Tennis Warehouse Playtest: Babolat Pure Drive 2021

dgoran

Hall of Fame
Coming from tge 2018 PureDrive I was so looking forward to this update. Went out to buy a pair of 2021 PureDrive and strung them identically with Yonex Poly Tour Pro 120 at 50 lbs as my 2018 PDs. Both my PD 2021 sticks are more headlight compared to my 2018 PureDrives (so I don't believe its a QC issue), and it starts to show its weaknesses against big hitters where the racquet is not as stable and causing weak returns back to such players. For me this 2021 update is in between the 2019 PA and 2018 PureDrive in terms of whippyness (was playing PAs till I switched to PDs) The 2018 PD is definitely more powerful and has better sweetness on plow through. I am adding 4 gramsm weight at 12 to see how it fares. Overall I am disappointed with this update but hope to sort out the issue with weights on the head as some of you did.
What you just wrote is exact proof of qc issues. My 2018 and 21 are exactly opposite of yours but if qc was taken seriously by Babolat mine and yours would be the same...

But the end result is the same for me...I too prefer 2018
 
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kvan

Rookie
Slapped an Oehms leather grip on the PD yesterday for some doubles with low expectations, but man I sure liked mine.

My playtest frame feels over-spec and swung pretty heavy, so the extra HL points and direct feel had my groundies feeling more dialed in. Serving, volleys, and returns continued to feel good.

Full review to come.
 
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String and tension used for test:
Wilson Revolve Spin/RpmBlast17 @54lbs

Tennis experience/background: played for 20 years starting when i was 25. Self taught so I was terrible for a long time but have improved to be 6-0 at 4.0 and 3-0 at 4.5 this year before Covid hit and ruined my undefeated season of dreams! My technique and strategy still improving but now my 40+ body is breaking down fast.

Describe your playing style (i.e. serve & volley): Big serve and baseline basher. My game relies on free points from serve and hitting hard forehands for winners or to force an error. So I need a maximum power racquet with enough spin to keep ball dropping at baseline. I have learned to vary pace a little but my main strategy is to just hit it as hard and with as much spin as i can!

Current racquet/string setups: 2018 Pure Drive Plus strung with Wilson Revolve Spin 17/RPM Blast 15l @54lbs

How many hours did you play with the racquet? 15+ hrs & ongoing!


-Groundstrokes:
solid, muted, powerful, spinny. Felt great stock on forehands and serves.. but it felt super clubby and awkward for me on backhands until I tailweighted it. When i restring it, i will just use RPM blast because shaped string is really overkill on spin for me in the Pure Drive. Slices were just ok, my technique isn't the best but they floated and sat up a bit too much so I wouldn't hit this shot much with this racquet. Drop shots though were surprisingly fun and had good touch considering the beam stiffness. Now that I've tailweighted it, the ball trajectory is lower and flatter. I sort of miss the stock spin but I think when it is stock I just use my wrist to add spin to my shots instead of a smooth swing from my heavier modded setup.

-Serves:
OK, now this was where the 2021 PURE DRIVE surprised me and I've used several versions of the PD before this one. I served AMAZING with it instantly. I picked it up in stock form and I could blast down the T. Slice it. Kick serves were powerful and had nice kick with tons of spin. But the serve that is sometimes difficult for me that suddenly became much more of a weapon was the flat serve to the Ad court! I used to have a 10% rate of really being able to bomb it in the corner so I almost never even tried it. But for some reason I can smack it hard and flat in the corner better than any racquet I've used before. With my PD+ I get more pace but lately I haven't been able to drive up enough to utilize the extra length properly. A lot of my PD+ serves have been going long and just too powerful. But the 2021 Pure Drive has just been great on serve! I also felt a hint of FLEX at the top of the hoop when hitting kick serves that surprised me at first because I've never felt any flex in a Pure Drive before...but as I got used to the feel gave me more confidence that my serve was going to spin in. It is very subtle though and I don't feel it every time. But I think there is a slight change at the top of the hoop compared to previous versions.

-Volleys:
A mixed bag for me because it is too stiff and powerful at net for me when i've been warming up with a partner at the baseline feeding me fast shots. Very easy to have volleys sail long. I need to have a very soft grip or else it is a rocket! But in match play during fast exchanges I have produced a few wow moments getting the ball back over the net when i have to just react. Not always clean volleys but I've been able to win points that opponents thought they already won by just maneuvering the racquet quickly... something i would not have been able to do with the Pure Drive Plus.
Drop shots were no problem and easy to dial in once you push your opponent back behind the baseline with some huge shots first.

-Serve returns:
this is an area (due to lazy footwork) that can be great or terrible for me. sometimes with the PD+ I can return with powerful deep shots and easily break serve but other times my forehand technique on return gets off and point is over. Even worse is getting out of the way for body serves which is harder with extended racquet. But then again, after a few rough return games, I am able to usually find a rhythm and manage a break or two. With the Pure Drive 2021 though I had solid returns that were easier and since the power level was a little lower it encouraged me to continue to take aggressive swings at the ball which gave me more and more confidence. When facing big servers I was able to to get the ball back even when i had little time to react.. and usually able to still keep it deep or away from the net person in doubles.

Power/Control-
Power is... a LOT! feels maybe a touch less powerful than last version but maybe that is just the more muted feel. Control definitely goes up for me mainly also due to the feel. Foam in the hoop? However, I tried a few lobs that I barely touched and they often went long. So control is not really the racquets forte!

Top Spin/Slice-
Great on topspin with more accuracy than last year but i don't love it on slice. however the paint on the 2021 makes if feel smaller and thinner to me so in that way it makes me feel more confident in trying slice because sometimes i forget i have a 25+mm hoop I'm lugging around. In my brain I had the sensation that I had a 98" 23mm beam sometimes... but my slices ended up being average at best.

Comfort-
I sometimes suffer from elbow pain and wrist pain but I think comfort is a major upgrade from previous version. I had mild soreness a few times but probably more from trying multiple racquets in one hitting session. I tried the 2018 Pure Drive weighted up to 12.3oz and although I won my match I felt it was too harsh on my arm to keep using it. I probably strung it with Tour Bite which didn't help my arm but the 2021 Pure Drive seems to transmit less shock to my arm.

Feel-
muted but in a good way for racquets like this.. before they used to feel so hollow and tinny but this one feels solid! maybe too muted for some especially with a dampener. but I prefer the 2021 feel by far.

Maneuverability-
great in stock form and still good after extensive customization.

Stability-
mishit volleys still feel mishit. but reaction volleys still have enough stability from the racquet to flutter over the net. overall, the sweetspot is pretty big and best for me is how powerful it is in the upper hoop where i hit most of my serves.


General reaction/comments on overall performance:

So, I havebeen very happy with my racquet that I've been using... the 2018 Pure Drive Plus. I serve aces with it and hit just enough big forehands and backhands and returns to win with it most of the time.
I've tried going standard length a few times because a 98" thin beamed racquet allows me to hit slices and play more of an all court game. but my tests had proven that my serve is definitely faster and kicks higher with the Pure Drive Plus which allows me to win easier and more often.
When I am playing singles matches, however, I have realized how SMALL the court is and how hard it can be for me to hit short angles with the PD+. And then when I get a short ball, way too often I run up to close to the ball and an easy approach shot turns into a mess. I do like the PD+ for doubles though. I have been searching for a racquet that keeps my serve but adds quickness, control, and maneuverability.
So when I tried the Pure Drive 2021, I was shocked that although my serves bounced a slightly lower and a little slower... the consistency was actually better and I was winning the same or easier on my serve. Returns, reaction volleys, and approach shots were also likely improved.
So I finally found a racquet that still serves big enough for me and might play better overall.
I could not hit a decent 2 handed backhand with the 2021 Pure Drive in stock form though. So I ended up adding 3g of lead at the tip and 12+g in the handle and now the Pure Drive 2021 is over 12oz. Less power on my forehand now but the balance allows me to hit backhands smoother now.
In summary, I could totally switch to a modified Pure Drive 2021 !!! I am going to keep testing it against my PD+ a while longer but if my last doubles match was any indication, I lost my only service game when I tried to switch back to my PD+ so the rest of the night I used the 2021PD and just kept winning!

I do think that if I stop practicing with 27" racquets my game would get better again with 27.5" . My serve toss and timing just needs to readjust and then I need to have focused practice on earlier preparation for short balls and I can keep dominating with the SMURF PLUS! (there I just saved myself a lot of money with this pep-talk!)

