With Babolat on the longest product cycle in the racquet industry, 2018 heralds the arrival of the newest version of the popular Pure drive Series. Fans of extended length frames will be thrilled to see an updated Pure Drive + as part of the new family of racquets. The new FSI Power widens the string spacing for more power and uses diamond shaped grommets for improved spin production. The Cortex system has been updated to Cortex Pure Feel. Cortex Pure Feel is now inside the racquet and uses SMAC, a visco-elastic rubber compound for better vibration absorption and dampening. With new innovations added into the tried and true Pure Drive formula, I took the new Pure Drive Plus out on court to see how it stacked up during play.
Power is the calling card of the Pure Drive family and the Pure Drive Plus lived up to its lineage. The racquet was capable of hitting huge ground strokes off either side thanks to its high stiffness and 23/26/23 beam width. The additional length gave me improved leverage on my two handed backhand and I enjoyed being able to drive the ball through the court more off that side. While a little less maneuverable than the standard Pure Drive, I still found it easy to accelerate through contact for maximum pace and depth. The updated FSI Power seemed to offer even easier spin but I felt the string bed was noticeably less controlled than the previous version of the racquet. It was difficult for me to rein in flatter shots and anything I was too casual on went sailing past the baseline. In order to compensate, I used the improved spin production to help bring my groundstrokes down. When I focused on adding spin, my shots were heavy and deep with better control. The frame was very stable for its class and I had not problems with flutter when trying to redirect incoming pace. The extended length also improved the defensive capabilities of the racquet as it gave me more reach and leverage for getting back into points after being on the defensive.
Volleys & Serves
The Pure Drive Plus is all about the power volley. Players will be rewarded for aggressive tactics at the net by being able to finish volleys with ease. I found the extra length to make the racquet slightly less maneuverable during rapid exchanges but not to the point where it cost me an unacceptable amount of points. I enjoyed the stability of the racquet at net as I was able to deflect big shots with minimal fuss from the frame. Control was better at the net than the baseline, likely due to the more compact nature of the stroke. Similar to other models in the line, I did find the frame had a tendency to float balls that I did not handle aggressively enough. The rigid nature of the string bed didn’t lend itself to touch volley all that well but eventually I was able to mix them into my net game with some success.
The Pure Drive Plus suited offensive minded serving during my time with it. The ample acceleration and added reach at the top of my motion gave me plenty of pace on my serve and added a heavy feel that moved through the court. While directional control was not laser like, I was able to hit multiple targets around the box and serve with enough variety to keep opponents from sitting on my serve. The added spin potential of the FSI Power string bed was also a welcome addition on serve. My kick serve had jump off the court and was fast enough to get out of their hitting zones. Slice serves did not have as much bite as the heavier Pure Drive models but they still moved enough to give me openings for an attacking first ball.
Having never really gelled with the crisp nature of previous Pure Drives, I personally enjoyed the more muted response of these updated models. Cortex Pure Feel and SMAC performed as advertised, dampening down vibration without sapping the power from the frame. Players used to that crisp, raw feedback of previous versions may find the new feel to be a love it or hate it proposition. On the comfort front, while I felt the racquet was more comfortable during play, the stiff construction caught up to me afterwards. Since the racquet is still in the neighborhood of 70 RA, it has all of the stiffness that has made some players leery of the Pure Drive in the past. Anyone concerned about potential arm problems should test out a variety of strings and tensions in order to find a setup that works.
The 2018 Pure Drive Plus is another incredible racquet built for offensive baseline tennis. Players across a wide variety of levels and styles will enjoy it’s easy access to power, spin and shotmaking. The additional ½ inch of length provides more leverage on serves and groundstrokes while enhancing the racquet’s defensive skills. While slightly less controlled than previous models, this update also offers a more refined, smooth feel that should open up the Pure Drive Plus to even more players who may have been hesitant to try it in the past.
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.