The Pure Strike lineup has been an undeniable hit for Babolat since its debut, so it makes sense for Babolat to keep the same winning formula with some new incremental additions in its latest version of the Strike family. Along with a fresh, vibrant new cosmetic, the Pure Strike 18 x 20 has some technology updates as well. A blend of Cortex and viscoelastic rubber that is called C2 Pure Feel has been added to the frame’s layup for improved feel and comfort. The Strike retains its Control Frame Technology design, matching the stability of a square shape beam with the responsiveness of an elliptical beam. FSI Power widens the string spacing at the top of the pattern for easier power and spin. Having tested the 16 x 19 version, it was time to see how the tighter patterned Pure Strike 18 x 20 would measure up.
The new Pure Strike 18 x 20 showcased the same hallmark blend of power and control that I’ve come to expect from the Pure Strike family. The 21/23/21 mm beam provided a healthy dose of pop while keeping it largely under control. This model also boasts a slightly higher swingweight than the outgoing version so there was a bit more pop off the ground than I initially expected. Unlike the 16 x 19, I overhit less as the 18 x 20 pattern seemed to keep a tighter grip on the ball. The 11.4 oz strung weight and head light balance provided plenty of head speed on either side, allowing me to hit for pace as I needed to. Directional accuracy was even more impressive with the 18 x 20 version. I genuinely felt that I could hit any target I picked out and frequently found myself playing a much more aggressive style than is typical for my game. There was a bit less spin to be had but I didn’t find it drastically reduced compared to the 16 x 19. There were some shots where I wanted a bit higher launch angle, but overall I found enough spin to have margin over the net as needed. I also appreciated that the 18 x 20 didn’t over spin the ball and leave it sitting short in the court, something that some open pattern frames tend to do. Stability continued to be incredibly solid from the back of the court. I had no trouble taking big shots from my opponents and redirecting them to advantageous positions. The previous model had already enhanced the stability and the slight increase in swingweight seemed to up the level of the new Strike in this department as well.
Volleys & Serves
The Pure Strike 18 x 20 continued to assert itself during net play. It was easy to make short work of high volleys with the easy power of the frame. I also found this version to have less tendency to push volleys compared to the 16 x 19 version. Accuracy was consistently a highlight of volleying with this frame. I was able to put balls virtually anywhere in the court and used volleys to put opponents on the run. While the firm build of the frame didn’t make it the best racquet for touch volleys, I did find enough feel to mix in touch volleys and keep people guessing when I came forward. The impressive stability also shined at net as the racquet consistently fended off hard hit ball and shots close to the body. I never experienced any major twisting, the racquet just quickly redirected balls and was ready for the next shot.
Much like its 16 x 19 sibling, the Pure Strike 18 x 20 was a highly versatile serving weapon. The racquet had smooth acceleration through my motion and put plenty of zip behind my first serve. This version seemed to have even better accuracy than the open pattern version. I served to any spot I could think of and the racquet was consistently able to get the ball there. Kick serves did not have quite the same action on them and proved to be a bit less effective. The slice serve however made up the difference by sliding low and wide, putting returners into scramble mode.
The biggest addition to the new Pure Strike is the C2 Pure Feel material. Having been previously utilized in updates to Babolat’s other frames, I knew what to expect from its combination of Cortex and SMAC rubber. It was able to dampen down vibration without affecting the frame’s inherent stiffness or power level. The frame was still undeniably firm but now it played with a more refined, smoother feel on contact. Whereas I found the previous generation a bit jarring off center, the new model kept its response uniform and clean across the string bed. With it still being on the firm side of construction, players with arm sensitivity should consider pairing this racquet with lower tension or a softer string to help ensure that it plays comfortably over the long run. In experience with many of these new dampening materials, arm issues tend not to be immediately apparent during play but rather creep up over time so paying attention to the string setup should mitigate any possible issues.
The newest edition of the Pure Strike line aims to please existing fans while making some new adjustments. The 18 x 20 model boasts laser like accuracy, healthy power and the ability to execute an all court game plan. With improved feel and more accessible touch, the Babolat Pure Strike 18 x 20 makes sense for any control oriented player that wants to be able to ratchet up the aggression when the opportunity arises.
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.