Every Grand Slam showcases its fair share of new gear. The US Open, in particular, loves to display just-released and sometimes even un-released products.
It's fitting for the most advertisement-friendly country that its flagship tennis competition be a hotbed for gear-spotting. So needless to say, as a gear junky, it was a treat watching the matches up until now.
Carlos Alcaraz - Babolat Pure Aero… VS?
I've had to revisit this portion of Carlos Alcaraz's gear spotting because I simply couldn't ignore the match that just finished. It was certainly the best of this US Open, if not the entire 2022 season. In their quarterfinal tie, Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner went blow for blow in an epic five-setter on Arthur Ashe. These two have developed quite the rivalry in the past couple of months, and it looked as though Sinner would, once again, get the better of his Spanish opponent when he came up with a match point in the fourth set. Alcaraz saved it, and eventually outlasted Sinner in the fifth, where the high octane, explosive rallies of the last five hours didn't cool down one bit. More of these two in the future, please.
The racket for Carlos Alcaraz's victory? Well, I'm here to venture an educated guess. The Spaniard has been using a Babolat Pure Aero VS throughout his professional career until the American hard-court swing. As shown in the display of exuberance and relief below, he's now using a racket that looks like the brand new 2023 Pure Aero.
I'm guessing that Alcaraz has not switched to this Pure Aero, but rather that we should be licking our lips at the possibility of a new version of the VS. When it will be released, or what it will be called, I don't know, but a player as good as Alcaraz will surely be the face of a line.
A racket in the style of the Pure Aero VS makes sense for a player like Alcaraz. The spin and power he produces on his forehand is already the stuff of legend on the pro tour; ask any player. The Pure Aero complements that style to a tee. But Alcaraz needs to control those explosive groundstrokes. That's where the smaller head size and the thinner beam of the Pure Aero VS help. The racket is a more precise version of its best-selling sibling and one that many advanced players will certainly appreciate when it evolves into what comes next. Stay tuned.
Rebecca Marino - Head Auxetic Extreme MP
Vancouver resident and our very own Rackets & Runners ambassador, Rebecca Marino, has been playing some excellent tennis this summer. After making the quarterfinals of the Citi Open in Washington DC, she followed up with a great third-round run at this US Open. She's got a game that's hard to match when she is on form and was too much for Magdalena Frech and Daria Snigur in rounds one and two. She ultimately lost to Zhang Shuai in the third round, but her huge serves and powerful ground game were on show for all to see.
So was her flashy, neon racket. After playtesting some other Head frames earlier this year, Marino switched from her Yonex Vcore 100 to the brand new Head Auxetic Extreme MP. We recently gave this powerful spin monster a glowing review, and it seems like Rebecca approves.
In many ways, the Extreme MP is the perfect racket to complement Marino's explosive style. The frame's stiff, thick beam can help her laser the ball into her opponent's court, while the added spin tech helps her control those groundstrokes with the ball dropping in before the lines. All the best for the rest of Marino's season and in 2023.
Dennis Shapovalov - Brand New Yonex… Vcore?
Tennis fans around the world love Dennis Shapovalov, and with good reason. He wears his heart on his sleeve but also plays with one of the most free-flowing, aesthetically pleasing styles on the men's tour. His results in 2022 haven't been the best as he's struggled for consistency, and he went down a racket merry-go-round rabbit hole to which many of us have fallen victim. He began his season with his Yonex Vcore 95 before quickly switching to the latest Ezone 98. He seesawed between the two frames for much of the year before coming out to play the US Open with a glossy, blacked-out Yonex stick.
At the US Open, we saw Shapo back to his best. He didn't have it easy in any of his three matches but overcame Huesler in five, Carballés Baena in four, and then played Andrey Rublev in the third round. Although he ultimately lost in five sets, we saw a fire and fighting spirit re-ignited in Shapo, leaving his fans with hope but also a great performance to build on. But what is Yonex hiding under their gorgeous blacked-out paint job?
Let me put my gear nerd thinking cap back on: we've seen a new Vcore Pro and Ezone in the past year, so that leaves: the Vcore line! Shapovalov is most likely using a yet-to-be-released version of the new Yonex Vcore 95 or 98. I can't tell which of the two it is, but I bet he is transitioning away from the unforgiving nature of 95-square-inch head sizes. His venture into the Ezone line tells me so much. Yonex will be replacing a popular mid-plus spin racket in the Vcore 98. For a 98, it is forgiving and powerful and can compete with most tweeners from the baseline. How will Yonex change it? If they follow a similar path to their other lines, I think they will soften it up and give it a touch more control. Only time will tell!
Coco Gauff - New Balance Coco CG1
Coco Gauff is still only 18 years old. That is insane, considering she now walks up to most matches as heavy favorite. Americans should consider themselves lucky. Just as an all-time great exits at the twilight of her career, she passes the baton to a compatriot who will surely achieve great things in the world of tennis for the next two decades.
Guaff reminds me a lot of Roger Federer, with a wide variety of weapons in her shot arsenal, as well as a desire to control points near the baseline and keep her opponents on a string. She's even got a bit of that Fed persona. People listen when she talks; she has charisma and charm, but also an air that demands respect not because she asks for it but because of how she is. That fire deep in the Swiss maestro's character is also present in Gauff's. I recently had a bit of déjà vu when she missed a cross-court approach shot into the net and smashed her racket on the floor, much like Federer did long ago at Indian Wells. Needless to say, she's born to be a star.
Gauff stormed through her first four matches and stood out as one of the primary contenders for overall victory on Saturday. In her quarterfinal matchup against Caroline Garcia, she fought bravely but came up short against the most in-form player in the world. Her game has everything to take her to the top, but this year we have seen her develop the consistency required to be one of the best.
She debuted her brand new New Balance Coco CG1 and, as somewhat of a surprise, was the only player to wear the shoe (at least that I noticed). Gauff chose to wear the bright blue and red version of the CG1, which stood out amongst the sea of other models on the court. Time will tell how the shoe does, but Coco Gauff certainly put her best foot forward in showing it off to the world, no pun intended.
There we have it! Another US Open is about to draw to a close and, with it, a ceremonious end to the Grand Slam season. Many tournaments remain in 2022, but there is also a lot of time left for brands to prepare their lineups for the next Grand Slam: Australian Open 2023.