It seems like there is no stopping Rafael Nadal. As one of the top tennis players in the history of the sport, he is still going strong, competing for every major and dominating on the clay courts. His unique playing style, which relies heavily on court coverage and topspin on groundstrokes, hasn’t slowed down enough to see him fall out of the top five.
The shots he hits makes his racquet one of the most talked-about in tennis history, and Babolat has heavily used him in their marketing since he turned pro. Tennis players, and non-players for that matter, can’t help to notice the yellow and black racquet in his left hand before each point.
What racquet does Rafael Nadal use? Despite Babolat marketing the latest Babolat Pure Aero as the weapon of choice for the Spaniard, Rafael Nadal still uses an older model with a new paint job. His actual racquet is the Babolat Aeropro Drive Original, strung with Babolat RPM Blast strings. Like a lot of professional tennis players, he has grown up using a specific set up, and makes very minimal changes.
Rafael Nadal’s Actual Racquet Specifications
Although he might occasionally make some very small modifications from tournament to tournament (string tension being the biggest change), the main set up for Rafael Nadal includes the following:
- Frame: Babolat Aeropro Drive 2005
- Grip size: 4 1/4
- Weight: 317 grams unstrung
- Balance: 328 mm
- Swing weight: 330
- String: RPM Blast
- String tension: 25 kg
As mentioned above, a few additional adjustments are made to Nadal’s racquet from time to time. For example, he has been spotted using lead tape on his racquets occasionally. He doesn’t do it as much anymore, simply because Babolat makes his racquets to his specification.
The grip size he uses is smaller than the average player, but he builds it up by using two overgrips in most cases. Occasionally, he will alter the grip a bit, especially if he is having any blister issues.
String tension is perhaps the biggest change he makes to his racquets on a week to week basis. Factors such as the time of the year, time of day, the surface, and the opponent makes a difference.
Nadal’s Racquet History With Babolat
Throughout most of his entire tennis career, Nadal has used Babolat tennis racquets. Even though the brand is trendy now, it wasn’t a top choice at the time amongst most pros.
He started his career using the Babolat Soft Drive, and then transitioned to the Pure Drive racquet. That was known as the most popular racquet at the time from Babolat. It did a lot of things well for him, but the company was looking for ways to take his game to another level. They knew they could create a new line specifically for him that would sell well as he continued to rise in the rankings.
Working directly with Babolat, the Aeropro Drive was explicitly developed for his playing style. They spent months of research figuring out how to maximize his shotmaking ability, including his unique hitting style. To this day, many consider the Pure Aero to be the most spin-friendly racquet one can purchase.
It’s impossible to give Nadal all the credit for Babolat rising so much in popularity, but he has undoubtedly been a driving force. Andy Roddick and Kim Clijsters are two other players widely credited for Babolat turning into a prevalent option. To this day, a simple look around a local tennis club will show plenty of people using Babalot racquets. The majority of them have that familiar yellow and black color scheme.
Has Nadal Made Any Adjustments Over The Years To His Racquet?
After playing with pretty much the same racquet from his early pro days to 2012, Nadal was looking for a bit more spin and power on his shots. That is when he decided to add roughly 3 grams of weight to the top of the frame. Adding that small amount of weight might not seem like that big of a deal, but it is a major change for any player who prides himself on consistency.
It took some practicing to get used to the new swingweight and the way the ball comes off the racquet, but it allowed him to stay competitive as his body slowed down ever so slightly due to lingering injuries.
He stayed with this type of set up for the next five years before adding about two more grams of weight to the racquet at the top once again. There’s no confirmation that he uses anything to counterbalance the racquet, but many people speculate that the extra overgrip helps in some ways.
Why Does Babolat Paint Nadal’s Racquet?
When people think of the brand Babolat, Rafael Nadal is the first player associated with them. He is their most successful pro athlete, and the Pure Aero line is his signature model. The company has turned into one of the biggest racquet suppliers in the game thanks to his success and popularity.
As a company, it is pretty challenging to sell the same tennis racquet for 10 or 15 years. As other companies make breakthroughs in technology and release new racquets, Babolat must do the same. One of the major selling factors of a Pure Aero racquet is that it looks like the same thing used on television. It just has some advancements in it that is meant to help 99.9% of players out there.
Finding out that Nadal doesn’t use the exact model he endorses might be a let down for some, but most people within tennis circles know that Nadal is far from the only person who does this. There are plenty of other top players who find what they like and stick with it. Some even go as far as using another company’s racquet painted different. This fulfills sponsorship duties without sacrificing playability.
Can You Buy Nadal’s Racquet?
If a player wanted to buy the actual racquet used by Rafael Nadal that dates back to the mid-2000s, they would have to look online for a used version. They have been out of production for over a decade, and it would make little financial sense for Babolat to bring it back. There would be some who would buy it for nostalgic reasons, but technology has reached a level in tennis that makes the racquet obsolete.
The newest line of Pure Aeros released in 2019, and they do play very similarly to the original version. It’s not so similar that Nadal has willingly made the transition, but it is going to provide the same benefits one would expect as a casual player. Of all the available Pure Aero versions, this one is the most popular one, (link to Amazon).
When shopping for the Pure Aero, one will notice that there are several different options to sift through. The standard Pure Aero racquet from the line is the most popular, but in total, there are at any time around ten different variations of the racquet with a similar paint job.
This is to allow for players who wants a heavy racquet like the Babolat Pure Aero Tour, the beginner-friendly racquet like the Babolat Pure Aero Lite, or the junior player who wants a Babolat Pure Aero Junior 25”. Each player can have a racquet that looks similar enough to Nadal’s, which is a huge selling point for the company.