Babolat Pure Drive Racket Review
One of the most enduring rackets out there, the Pure Drive has been a mainstay of the Babolat range for as long as I can remember.
This range is most associated with big serving American Andy Roddick, but today, it’s most commonly seen in the hands of Italian Fabio Fognini, Garbine Muguruza, Karolina Pliskova and Julia Georges.
This racket is well known for its high levels of speed, power, and spin.
Even just feeling it in your hands, you can tell that it’s all geared for easy power.
The Babolat Pure Drive weighs in at 300g, but has a decent 321 swingweight, and just feels extremely manoeuvrable.
This 2018 version has introduced FSI Power Technology, which slightly changes the design of the grommets, and increases the spacing between the swing to give this racket yet more power potential.
In line with the modern trend for slightly more dampened rackets, Babolat has introduced Cortex, its new dampening system, so the 2018 Pure Drive should absorb vibrations slightly better than previous rackets.
I can’t see this dampening the Pure Drive too much, as it has always had a very responsive feel, but hopefully, it should help lessen the load players are putting on their arms.
Coming from the Pure Strike 18 x 20 to the Pure Drive, which has a much more open 16 x 19 string pattern was quite a big change for me and it took a good amount of time to get dialed into this racket.
The 16 x 19 string pattern on the Pure Drive launches the ball at a much higher angle than the Pure Strike and it has a lot more power, so to start with, balls were flying long on every shot.
Although the Pure Drive does offer easy topspin, I had to focus most of my attention on getting topspin, because otherwise, I would simply miss every ball long.
For me, hitting with spin comes easily, so once I figured out what needed to be done with the Pure Drive it actually turned into quite a good playtest.
It occurred to me that the Pure Drive is well suited to a very aggressive baseliner.
If you don’t put everything through the ball you can struggle greatly for control.
While the Pure Drive has great spin potential, you need to use all of that and more to keep the ball in the court.
If you don’t get a lot of racket head speed and whip up and over the ball, then you’re going to find you ping a lot of balls long.
I wouldn’t want to be using this racket as a counter puncher, as you have to put so much into every ball to get the most out of the Pure Drive.
So, with the warm-up out the way, and having finally figured out how to play with this racket, we set about upping the intensity and giving the Pure Drive a thorough workout.
8out of 10
It became clear immediately on the groundstrokes that this racket gives you a whole lot of power and spin.
It’s got great manoeuvrability that encourages you to use everything it’s got.
I started out on the backhand side and while the easy power and spin was fairly helpful, I didn’t really enjoy the feel of the Pure Drive.
They have dampened the feel of this racket with the Cortex technology, but it still felt way too pingy for my liking.
I do enjoy a very dampened feel, but the Pure Drive just seemed way at the other end of the scale, as the ball just trampolines off the strings.
Lawrence, who is used to a slightly more pingy racket than myself, in the Pure Aero Tour, also remarked that the Pure Drive felt incredibly pingy to him.
This may sound confusing, but what this means (at least in my opinion) is that while you get easy power and spin, that doesn’t convert to heavy power and spin.
Easy power and spin just pings the ball back over the net with speed, but heavy power pushes your opponent back.
I think this is down to what I felt was a lack of stability with the Pure Drive.
On contact point, you don’t feel like you have something that’s really solid in your hands, and the ball often seems to win the contact.
If you compare it to a racket like the Pro Staff, which has incredible stability, the Pro Staff just doesn’t move at all on contact and all the energy you have built up throughout the swing goes into the ball.
With the Pure Drive, while the ball is pinged back very quickly, it feels like a lot of the energy you put through the ball is lost as the racket struggles to win the collision with the ball.
On my backhand, in particular, this meant that my shots were easily attacked by my opponent, and I spent a lot of time being put under pressure.
On the forehand side, I did feel like I got a little bit more out of the Pure Drive.
I still didn’t really like the feel of this racket, but I managed to generate a lot of spin, and felt like I could really rip through the ball.
Although it’s not seen as a racket that’s big on control, I did feel like I got a lot of consistency with the Pure Drive.
Once I realised that I had to put a lot of spin on the ball to get it to go in, I didn’t make too many errors of this side and it must be said, I played pretty well.
