When you have one of the consistently best selling racquets in the world, updates tend to be about incremental changes as opposed to reinventing the wheel. This is the approach Babolat took when introducing the new Pure Drive Tour Plus. Designed for the most advanced, big hitting players, this model incorporates the new tech used across the line. The Cortex system is now integrated inside the frame as Cortex Feel and utilizes a rubber compound called SMAC for improved feel and dampening. The string spacing introduced on the 2015 model as FSI has been updated to FSI Power and includes diamond shaped grommets and wider string spacing for higher power levels and spin production. Outside of those updates, the specs on this bruising baseline frame carry over from previous versions. With the specs nailed down, it was time for me to hit the court with this latest flamethrower from Babolat.
The Pure Drive Tour + made its intentions off the ground known from the first ball. The 11.7oz strung weight and mid 320s swingweight combined to produce prodigious power off the ground. I was able to add massive pace and depth to groundstrokes at will. The extra half inch of length also really came into play on my backhand side as I was able to use the additional leverage to really drive through the ball. I found the frame to be headlight enough that racquet head speed was easy to come by, despite the increased mass. Spin production was noticeably better on this updated model and I felt it had caught up to the Pure Aero line in terms of overall spin friendliness. I found the added spin beneficial for trying to tame the raw power this frame had. The launch angle across all the new versions of the Pure Drive seemed higher than before, so on flatter swings and balls I didn’t add enough spin to, more shots sailed on me. Transition balls in the middle of the court were most difficult for me as my tendency to flatten them out made the racquet a bit more unpredictable. As long as I focused on adding spin, shots had more accuracy and were pinned deep into the court. The Tour + also excelled at stability, absorbing even the heaviest of blows from the backcourt and redirecting them with ease.
Volleys & Serves
The Pure Drive Tour Plus performed best at net when used aggressively. The added mass in the racquet made easy work off anything left up for me to pounce on. Early prep and solid mechanics were essential as the added mass and length made this model a bit slower to react at net than the lighter versions. With the short stroke of a volley, I found more control at net than the baseline. I was able to direct volleys into the corners as well as create sharp angles to open up the court. Stability at net was excellent as the heavier model soaked up impact with virtually no flutter or twisting. The heftier and softer feel also gave me more confidence in touch volleys than with older Pure Drive versions. I felt better connected on balls that I wanted to feather over the net and saw more success than in previous Pure Drive play tests.
Power was the main course when serving with the new Pure Drive Tour +. My flat serves exploded off the racquet and had huge pace and heaviness that drove returners back from the baseline. The extra leverage at the top of my motion, courtesy of the extended length, really let me drive the ball down through the court. As long as I didn’t try to over swing, I found solid levels of control on my serve as well. I could move my flat serve into both corners of the box. Adjusting to the extra weight for kick serves took a little bit of time as I wasn’t finding enough racquet head speed at the top of my motion. As my rhythm improved, I started to see the benefits of the improved spin this racquet had. Kick serves took a heavy, hard bounce and my slice serve in the ad court stayed low and slid away from opponents.
The Pure Drive Tour Plus has always had the best feel for me personally out of any of the versions I test. The new update was no different. Cortex Feel and the use of SMAC gave the frame a noticeably more dampened, almost muted response on contact. I enjoyed it because the frame felt much less harsh than older versions when I made contact outside the sweet spot. The added mass of the Tour models also helps provide better feel and comfort as the weight helps absorb impact and send less shock through the frame. The racquet was still firm in feel and construction since it was still a Pure Drive. The improved dampening should make it more accessible to players with sensitive arms. String choice and tension will play a role in the overall comfort of the frame as well.
The new Pure Drive Tour + will be a great option for any advanced player who can handle the added mass and swingweight. It offers incredibly free flowing power and spin from the baseline and its surprising net abilities and solid touch give it attacking capabilities from all areas of the court. With a softer, improved feel and even easier access to the power and spin needed for the modern game, the Babolat Pure Drive Tour + should make the short list for any big hitting player looking to dictate play.
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.