After renaming the Pure Drive Roddick to the Pure Drive Tour in 2015, Babolat forges ahead this year with the second model to bear the Tour designation. While Babolat retained the traditional specs, they did include some key technology updates. FSI Power widens the string spacing and uses diamond shaped grommets to enhance the power and spin off the string bed. The long running Cortex system is now integrated inside the handle of the frame. An elastic rubber called SMAC has been added for better dampening and a softer feel and the system is now known as Cortex Pure Feel. I took the court to see how this heavy hitting version of one of Babolat’s most popular frames would measure up.
Heavy groundstrokes were easy to come by with the Pure Drive Tour. With the mass increased to 11.7oz strung, I found it easy to generate heavy shots from both wings. Surprisingly, I found this model a little more sluggish than the Tour + and it took me longer to get my timing and bring the racquet through contact on time consistently. Once in rhythm and using relaxed mechanics, I was able to use the heft of the frame to drive the ball deep into the court and control rallies. The updates FSI Power offered incredible power but I felt it came at the expense of control compared to previous models. The ball launched at a higher angle off the string bed and if I was too casual or hit too flat, I struggled to rein in the powerful nature of this racquet. Thankfully there was plenty of spin on tap to help bring the ball back down inside the lines. When focused on brushing up through the ball, I found it easy to create impressive spin and play with the safe margins needed to get myself back into points. Stability was also a high point for the Pure Drive Tour as it was able to soak up big shots and send them right back with interest. This frame was definitely not as precise as Babolat’s Strike line but the sheer force and ability to create a winner at any point made up for its occasional misfires.
Volleys & Serves
Volleys stood no chance with the Pure Drive Tour at the net. I enjoyed the way the extra weight made it easy to finish volley exchanges with authority. The somewhat sluggish feel reared its head again at net but I felt that I could reasonably keep pace in most rapid fire exchanges. The more compact stroke of a volley made control and accuracy better up at the net. I found I could push volleys into the corners and rarely felt like I floated a ball too much. The more stable response of the Tour model also gave me more confidence on touch volleys as the added weight did a better job of bleeding pace off the ball and dropping it over the net.
The Pure Drive Tour offered outstanding serving options. The higher weight produced excellent pace on my first serve and made the ball move through the court quickly. I started out over-swinging and sending flat serves too long but once I focused on letting the racquet’s weight do the talking, I started to assert control of the point on my first serve. The improved spin production of FSI power was also noticeable on kick and slice serves. My kick leaped off the court and got out of returners’ strike zones quickly. My slice serve stayed low and was extremely effective on the ad side of the court as a tool for opening up court space. I was I found enough control to vary the location of all my serves, keeping opponents off balance and guessing at what I was going to throw at them next.
Players who love the firm, crisp response of the Pure Drive may be in for an adjustment with the new model. The frame had a noticeably more muted feel on contact. The SMAC material absorbed a lot of vibration and provided a softer, cleaner response in my opinion. I felt there was still a good amount of connection to the ball; Babolat had simply smoothed out the sharp edges when it came to feel. There was still no denying the firm construction of the frame. With so many manufacturers using visco-elastic rubbers for dampening now, it’s important to remember that those do not change the inherent stiffness of the frame in question. The Pure Drive Tour played with clean response across the string bed but sensitive players should still be mindful of the string type and tension they use in order to ensure the racquet plays comfortable over the course of an entire match.
Technically sound, physically strong players will benefit the most from the new Pure Drive Tour. Its higher weight rewards produces outstanding power off the ground and supreme stability for big hitting. The improved levels of spin and feel make it dangerous in the hands of any play style. The updated Pure Drive Tour continues to offer a truly unique but totally Babolat blend of power, spin and playability that will put a smile on the face of a wide variety of players.
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.