I will try to update with more video soon!

Thanks TW for the opportunity!

Edit.. i ended up removing the weight from the handle of the racquet. Just 3g at 27" now. Forehand and serve play best for me with this setup.. the backhand will be a work in progress!
 
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vodka

New User
I went out to hit again, this time with my modified PD 2021 sticks. One had 4 grams added at 12 and the second one 2 grams at 12. With 4 grams at the tip the plow through was great, but the racquet became much less maneuverable, resulting in less racquet head speed and less spin. Shots where not as heavy and more flat which is not my style of play. 2 grams was about right to still get that racquet head speed and spin. Still whippy enough to get good heavy shots and enough plow through, and stable against big hitters.

One of the things l like about this new 2021 PD is the bigger buttcap which feels more secure and natural when inducing the racquet lag before striking the ball. My observation is that the sweetspot is not as big as the 2018 PD and is less forgiving, but feels more precise and crisp at the sweetspot. Overall I am enjoying the 2021 PD with 2 grams of weight added at 12. Highly recommend this hack for those coming from the 2018 PD who are just not happy with the slightly more headlight nature of the 2021 PDs.
 
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M Pillai

Rookie
Review of Babolat Pure Drive 2021
========================

String and tension used for test:
Used multiple strings
Tecnifibre NRG2 16 at 54lb mains / 52lb crosses for around 4hrs
Babolat Xcel 16 at 54lb mains / 52lb crosses for around 4hrs
Babolat RPM Blast 17 at 54lb mains / 52lb crosses for around 16hrs
Volkl Cyclone17 at 54lb mains / 52lb crosses for around 4 hrs.

If not mentioned specifically, the review notes are based on the Babolat RPM Blast 17.

Tennis experience/background:
Late bloomer. Never played tennis till middle age, and picked it up gradually over the last 10 years to reach a level of 4.5. In general I love talking tennis, and spending too much time on the tennis equipment, strings, rackets etc.

Describe your playing style (i.e. serve & volley):
I like to think of myself as a counter puncher. Even though some of my friends think I am too offensive, I think it is because I finish many points in offense. But I get there (into offense) by counter punching unbalanced opponents, rather than hit through them from neutral.

Current racquet/string setups:
Yonex MP Tour 1 mid. Volkl Cyclone17 54lb mains / 52lb crosses

How many hours did you play with the racquet?
28hrs & counting (I think this racket is going to be staying in my bag for a while).

Comments on racquet performance on each stroke:
Pretty much everything and anything you love or hate about Pure Drives from the past. There are some minor differences in feel/swing (which I will elaborate below), but retained pretty much the same characteristics. I always think players either LOVE a puredrive so much, or hate it so much, because these are just so unique racquets, and nothing like it.

-Groundstrokes:
Excellent. Pure Drive is a baseline grinders golden stick. Easy access to depth, and spin, and you can grind it all day with so much ease. You are being pulled out wide or pushed around at times? No problem, the defensive slices or moon lobs to get back into point are so easy to hit with these, probably because it is relatively light for its class and easy to maneuver around. Aggressive shots to finish the point from baseline, again so easy to generate that racquet head speed to be assertive on those sitter balls. Overall, I tried too hard to find some issues, on the ground stroke game, and I really could not.

-Serves:
Good. Spin/Kick serves felt really good. But I had better experience with some other rackets on flat first serves. The racket is easy to swing into the serve, that you can generate good racquet speed. Initially I felt like there was not enough oomph or drive on the serve. But it is mainly because the spin it generates affects the shape of the ball it generates, and there is some adjustment period involved if you are coming from a bit more heavier racket.

-Volleys:
Average. Again very easy to maneuver around hit consistent volleys. Felt really good when practicing volleys. But I am still not too comfortable with depending on the racquet and attacking the net on a match. I feel like the volleys were not sharp enough and not giving enough advantage compared to heavier racquets. It may very well be the user, and not the equipment, or probably some adjustment period. But I am not doing serve and volley on this racquet on a match anytime soon.

-Serve returns:
Excellent. Felt surprisingly confident with the block returning heavy serves. I was expecting to have a hard time with returns since the racquet is not as heavy and was assuming it would be pushed around. But it was relatively easy to get the returns in play even on heavy serves. I would not say I will hit a lot of return winners with this, but I am still giving full marks since the overall percentage of returns in play, mostly enough to neutralise the point and grind it out was really high.

Comments on racquet performance on each area:

-Power/Control:

More power oriented racquet. But control is surprisingly high by using its spin capabilities. Easy depth, whether it is on comfortable neutral rallies or stretched out defensive shots. Less control on flat shots and balls do fly long. But when you add a good trajectory to the ball, it is easy to control and target hitting.

-Topspin/Slice:
Excellent. Is there any other more topspin friendly racquet? (except for those with some weird string patterns). Topspin is easy to generate, and is pretty much a must with this racket when you do ground strokes, especially if you generate enough racket speed. In my mind Pure Drive is a synonym for spin. I don’t play too much slice now a days, but it felt like I was able to hit sharp slices very easily when there was enough time to cut it through. Overall, if you love to grind loopy trajectories from baseline, and is the bread and butter of your game, you should really try out new pure drive.
Some of the disadvantage of this extreme spin capability is that this frame is a string killer. I tried multiple multifilament strings on this racket (Xcel and NRG2) and even though they both performed well on this racket, neither string could not handle it for too long. So for most advanced players, a good poly is the best option when using Pure Drive.

-Comfort:
Average. I did not feel any comfort issues on hitting sessions. But I would say, this is probably not the best racket for folks who has arm issues and want to grind it out 7 days a week. After a long session, especially against other heavy hitters, I can feel that my arm is crying for some rest when using this racket. I had a 2015 Puredrive FSI, and I believe in the latest revision Babolat did make some changes to smoothen up some of the stiff feeling of the original Puredrive. But it is that crisp feel of Pure Drive which makes it so unique, and so I don’t think Babolat can go too arm friendly on Pure Drives, without losing all those pure drive fans.
That being said, it is not an arm killer by any means. It is a relatively comfortable racket, if you never had any big arm issues, and have relatively good technique. It also depends on how long and how much you play, and what kind of players you usually play against.

-Feel:
Excellent. That unique crisp feel of Pure Drive is hard to explain, but easy to experience and appreciate. Tough shots or drop shots are very easy. And those tricky half volleys always goes in. Ohh and don’t forget to ejoy your opponents faces of disbelief after you hit that drop volleys at net when playing doubles.
Felt surprisingly confident with the block returning heavy serves. I was expecting to have a hard time with returns since the racquet is not as heavy and was assuming

-Manuerability:
Excellent. Because of its light feeling you can mauner it around easily. Sometimes I feel like it is so easy to hit lazy shots (which always goes in) that it may actually teach you bad habits and you may not be able to hit with any other racket. Easy to play long matches, even if you are being pushed around a lot by a stronger opponent, since defensive shots are easy from difficult positions since racquet is easy to swing around even when you are unstable. When you are stable, and hitting assertive shots, it helps with enormous racquet speed generation, which I believe is the main reason you can generate so much spin from this.

-Stability:
Average. There are times when I felt stability issues from racket, especially when trying to send back some heavy shots from unstable positions, which by definition does not allow me to do a full swing, especially when trying to do it without compromising too much court position. I had to revert to sending the ball back deep with a defensive lob (which it does fine, but in the process I give away too much court). I was expecting similar stability issues on serve returns, but it did not affect my serve returns much. My explanation for this is probably that, I usually try to start the point in returns, only trying to neutralize it by depth. So some other players may have a different opinion.

General reaction/comments on overall performance:
I own another puredrive from 2015 (Puredrive with FSI), and I would say if you blindfold me, I probably won’t be able to tell the difference from 2021 and 2015. It retains all those unique qualities from older pure drives, and so the Pure Drive fans won’t be disappointed. There are some minor improvements in the feel probably to make it more comfortable/flexible. It would be interesting to see if I can go and check the RA ratings on both frames and compare (the 2015 one and 2021 one). Pure Drive is a unique racquet in its own class, and I believe Babolat should not try to change it up too much, or deviate it too much from its core qualities.

If I have to be picky and find something to complain about it is that the frame does break even from minor racquet abuse, or a bad stringing. If there is something which can be done without alternating too much of the feel/core qualities of Pure Drive, to strengthen the frame, please do. That is probably the ONLY improvement I like to see in Pure Drive. Pure Drive is there to stay for many many years.
 