Overall, I think the Pure Drive is a solid 8 out of 10.
For my game it wasn’t spectacular, but it’s still a good racket.
The feel of this racket wasn’t for me, but there will be players out there who enjoy the way the Pure Drive plays.
It gives you a lot of easy power and spin, but I don’t see it really transitioning into anything meaningful.
I think players with more advanced swings are better served with a more control-oriented racket and putting their abilities into generating power rather than playing with the Pure Drive, where you get easy power but have to focus on controlling it.
7out of 10
I wouldn’t class the Pure Drive as a good racket at the net.
It lacks the stability of a good volleyer and it’s difficult to absorb power when the ball is hit at you really hard.
I also found it difficult to work with the angle that the 16 x 19 launched the ball at and I found I was constantly floating balls long.
When I did get it to drop, there wasn’t a great deal on the shot, and it just encouraged my opponent to attack me even more.
I’m sure I would get used to this aspect, but the stability problem is a little harder to solve.
On those delicate touch volleys, you need to feel like you have something solid in your hands and the Pure Drive doesn’t offer that.
The one thing the Pure Drive has in its favour at the net is its manoeuvrability.
It’s very easy to move this racket quickly and get into good positions, even if the ball is coming at you extremely quickly.
This allows you to get your volleys nicely out in front of your body and give you the best chance to attack the ball.
I think the Pure Drive would benefit from some dead, control-oriented strings, just to stop the ball from pinging off the string quite as much.
However, I still don’t think you’re going to gain the kind of control that a serve-volleyer would like.
The Babolat Pure Drive is definitely best suited to a baseliner.
If you turn up occasionally at the net to put an easy volley away then this racket will deliver the goods, but for someone who spends a serious amount of time at the net I just can’t see it working.
I gave it a 7 out of 10 for volleys.
8out of 10
This was my favourite part of the playtest, and I didn’t really have any complaints.
I would still like to see people using it with some control-oriented strings like Babolat RPM Blast just to deaden the feel, but other than that I had good fun with the Pure Drive.
This racket is extremely fast and that means you can generate very good racket head speed with which to attack the ball.
When you do get everything through the ball you are rewarded with some good power, and I felt I was getting some good mph.
I was still able to maintain a good amount of control, and though I didn’t have the best first serve % during this playtest, I was going for some difficult targets and didn’t miss by much.
I did say I had no complaints, but probably I would go for something a tad heavier if I had the choice.
But for anyone looking for a racket around the 300g mark who likes something very manoeuvrable on serve, then this is an excellent racket.
I gave the Babolat Pure Drive an 8 out of 10 on serve and very much enjoyed this part of the playtest.
During our tiebreaks, I felt confident in the Pure Drive and was able to attack my second serves without fear of missing.
An all-round good serving racket.
7.5out of 10
The Pure Drive is the opposite of the type of racket I enjoy, and I didn’t like the feel.
But I know there are a lot of people out there who do like the kind of feel the Pure Drive gives you and it is a very good racket.
I may not have felt 100% comfortable with the Babolat, but I did play some good tennis with it.
I served pretty well and felt that with a bit more practice, the first serves I was missing by small margins would have been going for winners, and I would have picked up a lot of free points.
The main thing I felt the Pure Drive was missing was the stability.
When I was put under pressure, I didn’t feel I had the stability and control to absorb the power and guide the ball back into court.
Obviously, it’s impossible for a racket to be perfect at everything, and this is the area that is sacrificed in order to give you the easy power and spin that you get with the Pure Drive.
You could also counteract this by adding some lead tape to the head to stabilise the racket and increase plow-through.
I could see this racket suiting an aggressive young baseliner, but as you develop your game, I think you’re likely to outgrow this racket.
I don’t think it has the stability to play at an advanced level, and it would require a bit of extra weight to be successful against a really big hitter.
The Babolat Pure Drive gets a 7.5 out of 10 for me.
There are things to be liked about it in the power and spin, but I feel that good players create their own power and spin, therefore, it’s more of a beginner to intermediate level racket.
That doesn’t stop it being an extremely good racket for anyone who is looking for a bit of a power and spin boost, but it does have limited capabilities.
Does that Babolat Pure Drive suit your game? Find out with a custom fitting!
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