Any time Babolat updates one of its model lines, they are always sure to include a lighter weight version for developing players and juniors looking for an easier to swing variation that packs all the feature of the main model. For 2018, Babolat introduces the new Pure Drive Lite, which sports all the same upgrades as the other versions in the family. FSI Power uses wider string spacing and diamond shaped grommets to enhance power and spin production. Babolat moved the new Cortex Pure Feel system inside the frame itself and also added in a rubber compound called SMAC for improved dampening and a softer feel. While it may be light on weight, this model is certainly not light on features. I took the Pure Drive Lite out for a spin to see how the new enhancements would perform.
Even with this one being the lightest weight in the Pure Drive family, the easy power was still noticeable from the first groundstroke I hit. At 10.1oz strung, this frame flew through contact, giving me plenty of head speed for maximum pace and spin. The struggle I had was the lack of court penetration the lack of mass in the frame created. There was plenty of pace but the ball simply did not move through the court with the same heaviness as the beefier versions of this frame. I left more balls shorter in the court and found myself playing a bit more defense than I was expecting to. The low weight also showed up with some noticeable wobble on contact against bigger hitters. I had stronger results off the ground with this version when I attacked anything left short and applied plenty of topspin to both wings. FSI Power offered an impressive level of spin off the ground, which was necessary to gain better control over the ball. Accuracy was solid if unspectacular and it struggled if I played the ball too flat or took too casual of an approach. Full, spin laden swings were rewarded more consistent targeting, and I was able to move the ball effectively around the court.
Volleys & Serves
The Pure Drive Lite’s low weight made it easy to maneuver at the net. I was able to position the frame very quickly on rapid volley exchanges. The lack of mass tended to float volleys when I was not as aggressive as I should have been. I found better results when I played volleys from an offensive position rather than trying to fend shots off defensively. Control at the net was better, likely due to the compact nature of the strokes involved. I was able to direct volleys into the corners and create court opening angles. Given the firm build of the racquet, I found it less responsive for touch volleys. There wasn’t enough ball pocketing for me to consistently feather the ball and the reduced weight made the frame less able to take pace off the ball for delicate volleying. The racquet was reasonably stable for its weight class but as the pace of play increases, players would likely want some additional weight to limit potential twisting.
Serving with the Pure Drive Lite was driven by disguise and placement over anything. The racquet accelerated easily through the top of my motion but there just wasn’t enough mass to make my serve feel truly impactful. I had to be on target with the location of my flat serves to avoid allowing the returner to tee off on them. I had better results when I used the extra racquet head speed for kick serves. I was able to generate a high bouncing ball that stayed away from returners’ strike zones. My slice serve didn’t have as much skidding action as I wanted but I was still able to move it out wide and create court space to attack on the first ball.
The feel of this updated Pure Drive family was very different compared to models that have come before it. The addition of SMAC to the Cortex system produced a much more dampened response on contact. Players looking for that traditionally firm, crisp Pure Drive response would be in for a bit of an adjustment. On touch shots, I thought the feedback was still a bit too vague to execute those shots with confidence. Comfort was in line with what I expect from this type of frame. It played softer on court but it was still evident that this was a stiffly built frame. The new dampening material cleaned up the vibration on contact but I could still feel the underlying firm response of the string bed. Comfort has never been the hallmark of the Pure Drive and the new model will likely be player dependent. I never had any on court comfort issues but did feel some arm discomfort after play that was relatively minor. Any concerned players should use lower tensions and softer strings in order to mitigate any potential comfort issues.
Packing all of the technological advances of the heavier models, the new Pure Drive Lite lives up to the family’s heritage. It blends easy power and excellent spin with maneuverability and a fast feel from anywhere on court. Geared toward rising juniors and players with developing games, the Pure Drive Lite will make shotmaking effortless and bring extra punch and spin to any player who takes the court with it.
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.