M Pillai

Rookie
Seems like there was a 10000 character limit on the post, which did not allow me to paste my full review, and I had to edit out some non-relevant info....
Something to be aware of for over-enthusiastic reviewers :)
 

Power Player

Talk Tennis Guru
Part 1

String and tension used for test:
Silver 7 Tour and Hyper G 1.25 at 54#s

Tennis experience/background:
Started at Age 7, played until Juniors. Returned to the game full time in 2008. Competed at 4.0 & 4.5 USTA level. Currently not in USTA, but training to enter Open tournaments and also return to league play.

Describe your playing style (i.e. serve & volley):
Attacking Baseliner who mixes in slice and drop shots and will come to net at times to finish points.

How many hours did you play with the racquet?
Around 15

First off, I would like to thank TW for choosing me to do this review. The timing could not have been better as I have been looking to save a little energy on the courts and the new Pure Drive was on my short list of frames I wanted to try. I have a history with the Black Drive that I used when it came out, but the stiffness of it drove me away from this line of frames until now. I remember when I had to move on, I was very disappointed because I loved the frame, but the racquet technology was still not quite there where we could use stiff frames that were comfortable as well. Will this change with the new PD21?

Below is my current bag situation for the 3 frames I have been demoing (I used the Blade v7 since release and started mixing in the Ultra Tour late this summer). Obviously love the color combos here, but that is a nice coincidence. These are all fantastic frames and the best I have hit with in the last year (v7 Blade included). My goal was to get more power and spin then I get with my V7, while also being able to retain the same level of confidence I have with the Blade during match play. With that out of the way, on to the review of the Pure Drive 2021



-Groundstrokes:
Initial thoughts on the Pure Drive were - wow, this has fantastic power and yet it does not vibrate on contact. Took me a while to figure out what it reminded me of, but then it hit me - this thing is super stable at a lighter weight, but feels a lot like my old Extreme Pro 2.0 that I played USTA with. It simply will not twist in the hand at all, and has excellent linear control. I did not expect this due to the fairly open pattern on the crosses. Main thing I was told by my coach was "you put more action on the ball than usual with this". My forehand is a SW grip with heavy spin but I like to drive the ball and not just hit with an extreme vertical brush. The Pure drive is a very nice fit for this style of hitting. From my side I notice that the ball climbs higher off the bounce and I need to aim for shorter targets compared to the Blade and Ut which require more depth to keep the opponent pushed back.
My backhand is a 2 hander and it is like many, my weaker stroke. For this side, I hit with a lot more brush and my goal is to move the ball cross court or down the line with a higher trajectory and more topspin to keep it in. The PD21's stiffness was a perfect compliment to this style as well. The difference from a softer frame is that the Pure Drive doesn't pocket the ball - it sends it back immediately which is optimal for this style of hitting. As a result, I noticed my backhand becoming more of a weapon due to the power and stiffness of this frame.

-Serves: Absolute canon on serves. This frame rewards relaxed hitting more than any frame in recent memory. The least amount of effort can still result in a serve that gets off the racquet quickly and has big power behind it. The open pattern means that slice serves can take sharp angles off the court as well. The main challenge with this frame is on kick serves where the chunky feeling of the frame design feels like it restricts tip speed just a little bit. That said, the kick I can generate is still substantial and this is most likely more mental for me. This is a server's frame and one of the best racquets for serve that I have used (past versions included).


-Volleys:
This racquet is very stable at net. It's not super fast, but it is still pretty light and easy to volley with. Just stick it out and put the ball away. The main thing I noticed was that I did not have the level of touch to get the ball to not sail longer than I wanted sometimes. This is a byproduct of the power of the racquet. I adjusted for that by aiming for sharper angles and trying to use the power to my advantage. I could see a player who volleys a lot developing the touch for this and having a monstrous S&V and doubles game. It may just take some time if they are coming from a frame that pockets the ball more.

-Serve returns:
The main thing that stuck out is that it takes a little discipline to use a compact swing and not try and destroy the ball on a slow serve. Blocking back hard serves is very stable, but cares needs to be taken to add some touch or the ball will fly on you. Where you can get into trouble with this frame is if you block the ball back without adding some backspin on it. When it comes to attacking a serve, this frame will allow you to use a compact and relaxed swing and still drive winners into the corners. Trusting the frame to do the work is very important but also developing the touch to control the ball just enough to keep it in the lines is key.

 

Power Player

Talk Tennis Guru
Part 2

Power/Control-
While I still got a high trajectory with my shots, it was very controllable. As a result, drop shots were incredibly precise for such a powerful frame. I have found myself more than once in this playtest actively setting up my opponent in a mericless drop shot/lob combo loop. The main reason is I can hit very precise lobs and drop shots with it. More than any frame in recent memory. For me, I believe it is due to the lack of pocketing. The ball just comes right off the frame and that makes touch shots very easy for me. I would rate the power as a 10/10. For control on groundstrokes I had to aim for safer targets than normal. It simply is a not a frame you want to hit close to the lines with and that is tough for me since I do it so often with the UT and Blade. That said, the reward is that you can hit the ball in safer places and the spin and power will do the rest for you. So the lack of control is not always a bad thing. 7/10 for control.

Top Spin/Slice- Standout on both topspin and slice. My topspin shots have a biut more on them and I am able to hit safer inside the baseline and still generate a heavy kick that keeps the ball pushing the opponent back. Slices are where I was pleasantly surprised. Coming from 18x20 control frames, I am spoiled by the slices I can hit and expected this to be dramatically tougher -floaters no skid after the bounce..etc. Pleased to say this is not the case. This is the best tweener I have used for slice. What that means is if you like to press your opponent back with heavy top you can mix it up with low skidding shots or drop shot them if they are cheating too far back. It allows for a more dynamic game than simply hammering loopers over and over. 10/10 for Topspin and 9/10 for slice.

Comfort- With Silver 7 Tour in this frame, I felt some stiffness in the racquet. It was not bad, but enough for me to feel that I had played some tennis afterwards in my arm. S7T is a stiff poly though, so I went to a string with a little more pocketing in Hyper G and that is better. The huge step forward here is that Babolat has removed the vibrations that plagued earlier versions of this racquet. A mishit will not feel like a tuning fork down your arm. That said, this is still a very stiff frame and I can not guarantee that over months of play with full poly that this will not bother the arm. I can say that I have had no significant arm or wrist pain so far, but the frame still plays stiff and there is no way around that. 6.5/10

Feel- It's a Babolat so the feel is not a standout feature. Coming from the UT, I have high standards though. I can say that the frame has a nice feel to it, especially with some pocketing from broken in hyper G. It is a muted frame but you can feel the ball on the strings with no issues there. I think Babolat still has a little ways to go in the feel department though. When it comes to stiff frames, I prefer the feel of the Yonex Ezone 100 - much more raw ball feel, higher level of comfort and a more rewarding sweet spot. That said, this pure drive is a step forward - gone is the hollowness of past racquets. The vibration muting is there but it does not choke the frame and make it feel vague. They did a very good job to take an infamously stiff frame and make it feel much more solid than before. 7.5/10

Maneuverability- This is an interesting one since my frame feels like it has a swing weight closer to 328-330. It also is more like 3 pts HL instead of 4. So when you add that in to the chunky throat, the maneuverability suffers a bit. That said, I still get tons of racquet speed on serve and groundstrokes so I never felt too held back from it. If you want a whippy frame, this is probably not the one for you. But it's not a log by any means either. I would simply say that it plays heavier than it actually weighs, and I don't mind that at all - 8/10

Stability- High, high marks here. This high twistweight frame means that you the maneuverability suffers as I noted, but you will not have it twist in your hand either. This is very much why the frame reminds me so much of the older Head Extremes and will come down to personal preference as to if you like it or not. For me, the bonus is that the frame simply does not need any lead and I only briefly tried it with some lead at 12. With a frame this stable, you are not going to get pushed around at any level, and you can leverage the lower weight for more tip speed. 10/10

Energy Consumption - @TW Staff hope this extra category is ok, but I'd like to propose this as a category to be considered in reviews as well. With the popularity of apple watch, whoop strap..etc. It is very easy to get plenty of data to track your heart rate and calories burnt over the period of time. I think this is super important since tennis is becoming more and more of a sport of endurance and fitness. While heart rate is not a perfect measurement of effort, I collected enough data over the playtest to see a trend - using this frame instead of my UT or Blade resulted in an average heart rate of around 10 BPMs less than when I used the UT or Blade. I started looking at this data after I noticed that I felt fresher and like I could play longer after my usual session in the same (hot, humid ) conditions. Simply put, using the PD saves me pretty significant energy over the Blade or UT due to less energy used on my shots. Pretty great and a major benefit to using these frames.

