some changes and produce better results. The slight change in racquet for Nadal, was a new technology infused version of his beloved Babolat AeroPro Drive, a project that has been in the works for quite some time. For the past 10 years, Babolat has been working diligently to manufacture a racquet that incorporates statistics into this modern game of tennis. The result – The Babolat Play Connected racquet, which gathers important aspects of the match, including stats on forehands, backhands, serves, overheads, impact location, and allows users to compare data to touring pros as well as a global community of users.
Previously speaking, the idea of Nadal trying new racquets would sound absurd. This is the same Rafa who, at his most successful tournament, Roland Garros, previously refused to use the Babolat Special Edition Roland Garros AeroPro Drive (as seen below), which was only a slight cosmetic change from his usual frame.
As seen in the image below, during a practice session, Rafa appears to be trying a variety of matte black and orange AeroPro, and at least one non-AeroPro shaped frames, which presumably have variations in weight, balance, string pattern, string gauge, and tension.
The design of the prototype has actually been very well received as the matte paint finish on racquets has been trending the past couple of years. At a Babolat event last fall in New York City, an event that Nadal was absent, top Babolat AeroPro users were invited to play test versions similar to Nadal trying new racquets. See photo below from the event.
At this time, it’s unsure whether or not Nadal will actually be making a racquet change or if he’s simply experimenting with some different variations while on his favorite surface. One thing is for sure though, it’s getting to be that time where Babolat is preparing to replace the existing AeroPro model with new technology and cosmetics, which makes this experimentation time of year, more than a coincidence.