The Babolat Pure Drive Tour Plus is one of the most powerful rackets in the world. Famously wielded by monster hitter, Andy Roddick, the extended length racket packs a brutal punch and delivers an unbelievably heavy ball.
Babolat’s 2018 update for the Pure Drive Tour Plus includes FSI Power Technology; boasting diamond shape grommet holes and wider string spacing. This produces enhanced depth to push your opponent back due to a slightly higher launch angle off the string bed. Babolat have also utilised a secret viscoelastic rubber, used in the space industry, to update their Cortex Dampening System. The result is exceptional comfort and low levels of vibration for a stiff frame.
Weighing in at 315g with an extended length (extra half inch) handle, this racket feels like a real weapon in your hands. If there was a “Thor’s hammer” in the tennis world, then this would be it.
Tom took this one for a test drive! Let’s see what he thought…
Groundstrokes – 8/10
Hitting a groundstroke with this racket made me feel I had been caught up in some mini explosion! I was absolutely crushing my forehand and was able to generate a seriously heavy ball, bullying my opponent around the court and pressing them back with ease. I say mini explosion, as the sound this racket produces when you connect with a good shot is truly spectacular! It really sounds like a gunshot!
On my backhand side, the Pure Drive Tour Plus was also a joy. I found the extended length of the racket gave me a welcome extra power boost and enhanced the stability through the stroke. This was particularly noticeable on my return of serve.
Hitting the high backhand off a biting, kick serve can often prove to be a tricky shot for players at all levels. However, I was delighted to discover that I could now get over these balls; the massive plow-through of the racket launching them back in devastating fashion.
On my forehand return, I found myself really teeing off…lol. I was having fun with novelty of the Pure Drive Plus’s exceptional power and was keen to see how hard I could hit the ball! I was definitely trying to hit the ball too hard – but hey! The great news is that you only need to swing 60-70% of your max to find more than enough power with this racket. You’ll also be rewarded with a truly stable contact and the ability to plow through the ball without really trying. It was certainly an ego-boosting experience to see my opponent running all over the court, breathless, while I simply redirected his power and wasn’t really trying! These things wouldn’t have been possible to reproduce to the same extent with a more control orientated racket like the Head Radical.
You may have seen other reviews online talk about the Pure Drive Tour Plus’s manoeuvrability issues. I prefer not to call them issues, as that implies something negative, but instead differences. I must admit, it did take a little while to get used to the added handle length, as it slightly changes your contact point. I found this took around 5-10 minutes before I started to feel quite comfortable.
At 5 feet 9 inches tall (just…) I’m not very tall for a tennis player, so the extra length was very welcome indeed! I noticed I was able to reach and send balls back into play that I was not able to with my conventional sized Wilson racket.
I should also point out that pretty much all the pros under 6 feet tall are using an extended length racket. It’s a little bit of a taboo and I don’t know why, as the manufacturers could use these stats to help sell more rackets like this.
When researching this topic, we found the extended length users on the ATP Tour included: David Ferrer, Diego Schwartzman, Leighton Hewitt, David Nalbandian, Kei Nishikori, Michael Chang, just to name a few. On the WTA tour, Dominika Cibulkova and Serena Williams are a couple of names that spring to mind. Why do they need to? I hear you ask. The extra leverage increases power, reach and also gives a greater margin for error on the serve due to a higher contact point.
During my playtest, I did notice that if I got lazy in my footwork, I would sometimes get caught out of position and the ball would launch. You really have to be disciplined in your movement with the Pure Drive Tour Plus. The power of the racket is immense, but you also need the ability to control it.
For such a powerful racket, the Babolat Pure Drive Tour Plus offered reasonable control. However, I sometimes missed the pinpoint precision of my Wilson RF 97. With practice, I might be able to achieve this, but during the playtest I found it more difficult to hit my targets, even if the shots packed some serious mph! I wish there was a racket that had all the power of this racket combined with all the control of my RF 97… Unfortunately, this hasn’t been invented yet… and probably never will be!