General reaction/comments on overall performance:
I initially strung it with Silver 7 Tour, which plays great in the racquet. The only issue I had was the S7t accents the stiffness of the frame a little too much, and it is a thinner 1.23ish string so the durability is not as good. After 4 hours of play with it, I found my stringbed to be erratic and I was launching shots. I switched to Hyper G which worked out quite well. Adds a little pocketing, feels a little softer and the spin level is higher. Overall, this is a frame I can compete with and wil be doing an extended demo between it and my new Yonez Ezone 100, which I currently prefer mainly due to the higher control, and better feel/comfort. That said, these types of demos take a while and this new PD is so impressive that I simply can't stop using it any time soon. My matchplay results with it have been excellent and it has helped me play a bigger game for a longer time on the court. Can not ask for much more than that!

Thank you again Tennis Warehouse for sending me this frame. Such a cool thing to do and I hope my review is helpful.
 

RafaBabolat

Rookie
2021 Babolat Pure Drive REVIEW by RafaBabolat

Hello all, I'm back with the new Pure Drive Playtest again. I was very lucky to be on both the 2018 and 2021 playtests for the PD, and big thanks to @Babolat Official and @TW Staff for allowing me to test this racquet out! Before getting the new Pure Drive, I had switched between the 2016 Pure Aero and 2018 Pure Drive quite extensively, depending on the day/temperature. However, I'm glad to say that the 2021 PD is my new main driver.

String and tension used for test: RPM Blast 17 at 56 lb. Strung the racquet with Solinco Tour Bite 17 (1.20 mm), but I felt that this racquet felt better with the RPM Blast and cut the TB out after a few hours.

Tennis experience/background: Around a USTA 5.0 level, played on my high school varsity team, 4-peat state champs, and currently play at my college club tennis travel team, we usually make it to the On-Campus Tournament in Orlando. Played around 2-3 1-hour sessions a week recently due to schoolwork.

Describe your playing style (i.e. serve & volley): I mostly default towards a counterpuncher playstyle, but I do love driving the ball to come up to the net. I play around my forehand and serve, and my backhand is usually my weakest stroke :(. I definitely hit flatter, especially with the Pure Drive.

Current racquet/string setups: 2018 Pure Drive with Solinco Tour Bite (1.20 mm) @ 56lb, 2016 Pure Aero with Solinco Hyper-G (1.20 mm) @ 56lb. I had been using the Pure Aero before switching to the new Pure Drive for the playtest.

How many hours did you play with the racquet? Around 30 hours of total match play and casual hitting.



-Groundstrokes: 9.5/10. Groundstrokes were simply amazing. The response of RPM Blast took me a while to get used to since I hadn't used this string in several years. I know this is a Pure Drive playtest review, but I was quite surprised by the characteristics of RPM Blast, it was a bit softer and slicker than from what I remembered it to be. Nevertheless, it fit the new Pure Drive very well, and I was able to effectively counter heavy hitters (D3 players) while being able to generate my own pace quite well. I had some trouble controlling the depth of the ball at first, but after dialing in the racquet after the first 2 hours with the racquet it was great to hit with. The feeling of the racquet is a bit different from the 2018 version, and I do prefer the response of the 2021 version. It has a more muted, but also more connected feeling when making contact with the ball. While I felt that my forehands were more or less the same with a bit of improvement with depth control, I saw an improvement in my backhand over the 2018 version. Backhands definitely had more punch and depth to them, and I felt that the overall connected feeling on the backhand was better than the 2018. Overall, a solid improvement on the groundstrokes for the 2021 Pure Drive, and it is up there in my rankings for groundstrokes. IMO, it beats the Pro Staffs and Blades in fun factor and being able to just rip winners with little effort, even if it is a bit harder to control.

-Serves: 9/10. Amazing. Classic Pure Drive feel on the serve, and does the job well. I can hit bombs with the flat serve using this racquet, and the slice serve is up there too, it generates a respectable curve in the trajectory. On my first serves, I was able to consistently hit a few aces in a set. However, when it comes to kick serves, this racquet definitely can't match racquets with a more open string pattern like my Pure Aero. It just doesn't have the "kick", literally, like other racquets do. While I assume that a bit of technique could fix it, there are racquets out there with a slightly better kick serve. This may be my issue, others seem to have great results with the serve. A different string with a shaped poly could help people with a similar issue.

-Volleys: 8.5/10. Definitely an improvement over the previous generation, which was frankly a little unstable at the net. This racquet gives it an improvement in stability overall, and I can definitely feel that at the net. Touch on short volleys isn't too bad either, and it is a maneuverable stick. I can stick balls and finish points and confidently stay at the net, but other heavier racquets like the RF97 (obviously) just feel better at the net. Although it could be better, I appreciate the improvement that Babolat has made with the racquet.

-Serve returns: 10/10. Just like groundstrokes, returns were great as well, if not better. I felt that the racquet felt much more stable than the 2018 on the return, and it was quite effortless to get good contact on the ball and get a return with depth. In addition to depth, this racquet was more maneuverable, and I was able to change the direction of the ball quite well. This was especially evident when I was able to produce a few winners off of the return as a result of this. The return is definitely one of the highlights of my playtest with this racquet, and I definitely enjoyed launching balls off of serves.

Comments on racquet performance in each area (should be 2-3 sentences minimum)
Power/Control- 10/10,The Pure Drive can never not be associated with power, and this racquet is no different. It packs a punch into my 302g unstrung copy, and it has that classic level of power. However, this edition of the Pure Drive differs from past editions in that it is able to control the depth of the ball quite well, especially when compared to the 2018 version. I feel that this version is able to effectively reign in that power, and I never have balls fly excessively long unless I purely mishit the ball. For its configuration and branding, I am pleasantly surprised by the control level of the racquet.

Top Spin/Slice- 8.5/10 Although others have praised this edition of the Pure Drive for spin, I cannot give quite as much praise for this racquet. As the user of the 2016 Pure Aero, which has a notoriously irregular launch angle and high spin level, this racquet does not deliver the same amount of topspin that the former does. It is definitely a formidable racquet to produce spin with, and it isn't to hard to produce a loopy ball with depth, but I naturally hit flatter with this racquet. Nonetheles, the slice on the racquet is MILES BETTER than the last version. Asides from volleys, the 2018 Pure Drive was quite lackluster with the backhand slice with only a small margin for error. I did not feel that on the 2021 edition, and slices felt much better overall. In addition to the feel of the slice, depth of those slice backhands was much improved too. Everything about the slice has gotten better!

Comfort- 7.5/10. Quite comfortable for a Babolat racquet, but don't expect anything too arm friendly. If you have past issues with your arm/wrist/elbow and grind tennis on the daily, I'd stay clear of the Pure Drive. Although I would say this edition is more comfortable than the 2018 and 2015 versions, it still isn't a racquet that is too arm friendly. Stringing a multi to improve the comfort could definitely work, but IMO this racquet is suited for a full bed of poly.

Feel- 9/10. Definitely better compared to previous editions, and it allows for great touch shots and insane drop shots as well. On the other hand with powerful strokes, it still delivers that solid contact with an extra feeling of connectedness when compared to the 2018 edition. I think RPM Blast is a perfect companion for this racquet for feel, and it provides the direct response needed to hit those touch and drop shots well. As stated earlier, volleys aren't too bad either, and proper technique can grant you a clean shot with minimal vibration.

Maneuverability- 10/10. It just whips around effortlessly. I can control the pace of the rally well with this stick, and the racquet comes around quickly. Switching the direction of the ball isn't a problem either, which I had issues with in the past 2018 version. I just love playing with it, it's so fun and easy to play with.

Stability- 8.5/10. Not too bad, definitely feels more stable than some recent racquets like the Clash (lol). It is around average for stability, and that is expected with the weight and swing weight that it has. If added some lead to 3 and 9, I think this racquet would be a bit more stable. However, I feel that the racquet is playable enough at stock, so I don't change it too much.


