God bless America (and France), the Aero Storm racquet is back! Well, technically it is now the Babolat Pure Aero VS and boasts some new tech, but the mold is unmistakably the hybrid design of the classic Aero Storm frame Babolat started making back in 2007. This updated model retains the combination of Aero Modular throat design with a more classic and thin hoop. The addition of Woofer grommets for more power and integrated Cortex for improved dampening leave this racquet impressively equipped to dish out both power and accuracy. Decked out in a “can’t miss it” Stars and Stripes paint job, I took the Pure Aero VS out on court recently for a trip down memory lane and to see if the new tech makes it a worthy successor.
Off the ground, the Pure Aero VS showed its capabilities as a hybrid between a Pure Aero and a control frame. The fairly firm construction and 21mm beam provided ample power from both sides, even if it is a bit less than some of Babolat’s other offerings. At right around 11.0z strung, I was able to really accelerate the frame through contact and take some big league cuts at the ball. The racquet hit with impressive depth and also made short work of any ball left forward in the court. The smaller 98 inch head size didn’t offer as generous as sweet spot as the standard Pure Aero and the power level dropped a bit outside the center of the string bed. But the nimble head and thinner beam also provided an outstanding level of control. I was able to hit lasers from both wings and consistently play some of the most aggressive targets I can remember recently. The frame fluttered a bit when redirecting shots from big hitters and struggled when put on the defensive. Players could either add a bit of weight to address the issue or wait for the forthcoming, heftier Pure Aero VS Tour model. The spin production was also pleasantly surprising in the Pure Aero VS. The 16x20 string pattern nicely blended control and spin production. I created plenty of margin when I needed it and then had no problem stepping in and flattening out shots with plenty of control. The spin friendly pattern and lightening fast feel worked in tandem to produce outstanding all court playability, making me dangerous from anywhere on court.
Volleys & Serves
Net play is where the VS showed that its stripes (and its Stars) are different from the standard Pure Aero. Where I found the regular model to be more challenging to maneuver and produce touch shots, the VS was an excellent weapon at the net. The head light balance and compact size made it easy to snap into position for reflex volleys. It had plenty of power to finish off high volleys without overcooking them. The excellent accuracy and maneuverability also allowed me to create plenty of angles and pick out targets that would leave my opponents compromised. I would have liked a bit more weight to absorb big shots at the net, but overall the racquet played with impressive stability for a frame that is under 300g unstrung.
Versatility made the Pure Aero VS a dangerous weapon when serving. I found it easy to accelerate through the top of contact and really turn up the pace on my first serve. While the shots lacked the heaviness of a frame with more mass, there was no question the ball had plenty of heat on it. Another plus was that when I wanted to mix it up, the frame was always ready to let me use its accuracy to hit pinpoint serves. I moved the ball all over the box and was consistently able to serve to both corners, making life tough for the returners. While the VS didn’t have the knee buckling spin of the regular Aero, it still had plenty of movement on my kick serve. The fast feel and spin friendly pattern produced serves with excellent height and movement away from my opponents’ strike zones. My slice serve lacked a bit of bite, likely due to the reduced mass in the frame. This was a minor issue however as the speed of my first serve and spin on my second kept in control of most service points.
The Pure Aero VS was one of the best feeling offerings Babolat has right now, along with the new Pure Strike. Its mid level stiffness (66RA) gave it a bit more pocketing on contact, which allowed me to execute touch shots with more ease than some of their other offerings. The string bed had a uniform feel to it and it did not vibrate too heavily on off center contact. Much like its siblings, the Pure Aero VS benefitted from having the Cortex system moved inside the throat. The racquet did a solid job of absorbing and filtering vibration. While it was still firm feeling, I avoided some of the arm tenderness I have gotten with other Babolat models. Cautious player should be able to pair the racquet with a softer string and have one of the most arm friendly racquets Babolat offers.
While the Aero Storm was a fairly low selling model back in the day, it’s cult following appears to have resurrected with some new upgrades in the release of the Pure Aero VS. The frame’s outstanding combination of power, accuracy and spin make it a versatile choice for intermediate to advanced players. While the cosmetic may be a bit too in your face for some (a standard paint job will release by early 2017), there is no denying that the VS has a blend of feel and pinpoint accuracy that is difficult to find in a frame that can also keep up with the modern baseline oriented game.
About the Reviewer: Matt Locke currently serves as the Junior Programs & Development Coordinator for USTA-Idaho and is an active USTA League and Tournament player.