Having had such an enthusiastic launch of the 2nd generation Pure Strike (the Project 17 frame), Babolat had to feel the pressure when delivering the latest update to the line. Rather than reinventing the wheel, the new 3rd generation Pure Strike represents an incremental update to the recipe. The biggest addition is C2 Pure Feel for improved feel and vibration filtering. This material combines Cortex with the viscoelastic rubber SMAC that Babolat has been deploying across their racquet lines in recent updates. The Strike continues to use Control Frame Technology, blending the dynamic response of an elliptical beam with the stability of a square beam shape. The frame also offers FSI Power which widens the string spacing at the top of the frame for added power and spin. Finished in a bold, eye catching new visual design, I was looking forward to seeing how the updated Pure Strike 16 x 19 performed on court.
The new Pure Strike 16 x 19 was the same impressive blend of power and control from the baseline that it has long been. The 21/23/21 mm beam had access to solid power and the slightly increased swingweight gave the new model more juice than the outgoing version. Early on, I had to be a cautious not to overhit until I found my rhythm with it. The manageable 11.4 oz strung weight and head light balance allowed me to easily accelerate through contact and add plenty of pace to groundstrokes from both sides. The racquet also felt more responsive in the upper part of the string bed and there was less of a power drop off when hitting off-center. The relatively thin beam width paired excellent control with the power. I was able to pick aggressive targets and really enjoyed taking my backhand up the line when the opportunity presented itself. Spin production seemed equal to the previous model and the 16 x 19 pattern had plenty of air under the ball and I was able to easily vary the margin of my shots. The increased power level gave me a little trouble on transition balls. I found it easier to overhit midcourt balls than the previous model. When stretched out, the frame was still fast enough to snap off winners, but I think the previous model was slightly quicker in this regard. Stability in the Pure Strike line has improved greatly from the first iteration and the new model continued that. I found it impressively stable against big hitters given its static weight and this was likely owed to the increased swingweight. I was able to consistently absorb big shots and redirect them.
Volleys & Serves
At net, the Pure Strike 16 x 19 remained a dangerous weapon. The racquet exhibited nimble responses and I was consistently ahead in quick exchanges at the net. The power level made it easy to finish volleys though it at times sailed balls I was too passive with. The inherent accuracy and control of the frame also made volleying enjoyable. I was able to move the ball around the court easily and could carve out an angle or drive it into the corners on command. The enhanced stability was on display again when volleying. The frame stayed solid when deflecting big shots and I only noticed twisting on exceptionally hard-hit balls. The softer feel of this update also made it a bit easier for me to execute touch volleys. I found success bleeding all the pace off and dropping it short. This added bit of versatility aided in my confidence level whenever I transitioned to the front of the court.
Speaking of versatility, that aptly sums up serving with the Pure Strike 16 x 19 as well. Despite the higher swingweight, I found the racquet easy to accelerate through the top of the zone, providing excellent pace on my first serve. While it may have lacked the outright heavy feel of a serve from a frame with more mass, I was still happy with how much pace and penetration I saw on my first serve. Much like the accuracy I found on groundstrokes, the Strike was equally accurate on serve. I was able to move locations, vary depths and target spots that would set me up for first ball success. The racquet’s spin friendly nature and easy speed made my second serve effective as well. Kick serves had strong movement and pace and my slice serve was wide swinging and low. Even when forced to hit second serves, I never felt like the Pure Strike forced me to start a point from behind.
The most notable addition to this generation of Pure Strike is the C2 Pure Feel material. I felt SMAC (dubbed Cortex Pure Feel in other lines) did a good job absorbing vibration on contact. Much like Wilson’s Counterveil or Head’s Graphene Touch, Pure Feel is still somewhat of a masking agent for the true stiffness of the frame. I could still feel the underlying stiff construction and response of the racquet, it just had a layer on top that provided a cleaner, more uniform feel on contact. I enjoyed the contact response from this new version more as I found previous models too harsh on my arm. The extra bit of dampening also gave me a bit more confidence when adding touch shots into my bag of tricks. As stated before, this was still a firm frame. Players with sensitive arms should still be mindful of string type and tension in order to ensure that the racquet plays comfortably for them.
Fans of the Pure Strike should feel at right at home with this evolution of the line. The 16x19 model boasts improved power, great targeting and easy spin production. It’s versatility at net and on serve add to its all court prowess. With this update providing cleaner, more consistent feel, the Pure Strike 16 x 19 is a great choice for players who want the power to dictate without the rest of their game being overpowered.
About the Reviewer: Matt Locke formerly served for 3 years as the Junior Programs & Development Coordinator for USTA-Idaho. He is a PTR certified coach and is an active USTA 4.5 League and Tournament player.