General reaction/comments on overall performance:
I love this racquet update, especially the paint job. It accentuates the blue color so well, and it's a nice racquet to look at. In addition, this racquet fixed the head guard issues that 2018 had (having a divet where racquets experience the most wear smh), which was quite atrocious. One note to make is the paint itself is quite fragile, and I had a shank that took a small piece of paint off of the racquet, which I personally haven't experienced with the 2018 edition. Nevertheless, this racquet was a powerful, fun, and explosive racquet that had the maneuverability and control to complement it into a great package. I would recommend this racquet to anybody wanting more depth to their shots, and a very consistent feeling across all strokes. Overall, I was very pleased by this playtest, and once again, thank you to Tennis Warehouse and Babolat for providing the opportunity to try this racquet! This community is so lucky to have playtests like these and receive tennis equipment at no cost, and we appreciate that so much. Thank you for reading my review, hope you have a great day.
 
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pyrokid

Hall of Fame
PART 1
String and tension used for test:
I tried
1 set Isospeed baseline 17 at 45/43 (good for 20 minutes)
5 sets Big Hitter Silver 7 Tour 1.25 45/43 (great - really crisped up the frame for me, and lasted much longer than the baseline. This was my go-to, though if I'd had more Hyper G that might have been different.)
1 set Hyper-G 17 at 45/43 (Also really good - for me this played a teeny bit better than S7T but I didn't like the feel as much)
1 set RPM Blast 17 45/43 (fine I guess, certainly better than baseline)

Tennis experience/background: I played a lot in juniors from 8-18ish, then quit when I went to college to do a bunch of weightlifting stuff. Took a 7 year break and only came back a few months ago, but I'm back in the swing of things and have been playing 8-12 hours a week again since restarting. No idea what level I am, there are some older guys I've played who say they're in a 4.5 league and I've never dropped more than a few games a set to them, but all the other guys I've been hitting with are current D3 or ex D3/D2/D1 who don't do USTA stuff so I really don't have a good grasp on what the rankings mean or how a 4.0 here would compare to a 4.0 from X other location - and I don't exactly live in the mecca of tennis, so I'd be surprised if 4.0s here were better than 4.0s anywhere else.

Describe your playing style (i.e. serve & volley): Baselining lefty. Serve isn't a flashy weapon, but it's usually an easy hold. Alternate between slicing to their backhands and jamming them with a few flat serves thrown in to keep people honest. Backhand is extremely consistent but unremarkable, usually a pretty neutral ball back crosscourt unless they're coming in. If I decide to be more aggressive with it, it'll usually be a short-angle xc drive. Rarely slice unless I find out they really don't like it or I'm coming to the net off of a ball that's too low to drive safely DTL. Forehand is my main weapon, I'm pretty quick and I'll run around my backhand whenever I can for it. Usually big spinny loopers to their backhand, with flatter but still-spinny drives to their forehand, Really like short-angles with heavy spin, especially as XC approaches when they're getting tired. My volleys aren't great, but you probably won't see me hitting them unless I know I'll be able to handle it. I only come in when I know I'll be getting something easy.
Current racquet/string setups: 2013 AeroPro Drive with S7T at 45/43 and 3-4g lead at the 12

How many hours did you play with the racquet? Somewhere between 30 and 40ish hours? It was my main racquet this last month, I only used the APDs against new hitting partners I needed to impress or for "reference matches."

For reference, my particular PD came in 307g unstrung and swung nearly as heavy as my weighted APDs, though it clearly had the mass distributed more evenly through the hoop instead of being more up at the 12 like the APDs.
Comments on racquet performance in each area

Power/Control-
Hey, it's a Pure Drive! It's got all the power you need. Really fun, just crushed balls. I don't think anyone's going to be raving about the control, but it was enough for me to play an extremely high-percentage game, and it's right in my ideal power/control sweetspot for a frame. My weighted APDs had a bit more pop, but without weight the PD was more powerful. PA16 felt similarly powerful, but with less control. I don't have a problem hitting my spots with the PD, but if you're coming from something like a blade you're going to have to shoot for bigger targets. You'll be able to hit those bigger targets way harder though, lemme tell ya!

Top Spin/Slice- Plenty of topspin, though less than my APDs and the PA16 by a step or two. Maybe the launch angle difference or grip size is deceiving me here, but I felt it had more topspin than the PAVS 2020. Overall though, the racquet felt a little silly when I was taking big cuts at high-trajectory loopers - it could pull 'em off fine (not as controlled or spinny as the aeros though), but the racquet didn't feel nearly as natural doing this as it did on flatter-trajectory topspin drives, which is clearly the stroke this racquet prefers.
Slice was awesome, on the serve and on the backhand it just drove in a way I didn't have to even think about. Extremely natural slice drives. I imagine the actual RPM counter for the backspin would have been lower than with my APDs, but it made hitting the right combination of spin and drive really easy for me so I never had to worry about floaters or a lack of court penetration (which is something I usually have to pay a lot of attention to)

Comfort- It's pretty stiff. You can tell immediately it's a stiff frame. Compared to something about equally stiff like the PA16 though, it feels much, much better - By comparison, the PA felt like I was hitting with a racquet made of diamond or something, just extremely brittle and vibratey. If I was forced through some unfortunate circumstance to choose an onomatopoeia to describe the feeling of PA16 and PD21 vibration after impact, the PA gets a "TIIINGGGGGGGGggg" and the PD gets "Thmm,". PD feels crisp while the PA feels jarring. I've never had arm issues with any racquet, but if I had to bet I'd guess way more people will have issues with the PA16 than PD21. And while it feels noticeably stiffer than my APDs, it doesn't necessarily feel more unpleasant for it in the way the PA does.

Feel- Really good for a PD, honestly. They muted it up quite a lot to help with the discomfort. If you can't do stiff, I think you'll probably still want to pass on this one, but I was a huge fan of the direction they took things. It feels almost foam-filled, the sweetspot is really well-defined, you have a great sense of where you hit the ball on the racquet if not the sweetspot (sharper above the sweetspot, more rubbery down below) and just solid all-around. Very different type of feedback than I'm used to, but I like the way it feels more than my APDs and this had a lot to do with how many hours I put on it. The only quirks are that with deader strings on softer brushy shots (think like you're trying to topspin lob an 8ft man), the feedback is almost too muted, and it gets vague. With livelier strings this wasn't an issue at all though, and I think if I was blindfolded and asked where I thought my groundstrokes went based just on feedback, I'd have an easier time guessing with the PD than my APDs. Subjectively, I kind of like the more launch-y feeling of the APD, but I felt the PD had a more consistent stringbed and that inspired a lot of confidence. Possibly this could have been from the removal of the woofer grommets? Whatever it was, I had much better touch than I was used to from Babolat tweeners. It's definitely not a plush, luxurious, buttery etc "pleasant feeling" type thing, but in terms of providing consistent and confidence-inspiring feedback on the shots you hit, it gives you everything you need, and the muting prevents it from getting to you in an overly-jarring way like it has with a lot of previous gens. Very utilitarian.

Maneuverability- One of the weaker points of the frame for me. Definitely a little more clunky than my APDs and the PA, I think a lot due to the weight distribution and high twistweight. I'm used to really polarized frames, I like how whippy they are. The weight was distributed more evenly in the PD than I'm used to so a lot of the whippy, on-the-run shots I hit needed some adjustment. It was noticeable on serve too. Once I adjusted to it everything was fine, just took a minute, Just plays heavier than I was expecting based on the specs though, it's not some sort of giant Redwood.

Stability- Very stable. Inspired a ton of confidence hitting on the rise or volleying. I think the high twistweight might contribute to some of the other posters reporting that they felt they got less spin than with the PD18, more weight at 3&9 has always made it harder for me to get spin because the racquetface turns over slightly more slowly. For the style this racquet is geared towards though, I think the added stability over the PD18 is a great move that helps it in areas the average Pure Driver will appreciate.
 
