Dunlop Aerogel 200 Review
Nicknamed "Frozen Smoke," Dunlop's latest racquet technology comes straight out of the NASA space program. Called Aerogel, this solid is composed of 90-99.8% air, yet it is very strong structurally and can support over 2000 times its own weight. Used by NASA in the Stardust dust collector, ultra low-density aerogel blocks are used to collect comet and interstellar particles.
While that's all fine and good, what does Aerogel have to do with tennis racquets? Well, thanks to its lightness and incredible strength, it allows Dunlop to increase the racquet frame stiffness in key areas without adding excessive weight.
Placed at the 10, 2, 5 & 7 o'clock positions of the hoop, AerogelŐs stiff characteristics provide more pop, increase the size of the sweetspot and add stability to the racquet. The Aerogel 2Hundred retains Dunlop's M-FiL fibers at 3 & 9 o'clock for enhanced feel - potentially combining both increased power and increased feel in one racquet.
With plenty of excitement about the new Dunlop Aerogel racquets buzzing about the Talk Tennis message boards, we just had to grab the flagship racquet, the Aerogel 2Hundred and head out for a three-week playtest. Read our review below to see how this latest offering stacks up against its 200 series heritage.
The Aerogel 2Hundred offered a comfortable and very control oriented response from the baseline. Our team of 4.0-5.5 NTRP level playtesters quickly found the groove with this racquet. Finding a similar feel to that of his Muscle Weave 200G was Jon. "I felt very comfortable with my groundstrokes, as the Aerogel 2Hundred is easy to swing. There were many similarities to my Muscle Weave 200G, so it felt familiar right from the beginning. Even with the tight 18x20 string pattern, I was able to get decent topspin. A great mix of control and power on groundstrokes."
Quickly finding the groove was Granville. "It took just a few forehands and backhands before I was comfortable with the Aerogel 2Hundred, and then a few more before I was placing the ball consistently in the target zone. The racquet feels a little less stiff than a Wilson ProStaff 6.1 - a bit stiffer than a HEAD Prestige or Radical, so it ends up being a nice compromise for those looking for something to fill that elite niche. A definite upgrade to the previous M-FiL line." Enjoying the consistent response of the racquet was Spencer. "I liked the weight and balance of this racquet. I found good timing with both forehands and backhands, resulting in good control. The racquet didn't waver in performance at all during the playtest period. It was consistent and I knew what to expect from one hitting session to the next. I absolutely loved the control of my strokes. I was able to get enough power and depth as well as touch. I felt the spin was so-so, but certainly better than I anticipated from an 18x20 string pattern."
Ryan was also digging the level of control he found with the racquet from the baseline. "My groundstrokes with this racquet were very, very good. I had a lot of feel with this racquet and I enjoyed a ton of control. Usually I don't care for dense string patterns because they tend to feel board-like and not have any power, but this racquet did not feel that way to me at all. I had good pace and depth with the racquet, even on the run. I found the Aerogel 2Hundred really comfortable, and that translated into confident hitting from the baseline." Chris found this latest version his favorite of the Dunlop 200 series. "I enjoyed the response of the Aerogel 2Hundred off the ground. I preferred the feel of this racquet over the M-FiL 200 and the Hot Melt 200G. I was getting the pace and weight of shot I liked with the Hot Melt 200G, yet the feel was more comfortable and I felt more connected to my shots. The feel from the stringbed was very solid and controlled, yet I was getting more pace than I expected. While I had to work a little harder with this stick compared to my regular racquet, the racquet felt faster than previous 200s. I seemed to be getting a tad more swing speed from this version of the 200, resulting in better pace and spin. I also liked the feel and control when hitting angles and placement shots."
At net we found a comfortable and solid response from the Aerogel 2Hundred. Surprised by how much he enjoyed the racquet at net was Ryan. "Volleys with this racquet were very surprising to me. I didn't have any issues with the maneuverability with this racquet at all. The racquet was probably a little too flexible to be my ideal choice, but with that being said, volleys felt good. What surprised me most was the feel that I got from the racquet. I think this is partly due to the thinner bridge. Reminds me of the old Dunlop Muscle Weave 200G as opposed to the Hot Melt and M-FiL versions." Also feeling comfortable at net was Chris. "I volleyed well with this stick. It felt maneuverable in the hand, yet very stable and solid at contact. The level of comfort was excellent and this racquet was one of those sticks that blended comfort with excellent feel. I felt very confident going close to the line with this one and I enjoyed lots of feel on touch volleys."
