The newest edition of the Pure Drive family expands into lightweight territory with the introduction of the new Babolat Pure Drive Team in 2018. Packing all of the punch Pure Drives are known for in a slightly lighter, more maneuverable package, this model is sure to be a crowd pleaser. Updates include FSI Power, which uses wider string spacing and diamond shaped grommets to enhance power and spin, and Cortex Pure Feel. The new Cortex system sits inside the frame and uses and advanced rubber compound called SMAC to dissipate vibration and produce better dampening on contact. With an updated feel and even more power and spin, I was eager to see how this version of the new Pure Drive handled out on court.
Is it even a Pure Drive if it doesn’t hit big from the back of the court? The new Team model held true to its roots by offering incredibly easy power off both sides at the baseline. With a 23/26/233mm beam and a firm build, the racquet produced power that was always on tap. The 100 inch head offered a sizable sweet spot and a good level of forgiveness on off center shots. The lighter 10.6oz strung weight allowed me to generate high levels of racquet head speed for increased pace and spin. The reduced weight didn’t produce quite as heavy a ball as the standard and Tour variants but there was still enough pace and depth to keep me in points. There was a little bit of wobble to the frame against bigger hitters but I found I could compensate well by keeping my stroke slightly shorter. I found the control to be a bit more erratic than on previous versions of the frame. This update felt like it had more pop and I had more trouble reining in the power level, especially on flatter hit balls. Spin became a major factor in my ability to control the ball and thankfully, FSI Power offered incredibly easy levels of spin. The wider spacing and new grommets gave this racquet an impressive level of spin on any groundstroke and I was especially impressed with margin I played with on my backhand side. As soon as I focused on applying spin to my stroke, accuracy improved and balls were consistently landing deeper into the court and with more action on them.
Volleys & Serves
At net, the Pure Drive Team plays fast and furious. Its reduced weight and balance point made it quick to maneuver into position for rapid exchanges. The power level was adequate to finish off high volleys and anything I took an aggressive approach to. Balls I had less time on or was too casual with tended to float, a byproduct of the reduced weight in this version. The reduced weight also made touch volleys a bit more challenging as I missed the extra mass for taking pace off the ball. Directional control was solid. With volleys being more compact, I had less control issues at net than I did from the back of the court. Overall, the Pure Drive Team was most rewarding of aggressive tactics at net and its speed and power were major advantages for offensive net play.
I found mixed results when serving with the Pure Drive Team. Although I had solid pace on tap, the frame lacked the mass behind flat serves for me to put stronger opponents on the defensive. There was decent pace but the ball did not have the same type of court penetration I could generate with heavier versions. I saw more success when utilizing spin serves. The lighter weight offered quick acceleration through contact, allowing me to move my toss around and create a variety of different spins and locations. Kick serves had good jump off the court and my slice serve was effective in the ad court for moving returners out wide. While not overly heavy serves, the variety I could create proved to be an effective tool.
Feel was one of the biggest updates on the new edition of the Pure Drive Lite. The updated Cortex Feel provided a much more dampened feel on contact. While the underlying firmness letting me know this was a Pure Drive was still there, I found the response on this model to be much less raw than before. Pure Drive purists may not like it, but it likely will make the frame more accessible to a wider audience. The harsh feedback off center from previous iterations was greatly reduced and the response across the string bed was much smoother. With the racquet still being stiff, there was not a lot of ball pocketing so the feel on contact was still a bit vague for me. Players concerned about comfort should still recognize that this frame was still a Pure Drive. The addition of the SMAC material did not make the racquet more flexible. Softer string setups and lower tensions would be advantageous for any player concerned about maximizing comfort while playing with the Pure Drive Team.
Babolat consistently has a Pure Drive for every player within their lineup. The Pure Drive Team offers the tried and true recipe of all court power from the regular Pure Drive in a setup that is lighter and more maneuverable. This update has a smoother response and even more power and spin potential. The Pure Drive Team is an excellent choice for younger players and players who prefer a light and fast feel that still allows them to play power baseline tennis with enough capabilities to attack from other areas of the court as well.
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.