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pyrokid

Hall of Fame
PART 2
Comments on racquet performance for each stroke

-Groundstrokes:
Just a hoot, it killed the ball. The launch angle was lower than my APDs, but I found it easier to control my shots vertically, so I could hit flatter without it being a lower-percentage shot. It gives you enough power that you can hit mean balls with just 50-60% strokes, it gives you enough spin to control the power if you wanna ramp it up past that, and it has enough control when combined with the spin that you don't ever need to play a risky game. After spending some time with it I found myself hitting fewer loopers on my forehand and driving it more, it just felt like the racquet was working with me more on the shot. I thought linear control was going to be pretty bad at first based on the string pattern being PA16-esque, but it was actually great, potentially better than my APDs that have a tighter pattern. The racquet definitely wants you to play an aggressive baselining game, taking things on the rise more and swinging out - it's very much a tweener, so if you don't take a full cut at the ball, you're not gonna get the spin you need to keep it in.
If you want to hang back and play more defensively with loopier shots, you can still do it with the PD, but the APD and PA feel much more comfortable playing like this - the PD feels like it's designed to make flatter drives as efficient and high-percentage as possible, while the PA feels like it's designed to make loopier shots as efficient and high-percentage as possible. APD sits somewhere in the middle.
Slices were fantastic, low skidding drives every time without thought. Usually I have to watch the spin on the incoming shot a lot more, but the PD dealt with things a lot more forgivingly.
On-the-run forehand flicks were a little clunky, and I didn't have the ability to drop them at people's feet at will like I can with the APD. Fortunately it made up for this by letting me just slap flatter shots right over the netcord with a level of consistency I don't have with the APD.

-Serves: Serves were.... relaxing? You can just loosen your arm and let the racquet fall through the motion and it'll somehow put serious hurt on the ball. Vs my APDs, the ball path was more linear - I was spinning it less and putting on more pace. I think this was due to the relative chunkiness of the frame slowing the tip speed down a bit and begging me to hit through the ball a little more. My slice serves didn't have the same movement on them I'm used to with the APDs, but hitting partners reported they were skidding a lot lower. Flat serves were faster and more accurate, and my kickers (which I rarely use) were just worse. The quality of serve you can get out of essentially a warm-up swing is simply stupid, though.

-Volleys: In the past, I've thought Pure Drives were kind of garbage up at the net, so I was really surprised by how well this one performed. It was stable, it had pop, it had touch... The only issues I had were early on - when people would blast stuff at me, I'd sometimes spray volleys a bit long. I got used to it over time though, and started being a lot more aggressive coming in than I usually am. The thing just zings the ball back off the racquet immediately, it feels so crisp and awesome. The only real complaint I could nitpick is that maybe it's a little clunky? But that's reaching, it didn't impact the performance at all, it was just a feel thing. If I used this racquet, I would come in to the net more than I do with my APDs.

-Serve returns: Just about ideal. The combination of stability, power and spin makes returning pretty effortless. Get the thing out in front of you while your weight's moving forward and you can rocket stuff right back at 'em with an easy block. If they catch you out wide, you've got enough power on tap to just stick the frame out and poke it - if you make solid contact you'll at least get it over the net. Just don't overdo it, taking full groundstroke cuts at a serve return isn't really necessary here unless it's an absolute bunt of a second serve.

General reaction/comments on overall performance: Big thanks to TW for letting me participate in the playtest, this was exactly the frame I hoped it'd be - Not necessarily an obvious switch from the APDs, but something that lets me be just as competitive if I learn to work with it, doesn't require me to play a completely different game and doesn't feel totally foreign.

Probably obvious by the was every category was just some variant of "It's awesome!" but I really liked this frame. I think the stability's made it into a great all-around 100inch tweener, and if I hadn't recently embarked on a holy quest to round up all the lost '13 APDs in the world, I would have switched to it already. I'm still toying around with the idea, and I'll pick up a few more to have around at least, even if I don't make the switch. I'm very used to the APDs so I still play better with them, but I know with enough time I would likely be better with the PDs because of the added help on slice and volleys - I just don't have enough practice to be ultimately confident in my shortangles yet.

I still haven't gotten to hit with a 2019 PA so I can't compare it to that, but based on how it stacks up against the 2016 PA, I think the PD is the best all-around tweener Babolat offers now. It can't do the loopers as well as the PA, but it does loopers way better than the PA flattens out, and it has the volleys and slice too which I felt were very weak on the PA. PA wins serves for me, but that's not enough to make up for the other stuff for me. I think the PA will still be better for a lot of people, but I feel like I have more options with the PD and it has the extreme advantage of not doing anything badly.

Paintjob is really great too. Multiple random people have asked what it was and said it looked cool at the public courts, which was kind of a weird experience for me.

I added 4g lead at the 12 and played with it like that for a few matches, but I wound up taking it off because I felt like I lost too much tip speed. If you play with a little less spin though this might be really nice, it absolutely demolished the ball without any effort at all, and serves were even more effortless. The added weight really benefitted my backhand, which has always preferred a SW closer to ~345, but I lost a lot of spin-related control on FH defensive shots.

I think I might need to go up in gauge on string because they broke or died a bit sooner than I liked, I didn't realize the pattern would be so much more open than my APDs. I

Oh, and my buttcap squeeks some.

Thanks again TW, and if anyone has any questions about the frame or anything I wrote, feel free to ask. There's a lot more stuff I had in here and edited it out because I felt like it was too rambly.
 
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kvan

Rookie
Babolat Pure Drive 2021 Playtest by kvan - Part 1

String and tension used for test
RPM 17 at 53 lbs | Pro’s Pro Cyber Power 1.20 & Pro’s Pro Concept 1.22 at 53 lbs

Tennis experience/background
4.5 former college club player and country club teaching assistant - playing more doubles than singles these days. Played most recently in USTA 4.5 doubles and 8.5 combo leagues.

Describe your playing style
When I played more singles, I was primarily an aggressive baseliner, but more recently I’ve been throwing in a lot more serve and volley and playing much more doubles. Fairly flat forehand with an extreme eastern grip on both sides (OHBH). I rely mostly on my serve, forehand, and touch.

Current racquet/string setups
Long time user of the RF97 with Hyper-G 17 mains and Gosen OGSM 17 or Pro’s Pro Concept 1.22 crosses in the mid 50s. I had been toying with a lightly modded Blade v7 18x20 with the same strings prior to this playtest.

How many hours did you play with the racquet?
15 hours - RPM 17 broke at the 8 hour mark, and my Pro’s Pro hybrid broke around the 7 hour mark.





Approximate Specs
After leather grip, OG, rubber band dampener, and strings it came out to 333g, ~6/7 pts head light. I did play the majority of the playtest without the leather grip, however.

Comments on racquet performance for each stroke
(all comments for the racquet in stock form, unless specified otherwise)

Groundstrokes
Groundstrokes flew a bit for me while I was getting adjusted to the PD. I expected this, to an extent, having been a long user of more control-oriented frames with lower launch angles. After that adjustment, I was finding easy, consistent depth off both wings.

As I mentioned a few times in this thread, I believe my PD came in on the higher end of the spec-spectrum as it felt substantial in the head provided an unexpected amount of plow. I haven’t played many versions of the PD previously, but this isn’t what I expected off the ground. The frame handled pace well and I never felt the frame flutter much, even against heavier hitters.

I had low expectations on the backhand side, but found the same plow and power that I enjoyed from the forehand. I was worried that the less head-light balance would throw of the flow of the stroke significantly, but the difference wasn’t as large as I thought.

I found the most success off the ground by going for larger targets and cheating closer to a semiwestern forehand grip opposed to my natural extreme eastern. I was able to keep driving through the ball, while finding access to spin to hit a heavier ball with high net clearance when necessary.

Biggest Pro: Easy depth, power, and consistency after a brief adjustment period

Biggest Con: The mass in the hoop doesn’t make for the most maneuverable frame

Serves
Easily the favorite part of this frame—I finally understood why PD users rave about the the racquet. Stay loose, pick your spots and the PD takes care of the rest. I wasn’t getting obscene amounts of spin compared to my usual frame, but I felt more confident during tighter moments. Similar serves were easier to hit over long stretches of time, and that mental weight (that I didn’t know I had) lifted improved my service game efficiency.

The serve is a strength of mine and I think the PD did a great job of accentuating it. I usually hit a bit of slice/top on my first serves, but found confidence in serving pure flat bombs especially out wide on the ad side.

Biggest Pro: This frame supplies the consistent power necessary to instill confidence throughout the course of longer matches/hitting sessions

Biggest Con: Spin wasn’t out of this world off either delivery

Volleys
Having played a lot of doubles during this playtest, volleys were a bit of a mixed bag. Depending on the style of volleyer you are, you may really like this frame, or struggle to find the touch you’re used to getting out of your usual racquet.

