Product Review - Babolat Pure Drive 2021
The forehand stroke in Spanish tennis jargon is known as the “drive”. Could it be that one of the most beloved tennis rackets is named Pure Forehand? I like to think so, as it only took one “pure drive” for me to fall in love with this racket.
Case in point: I hit one forehand with a Pure Drive and bought two the next day.
This meant saying goodbye to my love of all things Federer as I moved on from my beloved Pro Staff rackets. While I am always open to experimenting and trying everything new to the market, since that life altering “pure drive" experience, the Pure Drive has been a constant in my bag for the last 8 years. The update for 2021 only cements that spot in my bag.
While admittedly this is not the most important aspect of selecting a racket, I strongly believe you have to love your equipment. So depending on the individual, this can play a smaller or larger role.
For me, while I’ve never disliked any of the Pure Drive cosmetics to date, a return to the darker overall tone brings back vibes of my previous favourite 2012 Pure Drive. One thing to note, while it had no bearing on the way the racket swung or played, the overall hoop shape does appear to be more circular but that may just be down to the updated graphics and cosmetic.
The baseline is where this racket stakes its claim.
True to its lineage, and familiar to those who have used previous iterations of the frame, the 2021 Pure Drive is explosive from the back of the court. Plenty of power and spin off both the forehand and backhand came as no surprise with this update.
What was a pleasant surprise to me however, was how smooth and plush the frame was on slice. Easy through the air and hugely rewarding with tons of bite, this Pure Drive urges you to accelerate through your slice while you're on the defence.
The updated layup on the racket that features SWX Pure Feel powered by SMAC offered a slightly softer feel that players who previously found the Pure Drive too harsh will enjoy. One of the standouts of the updated layup for me was the unique hitting sound off the string bed that this racket has. The sound is best described as living somewhere between a crack and slap and is hugely rewarding when you’re really going after a shot.
Players who do enjoy taking big cuts at the ball will have to generate adequate amounts of spin if they want to keep the ball in play, as the mixture of power and a high launch angle can see balls sail long if you’re not careful.
If I were to have one critique, it would be that the more open 16x19 string spacing can be a little erratic at times. I would like to see Babolat return to the slightly tighter string spacing that was last seen on their 2012 Pure Drive.
While the Pure Drive is not the first racket that springs to mind as a net conqueror, it offers a great balance of maneuverability with its 300 gram weight and stability. Its updated layup offers a closer feeling of connection with the ball while still offering plenty of put away power on volleys and overheads. Avid net rushers playing against heavy hitters may seek more mass and perhaps more of a headlight balance, but hey, that's what the Pure Drive Tour is for and that drops in the new year 👀 .
See Youtube clips of Andy Roddick! But actually, like its playability from the back of the court, the Pure Drive on serve offers players plenty of power and spin potential. Whether you're looking to hit flat bombs, slices out wide, or a big kick serve to move your opponent off the court, the Pure Drive’s manageable yet solid swing weight means you have options to do any of these things no matter your skill level.
Ultimately what made me fall in love with the Babolat Pure Drive, and why I recommend it to so many people that come through the doors of Rackets & Runners, is that it is a fun racket to play with regardless of your level. Whether you’re an open level player wielding this, playing every tournament you can, or you’re someone just getting into tennis, looking to invest in a racket that will grow with you, the Pure Drive is a great option. It really is that versatile.
For my playtest, I tried a couple of different string setups.
All full-beds of polys (RPM Power 17, Solinco Hyper G 16L, and Volkl V-Square 17) and all at a tighter tension of 59lbs* as this is the type of setup I have been using for many years now. Unstrung Specs
Weight: 300g / 10.6 oz
Head Size: 645 sq.cm. / 100 sq in
String Pattern: 16x19
Length: 68.58cm / 27 in
Tension Range: 22.7-26.7kg / 50-59lbs
*I don’t recommend going that tight on polys for the average player