After 3 years, players were anxious for Babolat to roll out the newest edition of their vaunted Pure Drive line in 2018. Babolat didn’t disappoint, updating the popular Pure Drive formula with the latest technological advancements. Utilizing a new material called SMAC, Cortex Pure Feel moves the dampening system inside the handle and offers improved levels of dampening and a more muted response. The fist version of Babolat’s FSI technology was all about providing more control at the top of the hoop. The updated FSI Power focuses on power and spin by widening the string spacing and using diamond shaped grommets to enhance string movement. Here is an overview of my recent court time with Babolat’s newest flagship racquet model.
The Pure Drive has long been associated with tremendous power and the new model was no different. The firm design and 23/26/23mm beam width offered ample power from both sides at the baseline. The racquet made it incredibly easy create offense at any point of a rally and crack a winner off either wing. I did find the power level to be more difficult to control than the previous version of this frame. The ball seemed to launch higher off the string bed, resulting in more shots that sailed if I didn’t have the proper swing path. The 100 square inch head had a generous sweet spot with no major power fluctuations off center. At a little over 11oz strung, I found enough mass to hit penetrating shots while still keeping my swing speed high for an entire session. Control was the primary weak point of the Pure Drive. Anything that I flattened out or approached too casually was unpredictable and I was uneasy playing rally balls as I felt they could fly out at any point. Thankfully, FSI Power also improved the spin production of the Pure Drive and I used that spin to keep hold of the ball. I felt this updated Pure Drive was the Pure Aero’s equal in terms of overall spin and shots where I focused on adding spin were met with high bouncing, deep shots that elicited weak replies. The racquet was also quite stable for its weight class and I had no trouble using it to redirect pace from big hitters.
Volleys & Serves
The Pure Drive was in its element when finishing off high balls at the net. With so much easy power, it rewarded quick aggression, driving the ball through the court. While I wouldn’t describe it as a scalpel at net, the frame was maneuverable enough to stay in front of most quick exchanges at the net. On more casual volleys, the power level created some issues with balls floating too much so I had to make a concerted effort to really finish my shot when volleying. Compared to its heavier siblings, I didn’t find as much success on touch volleys with the standard Pure Drive. The firm build didn’t provide a lot of ball pocketing and I missed the ability to use the added mass of the Tour models to help take pace off the ball. Stability was another high point at net as the racquet consistently fought off hard hit balls and kept me in the point at net.
Serving with the Pure Drive felt easier than should be allowed. There was excellent power for flattening out serves at will. I was able to easily accelerate through contact and generate plenty of racquet head speed for pace and depth on my first serve. While it didn’t exhibit pinpoint precision, I felt comfortable moving my serve around the box and showing returners I could hit multiple locations. The spin benefits of FSI Power were also on display while serving. The open string pattern and easy acceleration made it a snap to mix in a wide variety of spin and slice serves, keeping opponents off balance. My kick serve had good height and movement away from my opponents’ strike zones. My slice serve didn’t have the same bite as it did with the Tour models but it was still effective at opening up the court and giving me room to play an aggressive first ball.
The implementation of Cortex Pure Feel produced a feel that was vastly different from prior versions of the Pure Drive. While still a stiff frame, there was a noticeably more muted response compared to the crisp feedback of the previous version. Some players may enjoy the fact that some of the harshness has been taken out while other players may miss the ultra crisp feedback of the older models. Comfort was a mixed bag. While I enjoyed the softer feel during play, I could still feel the overall frame stiffness catching up to my arm after awhile. It is important to remember that the rubberized compounds brands are using these days do not result in a lower RA rating, so the racquets are still just as firm as they’ve been before. Any Pure Drive player with arm concerns will need to dial in the string that offers enough comfort but matches up well with the more muted response of the new Pure Drive.
The recipe for success with the Pure Drive really doesn’t change. While Babolat has made a noticeable change in feel with this update, the same easy power, spin and offensive firepower still remain. The Pure Drive offers everything needed to dictate from the baseline, still makes tough shots easier to execute and offers it all in a package that is accessible to a wide variety of play styles and levels. Players looking for a frame that suits the modern game with a bit smoother feel will find this model a worthy addition to the Pure Drive name.
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.