I like putting away punch volleys as much as the next guy, enjoy throwing in drop volleys to take advantage of my touch. It was almost as though the consistent power the PD gives carries over too much into the forecourt and thus taming that power when looking to drop a volley short can be difficult. Stability at net wasn’t an issue, and maneuverability was average to above-average considering the high twistweight of my frame.

Biggest Pro: Directional control and pop to put away penetrating volleys

Biggest Con: Taming power and almost being too good at supplying power up at net

Serve returns
Initially, I struggled with overhitting on inside-out forehand returns on the ad side since the racquet swung a bit quicker than my RF97 and I kept pulling the trigger early. After getting comfortable, I was ripping some of the hardest forehand returns I have ever hit—low net clearance lasers right back at the feet of the returner.

I’m conventionally aggressive off returns on the forehand wing, but I found great consistency off backhand topspin returns, where I was able to get good margin, pace, and spin to get the server back in a neutral or disadvantaged state. I found much more success taking a step back and going for topspin returns, rather than staying close to the baseline and blocking or slicing as I’m used to with my RF97. To a lesser extent (not stepping back as much) I implemented the same on the forehand side successfully.

Biggest Pro: Rewards larger swings with pace and offers consistency off topspin returns

Biggest Con: Slicing/blocking returns weren’t as controlled, and I had to step farther back to get the most out of returning with the PD.


You can find my comments on racquet performance continued in the post below.
 
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kvan

Rookie
Babolat Pure Drive 2021 Playtest by kvan - Part 2

Comments on racquet performance in each area

Power/Control
No question, this lives up to the Pure Drive namesake with plenty of power, but also a lot more control than I was expecting. If you’re more familiar with heavier/HL/thinner-beamed racquets and swear by them, I still urge you to give this a shot.

The Pure Drive supplies a lot of pop, but once you get used to it you can vary the tempo of your rallies by injecting extra pace when you need more easily. I was a pretty big skeptic going into this playtest, but the slight adjustment period is worth the reward in many regards.

Like I said prior, consistency in the depth of ball has a lot to do with the frame’s relatively high power level and it works well in this package.

Top Spin/Slice
I’m a relatively flat striker of the ball, and the head-heaviness of the frame initially had me concerned with racquet acceleration on lower midcourt balls. I did find it a bit more difficult to pull angled shots than my usual setups. Luckily, you may not need to hit them as much with the Pure Drive.

As a OHBH player, I enjoy varying the spin and pace of the ball on the backhand side. Slices stayed low and drove through the court much more naturally then expected, and the thicker beam didn’t make a mess of things. I hit a more extreme eastern backhand when hitting over the ball, and was able to get nice, heavy balls to prevent opponents from getting into too much of a rhythm.

Overall, the PD deals with both types of spin well, but still excels more in the topspin category.

Comfort
I don’t suffer from arm issues, but if any racquet was to break me completely, it would likely be a PD. Or so I thought. The feedback off the new Pure Drive was muted, but firm. The sweetspot is still fairly well defined, and I liked the lack of flex in the hoop (not that the throat is very flexy, either). Hitting outside the sweetspot wasn’t particularly jarring.

You don’t get a ball-sinking-in-the-racquet feeling as you would something like a C10 Pro and you won’t get the low RA peace of mind off something like a Clash or Blade v7, but I don’t imagine I’ll be getting too many injuries from the PD.

Feel
I was expecting straightup brass. Didn’t get that at all and super pleasantly surprised. You consistently get a nice higher-pitched thwack when making optimal contact. Like I said in the comfort section, I would describe the PD feel as muted, but still direct and firm.

I also really enjoyed the addition of a leather grip on this one for the feel department, although I don’t think too many players would complain about the feel of the PD in stock form. It’s inoffensive and I think Babolat did a good job of making this version appealing to a wide array of players.

Maneuverability
The noticeably high twistweight of the frame and relative head-heaviness does not make this one a super whippy feeling stick. Up at net, I didn’t find many issues when on the stretch, but on returns I found myself getting jammed a bit more than usual. I’m a lankier guy and the PD had me wanting to run around more returns, which may have had to do with it. In the end, I think that’s more of a strategic/footwork issue more than anything, but I thought I’d mention it.

The addition of an Oehms leather grip made me feel more at home by bumping the balance up a few points. Brushing up low balls or reaching a high lob seemed slightly easier, without messing with the feel of the PD on serve, which was already great without modifications.

Stability
The inverse of the maneuverability section. It could’ve just been my playtest frame, but this thing was rock solid from all areas of the court. Compact returns on the stretch, stab volleys, rallies against harder hitters—all handled well by the Pure Drive. One of the most surprising parts of the frame to me alongside the relatively comfortable feel and ease-of-use on serve.

General reaction/comments on overall performance
This is a confidence-boosting racquet. I hear many players say “you get what you put in” when talking about certain sticks. The pure drive goes against that saying by really amplifying the strengths of players who like to smack serves and like dictating play. In some areas, you feel like you get more than what you put in.

I enjoyed this playtest quite a bit and prefer this over my Blade v7 18x20 that I’ve been experimenting with. Whether it’ll beat out my trusty RF97 in the long-term is another story (but an ongoing one!) It ticks a lot of my boxes—feels great on serve, firm and stable, delivers on both the slice and OHBH. Each time I went out to play with the Pure Drive, I was getting more and more comfortable.

In contrast to what I hear about many of the Pure Drive models, I would recommend these frames to more advanced players that have fleshed out their game and playing style. Sure, you’ll get lots of “free” power from this racquet, but developing good fundamentals to be able to do things like generating your own power when necessary, or staying loose on serves to get even more pop are things you may not develop as quickly or robustly if you use a frame this inherently powerful.

At the end of the day, having fun is what’s most important! The PD will provided fun in spades. That said I’d say I’m a proponent of playing with frames that let you know what you’re doing wrong during the pivotal game development/improvement stages.

Babolat continues to deliver on producing a racquet that can suite a variety of playing styles without being shy about the racquet’s strengths. The 2021 version supplies both the signature power and spin while incorporating a feel that fewer players would find outright unappealing or uncomfortable. Nice work PD team!

Thanks again to TW and Babolat for facilitating this playtest. These playtests give us tennis nerds something to look forward to reading and writing after we get back from the court, especially during these past few months. Appreciate you guys a ton!

As always, feel free to let me know if you have any specific questions about any part of what I’ve written in my review and I’d be more than happy to dig into the details. Thanks for reading this far!
 
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fundrazer

Legend
String and tension used for test: RPM Blast/Xcel hybrid at 52/50

Tennis experience/background: Probably low 4.0 right now. Been playing on and off since 2007. Included two years of high school tennis, mostly just rec tennis since then. Play some casual doubles on the weekends. And also for the past year I've been playing singles matches organized by one of the local clubs. Mostly paired against 3.5-4.0 level players there. Have had good amount of success in those matches.

Describe your playing style (i.e. serve & volley): I would describe my game as aggressive baseline, but I can scrap out points sometimes when necessary. Usually I will try to play deep shots until something opens up enough to go for a winner or something I can follow into net. Can hit with decent topspin, but definitely have more of a flatter trajectory to my shots.

Current racquet/string setups: VCore Pro 97HD usually with gut poly at lower tension. Last setup was VS gut 16/ Poly Tour Pro 16 at 50/48 lbs

How many hours did you play with the racquet? Would say about 15 hours which included singles and doubles play as well as more casual hits.

Comments on racquet performance for each stroke (each section should be 3-5 sentences minimum):

-Groundstrokes: Very easy to get good depth with this Pure Drive. Sweet spot feels nice and big which helps maintaining consistency. Helped me with decent power and spin while at the same time not requiring too much effort. Mixed results on some attackable balls though. Had a few control issues when I tried to go for flatter forehands. Wasn't the case for topspin shots though. Not going to pretend my game is anywhere close to Thiem's, but when the ball sat up for me a little or was short in the court I could get those nice short angled winners. Big plus here + Did have some other trouble with low balls to the forehand though. Have mentioned it in previous posts, but whipping up on low balls was a bit of a struggle.

Backhand was a little slow to get going also. Just a little bit inconsistent with the ball at times compared to the lower trajectory that I'm used to with my 97HD. Backhand slice was very very nice though. Felt like I could cut through and keep the ball nice and low.

-Serves: Don't think there's too much to be said here. This is a Pure Drive, of course it's going to serve well. I've been taking it a little bit easier on serve the past few weeks, but I was still able to get nice easy power when serving. The other benefit was good access to spin and ability to place the ball well in the box.

