For the past few years, my son has been playing with the Babolat Aero Pro Drive Plus racquet, the one that looks like Rafa’s only a half-inch longer. He’s been stringing his racquets with RPM Blast string, and, until very recently, was happy with his tennis equipment.
Since he first started using this particular racquet and string, my son has grown about 8 inches in height and put on more than 25 pounds, most of it in the last year. Needless to say, that growth has necessitated making some changes in the way he trains, the way he moves around the court, the way he constructs and plays points, and the way he adjusts his body to be in the proper position to make his shots. And, recently, he noticed that he seems to be “shanking” balls more often which is usually an indicator of poor positioning in relation to the ball. So, he’s been working with his coach on his footwork and timing to see if he can figure out how to adjust his taller frame, longer arms and legs, and bigger feet to hit the ball on the strings rather than the expensive part of the racquet!
One of the first things my son and his coach picked up on was that his strings seemed to be losing tension rather quickly, perhaps contributing to the timing issue. He played around with the tension setting on his stringer to see if that would help. It didn’t. He then started doing a little research on the different strings on the market and tried a few different ones to see if they made a difference. They didn’t.
The next step was to look at the possibility of going back to a standard length racquet instead of the “plus” he was currently using. One of his buddies let him hit with his racquet for a couple of days, which he really liked. He felt like it gave him more power while still being able to generate enough spin to control his shots. He went over to our local tennis shop to check out a demo racquet and tried it out for a few days.
I called his coach in a panic. The idea of spending $500 or more on new racquets was NOT appealing. Did I mention that all this racquet-changing talk was going on at the same time as the Waco discussion? I asked if he (the coach) thought a racquet change was necessary or would make a significant difference in my son’s play. He said that my son had come up with the idea but that after seeing him hit with the demo racquets, he did feel that my son would benefit from a change. He assured me that changing racquets would be a slow, deliberate process and that he wouldn’t let my son make a final decision without lots of hitting time, match play, and in-depth evaluation by the coach.
After swapping between different racquets over a 2-week period, the time had come to make a decision between the last two contenders. The day before the demo racquets were due back to the shop, my son had another lesson with his coach, the sole purpose of which was to gauge the effectiveness of each racquet across several different drills and live-ball rallies. Not only was his coach looking at the power and spin and control of each ball coming off my son’s racquet, but he was also rating the feel of my son’s ball coming off his own racquet as well. They did each drill with my son alternating between the demo racquets, and after each one the coach chose a “winner” and kept a running tally of the results. By the end of the lesson, the coach had a clear picture about which racquet was better for my son and his particular style of play.
But, my son still wasn’t convinced! He scheduled a practice match for the following day just to be sure he was making the right choice. After playing 3 sets over 4 hours, he finally knew which racquet was going to be his new racquet, and, it turns out, it’s the same one his coach had deemed the right one, too.
So, thanks to our friends at Your Serve and Holabird Sports, my son is now the proud owner of three new Head YouTek IG Radical MP racquets and a matching bag. The Babolats were great while they lasted – anyone in the market for some lovingly-used Aero Pro Drive Pluses???