This season's big rackets have arrived
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.
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
Wilson Pro Staff 97 V13
After seeing online images of this new release, my anticipation was high. However, while the online images looked great, it’s not until you hold the racket in hand that you really appreciate the design. Past meets present as Wilson has updated the look of the new Pro Staff by bringing back some of their iconic design language from the Pro Staff 6.0 85. Subtle yellow and red pinstripes are found on the outside of the throat of the frame, as well as along the inside of the hoop at 12 o’clock, sitting on top of the exposed carbon fibre. And can we talk about the exposed carbon fibre for a moment? Just 👌 !
Perhaps the coolest thing about Wilson deciding to expose the carbon fiber and show us the inner workings of the Pro Staff is that you can actually see the new layup of the Pro Staff 97, which features double braided fibers arranged at 45 degree angles.
While I undoubtedly feel the Pro Staff 97 V13 is a beautiful frame, I do wish Wilson had pushed their homage to the Pro Staff 6.0 85 just a little bit further by perhaps extending the pin striping throughout the hoop.
Pulling the Pro Staff 97 V13 out of my bag for my first hit with it, I swear I could hear Kevin’s (our resident Obi Wan at Rackets & Runners) voice in my ear saying “this is the Pro Staff 97 V13, an elegant weapon for a more civilized age."
In all honesty though, that’s exactly what this racket is, an elegant weapon. If you are looking for a racket to sit back, grind, and counter punch your way through matches, look elsewhere. This is a racket that makes you want to stand on the baseline, take big cuts at the ball, and move forward. This racket caters to all-court players who are just as comfortable at the baseline as they are at net.
Off the forehand wing, this update felt like it had more control than its predecessor, likely due to Wilson closing up the string spacing through the sweet spot. The new layup, featuring double braided fibers arranged at 45 degree angles, offered plenty of comfort without the muted feel of countervail while also eliminating the “tinny” feel that the previous version had on off center hits. I found this version reminded me of the old Tour 90 series both in feel, and how quickly it came through impact much more than the RF97 ever has.
On backhands, however, is where I noticed the drop off in power compared to my racket of choice. The higher static weight and smaller head size on the Pro Staff meant the emphasis was more on me to generate racket head speed if I wanted any sort of depth or put away power. The slice however, like almost every Pro Staff I have ever hit with, was a thing of beauty. The Pro Staff’s 21.5mm beam cuts through the air so effortlessly, while the weight of the frame ensures deep, and low bouncing slices.
As expected from a Pro Staff, this version shines at net. On volleys is where I really noticed the updated feel from this frame. Gone is the “tinny” feel of off center hits. The mass of the racket prevents it from being bullied by heavy hitters, meaning that at net this racket is stable and responsive. Couple this with a 10 points headlight balance, and you have a very capable weapon at net in the right players hands.
Very much like other areas with this racket, the result is really what you put in. Once you get this racket going, power and spin come quite easily. The trick is just getting it going. This racket offers plenty of plow through, and a lot of precision on serve. If you generate enough racket head speed on serve, you’ll be starting points on the front foot.
As with most Pro Staff releases, this is not a frame for everyone. As racket static weight creeps over 300 grams, the pool of players that the frame is suited for begins to shrink. As a result, this racket is best suited for aggressive all-court players looking for a control oriented racket that will give them confidence to control points from the baseline and finish at net.
Like all their recent releases, I think Wilson has really dialed in the feel of their frames. They have found the right balance of dampening unwanted vibrations while still offering enough feel and feedback to the player. While ultimately, I do not have the type of game style that this racket will suit, nor does this racket fall within the spec range I normally play with, I think Wilson has done a fantastic job with this update and I would absolutely recommend it to any current/past Pro Staff user, or anyone looking for a modern “players” frame.
Weight: 315g / 11.1 oz
Head Size: 625sq.cm. / 97 sq
String Pattern: 16x19
Balance: 310mm / 10pts. HL
Length: 68.58cm / 27 in
Tension Range: 23-27kg / 50-60lbs
Stiffness: 66 RA
Hernán Chaves Posse grew up watching and loving tennis. He started playing tennis competitively around 2009 and is a 5.0 player with a baseline game. He's been stringing rackets since 2008 and working at Rackets & Runners for 6 years.