-Volleys: Was surprised at how well I enjoyed this one at net really. While I did notice some lack of maneuverability at times on groundstrokes, I didn't feel it as much on volleys. Were a couple times where I felt it was difficult to get the racquet face into position, but otherwise it was a good stick up at net. Very easy to punch volleys away. Quite forgiving too, as sometimes I'm not always the cleanest volleyer.

-Serve returns: Felt good on serve returns. Definitely solid enough when playing against bigger servers. I sometimes like to block back first serves and I felt comfortable doing that. Easy to just absorb pace and get the ball back deep. When I was more confident, could take more aggressive swings on the return and had good results with that as well. Very easy to get nice air on the ball to get it back deep.

Comments on racquet performance in each area (should be 2-3 sentences minimum)

Power/Control- Racquet has good power which is kind of expected. As I mentioned above, is easy to get good depth on ground strokes and especially on serve. Did have some difficulty keeping balls in the court when really trying to go for deep aggressive shots though. I imagine a slight adjustment for more of a windshield wiper finish would help here.

Top Spin/Slice- Very good spin potential with this one. Noticed it the most when playing some doubles. On shorter balls or passing shots I had an easy time hitting these short dipping balls either for winners or putting opponent in a tough spot. Did have a little bit of trouble whipping under low balls as I mentioned earlier, but other than that topspin was pretty easy to generate.

Love this on slices as well. Could keep the ball low and get the ball skidding through the court.

Comfort- Again, I'm very pleasantly surprised with the recent Babolats I've tried here. The Pure Strike 100 was pretty comfortable, and the same goes for this new Pure Drive. My past outings with Babolats have had that noticeably hollow feel, especially on off center hits. This new one is pretty muted and I didn't feel any harshness with it.

Feel- Definitely has a muted feel, and while I would say that there is a generous sweetspot, oftentimes I didn't quite have the best idea of what the ball was doing after contact. For the most part though this didn't bother me. Still able to execute finesse shots well. Good success with dropshots and drop volleys.

Maneuverability- Very happy with the maneuverability at net. For the most part I didn't have any issues here and was comfortable enough making volleys. Even the awkward ones I felt I could get the racquet head in position quick enough to handle things.

Did feel a bit clunky/clubby on groundstrokes at times though. Mainly noticed it on the occasions where I need to swing through very fast, particularly on low balls or forehands on the run. Did not feel that I could get the racquet head through quick enough on those balls, and it often meant I was putting balls into the net.

Stability- No complains here. Very stable racquet that held up against most of the players I have been hitting with. Able to take deep balls with a shorter swing and redirect without much trouble.

General reaction/comments on overall performance: Overall this was another fun playtest. While I don't think this is a stick that I would play in stock form, I think with some slight modifications it could be a great option for players of any skill level. For me I think a bit of extra weight in the handle would be the first step. I do think Babolat has done a better job lately in producing more comfortable racquets, and this is another fine example.

My one other thought is that this would be a very fun stick for doubles. The easy serving power and placement combined with the ability to easily punch back volleys are great. Very good for attacking approach shots and passing shots with dipping topspin also.
 

dgoran

Hall of Fame
Part 2

Energy Consumption
- @TW Staff hope this extra category is ok, but I'd like to propose this as a category to be considered in reviews as well. With the popularity of apple watch, whoop strap..etc. It is very easy to get plenty of data to track your heart rate and calories burnt over the period of time. I think this is super important since tennis is becoming more and more of a sport of endurance and fitness. While heart rate is not a perfect measurement of effort, I collected enough data over the playtest to see a trend - using this frame instead of my UT or Blade resulted in an average heart rate of around 10 BPMs less than when I used the UT or Blade. I started looking at this data after I noticed that I felt fresher and like I could play longer after my usual session in the same (hot, humid ) conditions. Simply put, using the PD saves me pretty significant energy over the Blade or UT due to less energy used on my shots. Pretty great and a major benefit to using these frames.
Love the inclusion of Energy consumption...I felt the same way for a log time never though to quantify the feeling I had. I always use to say that pd adds .5 pts to your ntrp but I was really thinking about extra energy you have as they are kind of on autopilot. It's like a self driving car, it's not 100% as one still has to pay attention but sure does make things easier...
 
Yeah, that tension is fine. Generally Babolat frames are really tough - typically able to withstand much higher tension than that. Possible you got a defective racquet (which does happen). Otherwise I’d be concerned about how the racquet was strung - as I outlined in my first response.
I had a stringer of my PD block letters back in the day that caused hairline cracks on 2 frames... High school kid that was all about speed but at the time I didn't know any better.

Now I am a big proponent of 6 point mounting and making sure they know what they are doing.
 

pyrokid

Hall of Fame
I had a stringer of my PD block letters back in the day that caused hairline cracks on 2 frames... High school kid that was all about speed but at the time I didn't know any better.

Now I am a big proponent of 6 point mounting and making sure they know what they are doing.
What does "block letters" mean in this context?
 

am1899

Hall of Fame
Now I am a big proponent of 6 point mounting and making sure they know what they are doing.
FWIW, the difference between 2pt and 6pt mounting systems on stringing machines - in terms of maintaining frame integrity - is probably overblown.

Making sure the operator knows what they’re doing is probably a lot more important.
 

M Pillai

Rookie
As you see in the above pics, the center strings are pretty much same spacing (the first 3 from center). 4rth one is slightly more spaced in PA than PD, but 5th is more spaced in PD than PA.

does anyone know definitively. @TW Staff
is there any diff between the string spacing of the mains. the 6 or so center mains.
between the 21pd and the 19pa?
 
TLDR: struggled with PD+, rocked with new PD

I had mostly returned to playing with my 2018 PD+ but when practicing with big hitters lately that when my hitting partner cracks a forehand at max speed I can't attack it back.
Even if I know it's coming the extra length just gets in the way of trying to send a 100mph ball back at 110! The PD+ still plays great for me by sending heavy topspin balls back really deep
towards the baseline. And my backhand is like another forehand with the PD+. I had a few volleys in doubles that I wanted to attack and I was 99.9% sure I would crush but flubbed them badly and my racquet was late getting to the ball. Usually I serve great with it too. But last night my knees were hurting and the PD+ just felt weird and I was
hitting long on way too many serves.
Maybe my brain was just in 27" mode????

So I decided to take the 2021 PD out of the bag. I had it leaded up at 12, above the grip and at the buttcap. 340g. It was ok but I felt held back by the 6g of lead at 12. Swingweight must've been 340+. So after missing a forehand I ripped off 3g of the lead at 12 and all of a sudden the racquet came alive for me. Volleys all of a sudden were precise, controlled and confident. Serves got better and better. Especially first serves to the ad side. Both down the T and out wide ACES started flowing.
Forehands do land a little shorter but still has a lot of spin and power. I feel like I can attack more and swing harder with it too. Backhand takeback will need adjustment... I can keep balls in play but it doesn't feel natural right now. But I think it just needs practice.

I've tried switching to 27" (with the Strike98 esp) several times but always fall back on the PLUS when things get tough.
After last night I am going to try again. But before I totally switch I want to try a few more standard length frames.
Vcore98, AeroVS, Ezone98, AeroTour etc.
I'm going to try to get these all to around my PD specs (337g, 337sw, 6pts HL) and string the same and then have a battle royale that hopefully picks my next racquet.

I have a habit of making things difficult as this shows because the 2021 Pure Drive is an excellent racquet. I will probably end up with the PD but as a playtest enthusiast.. I just gotta TRY EM ALL!!!
 

mhkeuns

Hall of Fame
Just demoed the new Pure Drive and came away really impressed. It felt like a familiar Pure Drive with more predictable responses. The control, along with the spin production, was impressive. Of course, there was a plenty of power as expected.
 

danbrenner

Hall of Fame
As you see in the above pics, the center strings are pretty much same spacing (the first 3 from center). 4rth one is slightly more spaced in PA than PD, but 5th is more spaced in PD than PA.
Thanks for the pics. But that is not a PA. That’s an APD.
either way I got a 21PD. And yes the strings are progressive Amd less open than the PA. Noticeably in fact.
 

innoVAShaun

Hall of Fame
I also removed the inner plastic underneath the original grip to give me a bit more feel. I never noticed Babolat's replacement grip indicator on the the butt cap. Thanks Babolat!

 
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