Enjoying the buttery response of the racquet at net was Jon. "I had good control of my volleys with the Aerogel. Like most player's racquets, the Aerogel 2Hundred feels buttery smooth when you hit the sweetspot, but outside of the sweetspot the resulting volley can be unpredictable and unforgiving. Overall, this was a very maneuverable racquet for its weight. It has a lighter feel than its 11.9 ounce spec." Spencer found a solid feel from the Aerogel 2Hundred at net. "The Aerogel 2Hundred has decent maneuverability at net. I had confidence on approaches, as the control and touch were good on volleys. This racquet has tremendous stability, and can handle hard hit incoming shots."
Granville also enjoyed the response of the racquet at net. "I really enjoyed this racquet at the net. This racquet was exceptionally maneuverable with a crisp response and good pop. I was very comfortable with this racquet, both defensively when retreating to hit an overhead, and offensively, when moving forward to close out the point. It is not what I affectionately refer to as a scalpel, only due to the slightly lighter weight when compared to other scalpels."
Our team found lots of precision and control with the Aerogel 2Hundred on serve. Also finding more pop on serve than with his regular Muscle Weave 200G was Jon. "In comparison to my Muscle Weave 200, I generated more power and better control with the Aerogel 2Hundred. Serving with both, side by side, they had a very similar feel. However, the results were slightly different. The Aerogel felt crisper and offered more pace." Granville quickly dialed in his serves with the Aerogel 2Hundred. "It felt like an extension of my arm. I was placing serves with remarkable accuracy, especially the kickers out wide on the deuce side, as well as wide on the ad side. I was also getting good spin on the ball as I pulled my opponent out wide. To really kick up the power I'd probably drop the string tension just a bit from our mid-range play test racquet." Enjoying some consistent serving with the racquet was Spencer. "Consistency and placement were good. The pace when trying to 'crank one up' was average. Kick serves didn't kick as much as I'd have liked. However, I got more spin than expected with the dense string pattern."
Ryan found plenty of pace on serve with the racquet. "I was able to get good pace and spin with this racquet on my serves. My kickers were in full spring! It actually surprised me a bit because usually I get better response with the kick serve from racquets with a more open string pattern. However, I was able to generate some great spin with this racquet. Placement was good too. I really felt like I had control with this racquet. The other surprising aspect was the 'weight' on serves, which my opponents commented on. The ball was very heavy. That is a good thing!" Chris found plenty of control on serve with the Aerogel 2Hundred. "I gave up some major spin and pace serving with this racquet compared to my Babolat Pure Drive Roddick. However, I was still able to be aggressive. I found lots of control and I was able to mix up a variety of serves to keep my opponents guessing. The biggest issue came with second serves, as I was not able to kick the ball with enough penetration. I occasionally left the ball hanging and my opponents were able to steal the advantage with an aggressive return."
Thanks to its control oriented response and excellent stability we were able to return aggressively with the Aerogel 2Hundred. Finding some excellent touch for his return game was Granville "Again, the spec says it all for this racquet. I was able to take the offensive when needed on the return off either side. Defensively, I could block or feather the ball to either side of the court as needed. Excellent touch on the returns." Jon also found plenty of feel from the racquet when returning serve. "The Aerogel 2Hundred performed well when I was returning serve. It had a very crisp feel, giving good feedback on every shot. I thought the Aerogel technology might mute the feel of the racquet, but this wasn't the case. I was not able to generate huge topspin but that was to be expected with a tight 18x20 string pattern."
Spencer enjoyed the solid response of the racquet. "This racquet was very stable when handling serves. Though it's a little heavier than I'm used to, I didn't have any problems with timing or handling the pace of fast serves." Chris was finding some nice plough through on contact with the Aerogel 2Hundred. "Lots of control and feel on returns. I found some excellent stability and feel on slice and block returns. When taking a good cut at the ball the racquet offered some nice "plough" through the contact zone, resulting in a solid feel and good targeting." The stability of the 2Hundred allowed Ryan to swing freely. "The racquet is so stable that I was swinging freely on my one handed returns of first serves. I'm not able to really feel confident doing this with many racquets. Big swipes and penetrating returns became a theme with the Aerogel 200. With the help of this racquet on returns I was able to win a tie-breaker against him. Something I've never done before!"
With a crew of 4.0-5.5 level players, our playtest crew was a very solid fit for this Aerogel 2Hundred. The almost 12 ounce strung weight and control oriented response of this racquet is definitely designed for strong intermediate to advanced level players. We found a high level of feel and control from all areas of the court. Without a doubt, if you've enjoyed previous Dunlop 200s you should definitely put this one on the top of your demo list. We found some definite Dunlop heritage in the feel and response of this racquet, with a touch more mobility and pop than the previous M-FiL 200 and the Muscle Weave 200G. We feel Dunlop has managed to capture the pop of the Hot Melt version, but keep the feel and touch we found with the Muscle Weave and M-FiL 200s. All in all, the Aerogel 2Hundred is a very impressive stick.
Review date: February 2007. If you found this review interesting or have further questions or comments please contact us.
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