It’s time to say goodbye to another year and time to say hello to all the year-end “Best of” lists. So not to be outdone, we’re rolling out our list of Best of 2012 product lists. Once again the playtesters put on their thinking caps to come up with these favorites. We would love to hear yours, too. To kick off the countdown to 2013, we have our 2012 favorite racquets. For a flashback, check out the list of 2011′s top racquets.
AeroPro Drive GT 2013
This may have 2013 in the name, but by our rules, if it sold in 2012, it’s eligible. The new AeroPro Drive GT must be quite the impressive racquet to make the list of not one but two of our strongest playtesters, and it’s only been out for a month or so.
Siobhan: “Racquet of choice right now – I only spent the whole year waiting for it! It feels similar to the previous Aero, and the current Pure Drive, but the feel and response is just improved. I like stiff racquets, which this one is, and combined with power, spin and great control. This racquet just really suits my game and it’s probably the only racquet I feel truly comfortable playing with right now.”
Andy: “Power, access to spin, maneuverable, stable…this racquet has a lot to offer. And with the Active Cortex introduced to the frame, it’s the most comfortable AeroPro Drive yet.”
Active Cortex, an updated Cortex technology, that provides the racquet with better feel
New Babolat logo
In a nutshell
The Active Cortex really does it job, and our testers found the feel and response both were much improved over the previous AeroPro Drive GT. This racquet continues to be forgiving, and it offers easy access to spin and power. Pair that with better feel, and this 2013 version of the AeroPro Drive is a winner.
How it breaks down
The wildly popular AeroPro Drive has fans around the world for its ease of use, extremely spin friendly response and easily tapped power. It doesn’t hurt either that none other than Rafael Nadal swings this racquet on the ATP World Tour. We can’t all hit with the massive RPMs of Nadal, but as our testers discovered, the AeroPro Drive GT 2013 certainly helps in the spin department.
Siobhan hits a western forehand and puts quite bit of spin on her baseline shots. This racquet fit right into her game.
” I got a lot of comments on my ability to whip back really low balls with a lot of pace with this racquet, and I like how I didn’t have to adjust my swing speed,” she said. “The Aero just flies through the air, allowing me to create some heavy racquet speed, so I can absolutely fire forehands with this racquet.”
Though a top seller, the Babolat AeroPro Drive has had its detractors who disliked the feel and stiff feel. Our tester Andy was previously among those who didn’t count himself as a fan. With the Active Cortex, all that has changed.
“Active Cortex, now introduced into the AeroPro Drive line, does a great job dampening the feel and creating a better connection between ball and player, which I felt previous versions of this racquet didn’t quite have,” Andy said. “It’s still very stiff feeling, but the dampening system in the handle does a great job of making it more comfortable than ever.”
The racquet excels off the ground, but it performs just as well at net. As an all-court player, Chris likes to mix up his net tactics, and the AeroPro Drive GT 2013 was up to the task.
“Sure, it doesn’t have the mass to punch the ball quite as much as I like, but its stiff beam did enough to keep the racquet feeling solid most of the time and for power to be decent,” Chris explained. “I was able to carve some nice angle volleys and punch the ball away, and that had me keeping my opponents guessing.”
If you’ve played with a previous Babolat AeroPro Drive or a Pure Drive, this racquet will feel familiar in the hand.
“It fits right in there with those two and really impresses with spin, power and forgiveness,” said Chris, who has hundreds of playtests under his belt. “If you have hit a Pure Drive or previous AeroPro Drive, you’ll feel the lineage in this one from the first hit. I don’t think Babolat has changed much here, and for me that is a very good thing, as the previous version still feels very good. This update has slightly better feel and comes around a tad faster — both solid improvements to an already impressive racquet.”
There’s not much to dislike about this racquet, though some say it is stiff feeling, and is definitely worth a look if you’re seeking controllable power, spin and a user-friendly feel. There is a reason the AeroPro Drive has such a wide appeal. Just about anyone can use it with success.
NAIA All-American, Alessandro Ventre, battled to the semi-finals using the original AeroPro Drive. This Brazilian showed he didn’t need new technologies to make him a tough competitor. He brought a Nadal-like game and speed to the court wearing the Asics Gel Resolution 2.
Roman Borvanov, the #1 seed and currently 654 in the world, took the tournament with ease using the Yonex RDiS 100 midplus. His game matched his outfit, pristine and untouchable. He wore the Asics Gel Challenger 7, showcasing his perfect footwork that set him up for exemplary shots. His debonair manner on and off the court was a pleasure to watch and talk with.
From what I could tell, most of the men in the tournament weighted their racquets with plenty of lead and strung them up with poly. I’m not sure of the other players, but I heard from a friend that Roman uses Signum Pro Poly-Plasma 17g at 50/51 pounds.
Overall, the players came in with sophisticated fashion and professional attitudes that made it an amazing weekend for tennis.