With one of the longest product cycles in the industry, Babolat seeks to make noticeable improvements each time it updates one of their racquet lines. 2015 is no different with the introduction of the all new Pure Drive line. The biggest addition is the inclusion of FSI (Frame–String Interaction) technology. Using impact data from the Pure Drive Play community, Babolat redesigned the string pattern spacing to produce a tighter pattern higher in the sweet spot for improved control and response. Here is an overview of my recent court time with Babolat’s newest flagship racquet model.
The Pure Drive is synonymous with power and the new model is no different. Its stiff RA and 23/26/23 variable beam width ensure that impressive power is always on tap. The racquet makes it incredibly easy to transition into offensive tennis in the blink of an eye and crack winners off both wings. There is so much power on tap that at times I found it difficult to control with the full multifilament string setup it came with. A dip in technique with a longer stroke will result in the ball sailing. Solid preparation is definitely critical to harnessing the frames power if you have a longer, faster stroke. The 100 square inch head offers a generous sweet spot. At a little over 11 oz (strung) it has enough weight to hit with pace and depth while still being easy to accelerate through contact. The weight also helps minimize wobble against bigger hitters. The 16 x 19 pattern offers solid access to spin while still making it easy to flatten out and finish short balls. I tend to hit high on the string bed so I did find improved control and response on shots thanks to FSI. I wouldn’t say it was a dramatic improvement over previous models, but shots are more predictable off of that area of the string bed.
Volleys & Serves
The Pure Drive lives to finish off high volleys at the net. With so much power, it rewards quick aggression, driving the ball through the court. While it has a slightly head light balance when strung, it is not as nimble at the net as I would like, at times feeling a little sluggish on quick exchanges. Touch volleys are a bit of a weak point as is the case with many frames in this stiffness range. While offering a crisp feel, it doesn’t quite have the same level of connection on feel based shots that a more flexible frame would have.
Serving with the Pure Drive provides a wide array of options. There is excellent power for flattening out serves at will. The fairly open string pattern and easy acceleration also make it easy to mix in a wide variety of spin and slice serves, keeping opponents off balance. While directional accuracy was solid, the Pure Drive is still more of a brute force weapon when it comes to serves.
The Pure Drive is a baseline oriented frame and its nature is reflected in its feel and comfort. While the use of Active Cortex provides a consistent, crisp feel, the frame doesn’t offer a tremendously high level of feel. I didn’t mind this when playing from the back of the court because the ball exits the string bed so explosively that your mind just focuses on playing offense. Comfort is a mixed bag as technically sound players probably won’t be bothered by the stiffness of the frame. Sensitive players would want to pay close attention to their string choice and tension in an effort to increase the comfort with the frame.
Babolat takes a “don’t fix what isn’t broken” approach with the 2015 Pure Drive. They kept the racquet true to its power baseline heritage and focused on using the data they’ve gleaned from recreational players to make it play with a more controlled, predictable response. Its easy power, crisp feel and ability to be a weapon from all areas of the court allow it to uphold its reputation as a strong racquet choice for a wide variety of skill levels and play styles.
About the Author: Matt Locke formerly served for 3 years as the Junior Programs & Development Coordinator for USTA-Idaho. He is a PTR certified coach and is an active USTA 4.5+ League and Tournament player. He loves Nadal’s determination, but secretly wishes he had Federer’s effortless style.