Serve – 9/10
The serve was my favourite shot to hit with the Pure Drive Tour Plus. The power really is phenomenal… Similarly to the groundstrokes, it took several minutes to get used to the new timing challenges that the racket’s extra leverage brought. Pronating with this racket felt a little strange to start with, but once I was dialled in, I felt like a living weapon standing behind the baseline!
On my flat serve, I was tapping into some monster mph. It was a hot day, further enhancing the power, and the balls were really moving. I wish we had our speed radar with us as I would have quite liked to clock the average speed of my first serves compared to my usual racket.
Normally I can get up to about 125 mph – but that is pretty much full throttle for me. I can serve the numbers someone like David Ferrer can, but am by no means as accurate.
With the Babolat Pure Drive Tour Plus, I felt I could find the 120 mph mark more consistently. Additionally, these bigger serves were actually going in more often than normal too!
On my topspin serves, the ball was kicking like a buckaroo! I was able to get massive topspin and sidespin and get the ball moving far outside of the court’s parameters. I also found these serves to have a really aggressive kind of topspin that I hadn’t experienced before. They really did bite into the court’s surface and shoot up with a massive amount of RPMs. I found a real joy in this – equal to that of hitting a booming flat serve.
As you know, this is supposed to be a balanced argument, but I really have nothing negative to say about this racket on the serve. Big serving legend, Andy Roddick, played his whole career with this racket and the racket perfectly complemented his game. I can certainly see why he liked the Babolat Pure Drive Tour Plus.
Volleys – 5/10
Before I even hit my first volley with the Babolat Pure Drive Tour Plus, I could tell that this area probably wasn’t its “forte”. However, I was pleasantly surprised as I found wonderful stability through impact. I didn’t find amazing control, but then it wouldn’t be fair to expect that from a racket that is built primarily for power. Since power and control are polar opposites, we’ll probably never have a racket that can perform both to their maximum effect! Unless we find a way to re-invent the laws of physics… any takers do drop us an email!
On the overhead, this racket was superb, however. Once I got the chance to take the ball out of the air in this way, it never came back. Hardly surprising considering the rating I gave it for the serve!
Conclusion – 7/10
This was a fascinating play test and a truly unique hitting experience. It had such a profound effect on me to the extent that I am reconsidering changing my own racket. As a shorter tennis player, an extended length racket like the Babolat Pure Drive Tour Plus could help increase my first serve % due to the higher contact point. I can already hit the ball quite hard, so I am not really bothered about the additional power boost that also comes with the additional leverage. It was fun to experience on the play test though!
Half an inch may not sound a lot, but when you look at the data and just how many professional players under 6ft (and over sometimes – Jo Wilfred Tsonga) are using them, it’s hard not to ponder on what it could do for my game.
However, the purpose of this article isn’t to talk just about myself! So, let me lay it out for you…
If you’re a tall player, you might not find all that much value from the 27.5-inch handle of the Babolat Pure Drive Tour Plus. However, if you’re on the shorter side, it is certainly worth a thought. It’s also worth thinking about this one if you struggle to find pace on the serve and groundstrokes.
The only downsides are that less skilled tennis players might find the additional leverage difficult to manoeuvre. Also, those who rely exclusively on touch may miss the buttery levels of touch and feel that other rackets can provide more readily than this one. The Pure Drive Tour Plus is a power racket and only offers adequate levels of feel. However, it’s interesting just how many pro players are swinging these on the ATP Doubles Tour, where touch and feel are paramount. My theory would be that the racket’s positive attributes on the serve and groundstrokes more than outweigh the performance on volleys to make it worthwhile. It’s still an okay volleying racket, however, otherwise those guys wouldn’t be using them.
My overall rating of 7/10 is a little conservative as not every player will like the Babolat Pure Drive Tour Plus. But in the right hands, this racket is a real “Excalibur” and is sure to get your opponent worrying about returning your serve and receiving a ball to the head!
Review by: Tom