I've been wondering this question for quite a while. After all, this is the racquet Rafael Nadal still plays with, despite numerous iterations and paint jobs over the years. Most racquet nerds in various tennis forums claim that Babolat ruined a good thing when they introduced the Cortex technology* in their racquets and that Babolat racquets “pre-cortex” is where it's at. I'm currently playing with the first Babolat Pure Drive without Woofer, Cortex, GT, FSI and other technologies that Babolat has introduced over the years and I'm really enjoying it so far.
So that's why I started pondering the question about Nadal's racquet of choice, the Babolat AeroPro Drive Original that so many hail as a legendary stick. I haven't hit with it frequently before, but I found one used that I'm going to take out for a serious play-test soon and see what all the fuss is about.
From the first few hits, the feedback you get on your strokes is more direct, which, if you hit it outside the sweet spot is a little harsh. I'm pretty sure that's one of the things Babolat has tried to work on for each iteration (if they've been successful is up for discussion): increasing the sweet spot and making sure off center hits don't jar the arm and still get back into the court. I personally really like the raw feel and find the information useful when I'm off on my groundstrokes, but I can see how it's not the most user-friendly racquet for intermediate players and can quickly become slightly painful for the arm. But this is on the other hand the complaint with most Babolats and should also be attributed to technique that needs work and/or bad string and tension choice.
TIP: Don't give up on your racquets until you try different strings and tension and possibly adding some lead tape or blu tack/silicone to the handle to change weight and balance.
Talking about strings, The Weisscannon Silverstring seems to work really well with the Babolat Aero Pro Drive Original, but I'm going to also try my current string of choice (together with the RS Lyon), the Solinco Hyper-G in it and see if I can get even more spin. Since the Hyper-G is a slightly stiffer string than RS Lyon, I hope it won't bother my arm too much.
No matter what string, what I really enjoy about the so called APD Original is the massive spin and whip you can get on the ball. It inspires you to go for the ball “Wild West Rafa style” and that sure makes for an entertaining (and sweaty) hit, although you should probably stay away from copying his technique too much or you might decapitate yourself or frame the ball into outer space.
Update: the Babolat Aero Pro Drive Original is a very good racquet, but a little too powerful for my taste so I'm staying with my Babolat Pure Drive Original instead (1997, non-woofer version). So I have a Babolat APD Original for sale in great condition. Let me know if you're interested in the comments.
What is Cortex? (from Babolat)
A CDS (Cortex Dampening System) interface transmits useful information to the player and the handle design brings that information closer to the player's hand for perfect control on every hit.
I’m interested in the APD original for sale – is it still available?
Hi, yes it is!
Cheers / Jonas
What grip size?
It is grip 3, but it’s sold now. Cheers / J
How can i get a brand-new ( not used ) AeroPro Drive Original nowadays ?
It’s not easy, but you can check eBay, prostocktennis.com and stringforum.net and see if you can find any.
It’s not the most forgiving racquet to play with to be honest, but if you like it – good luck!
Cheers / Jonas
Thank you for answering , The point is that i play nearly the same style as Nadal ( Two-Handed backhand and reverse forehand ) aggressive most of the time ,behind the baseline depending on topspin ground-strokes , speedy footwork and total court coverage , I tried “Wilson Pro Staff RF 97 Autograph” and I didn’t get the result i wanted , So i wanna try the same racket that Rafa Nadal uses .
If you may recommend me a racket , I’d appreciate that .
I think if you want a spin-friendly racquet with a large sweet spot you could try the following:
Prince Textreme 100P, Yonex DR 100, Yonex Ezone 100, the Wilson Ultra CV 100 is also an interesting option.
Good luck! Cheers / Jonas
I too love this racket. I currently own 4, since I’ve been searching ebay over the years. Unfortunally i have lately been suffering from a tenniselbow, and i suspect that i has to do with the non existing dampening of this racket. I have ordered a Yonex DR Ezone 98, and im looking forward to see if there is any difference to my elbow. I would stick with the babolat forever if not for the elbow..:)
I understand your situation, stiff racquets can be brilliant for your game but does almost always bring aches and pains and sometimes injuries that will hamper your ability to enjoy this beautiful sport. So I think you’re doing the right decision. The Yonex DR 98 should be a good compromise for you! Let me know how it goes.
Cheers / Jonas
Do you happen to have old APDs on sale?
Sadly not! Good stick. A little too crisp for my taste…
Regards / Jonas
I am struggling to find a new racquet because it seems that the APDs are nearly all gone. I did not play tennis for four years (because of baseball) but have decided to start playing a lot more. I am a lefty with a one hand backhand and I use the APD + w/ RPM blast. I was wondering if you know any good racquets that I should try out. I noticed people were saying the new pure aero was a little heavier and a bit different. I did not like the feel of my old babolat pure strike 18×20. I liked the feeling of the old federer blx. Any good recommendations? because I have no idea where tennis racquets have gone these days
If you like the APD plus, you can go with the Pure Aero Plus. The setup you are mentioning is fairly stiff but unless you feel any elbow or arm issues you should be fine. The Old Pure Strike is a “boardy” racquet that few like.
Some good racquets to try:
Yonex DR 98 or 100 (a good, comfortable mix of power and spin)
Yonex SV 98 or 100 (stiffer, but good power and spin!)
Prince Beast 98 or 100 (similar to DR 98)
Prince Textreme Tour 100P (even softer than the above racquets, smallish sweet spot)
Good luck! Cheers / J
First of all, congratulations for your posts, articles and news! I’m an old reader of this site, but this is my first reply here. I enjoy all the articles on this site.
Second … I’m interested to buy a Babolat AeroPro Drive Original racquet in good condition, grip size 3 (4 3/8).
Do you know where I can find one? Do you know someone who sells one?
Thanks a lot! Appreciate it. I have seen a few on eBay recently and you might find on Stringforum. Not the easiest to find! Good luck / Jonas
Thank you for the article, very informative.
Quick question, I have a Babolat Aero Pro Drive Original which I’ve owned for a long time.
I am looking to get a new babolat racquet as a back up. Ideally, I would want one that is exactly the same but unfortunately this is no longer available.
Babolat has added many new models throughout the years and I was wondering which babolat is the closest to the original APD?
There is not really anything that comes close to the old APD Original. I would probably get the latest one in that case.
Regards / J