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Babolat Pure Drive Love it or Hate it?

From my early teenage tennis days, I have used a vast array of different racquets. I starting playing tennis when I was in secondary school sometime around 1989 or so... Those were the days of the Prince Thunder Stick and Prince CTS Lightning, Michael Chang's famed Prince Graphic Classic which had the famous vertical bar running horizontally across the neck of the racquet, the Puma Boris Becker, Andre Agassi's Orange Donnay Pro One's, Pete Sampras' Wilson Pro Staff Classic, and a couple more famous racquet synonymous to star players of that era. These were before even Wilson came up with their famous Hammer series racquets. I did like their catchy line in the hammer series ad of "Nail Your Oponent"!
Racquets that I have previously used: There were more but most likely I forgot which ones... :)

Dunlop - My first ever tennis racquet - Can't Remember the model.
Donnay - Ultimate Pro Oversized (Orange), Pro One Limited Edition Mid Size.
Head - S6, i-prestige
Yonex - The blue one Zina Garrison used...
Yahama - Secret EX 110 (Sabatini Model), Secret 08 & Proto 02 series.
Wilson -
Traid 6.0
Babolat Pure Drive Plus + (Andy Roddick Model) - My Last Racquet...
Babolat Pure Drive Standard (Carlos Moya Model) - Present racquet (see above)

I have used some great racquets in the past, I must pay tribute to those which really developed my game like the Yamaha Secret EX 110, The Head i-prestige and the Wilson Triad 6.0. The others were just okay but the worst of the lot for me was the Donnay Ultimate Pro which was an absolute disappointment at a huge price...

After playing with the Wilson Traid 6.0 which I would classify as a control type of racquet which
needed alot of manual power to generate pace. It was heavy and when it came to long rallies lot's of power would be required to just generate a good amount of pace which in the end would dry up your energy reserves very quickly. I needed something with a little more juice as I am a "hit and run" kind of player and wanted a stick that would be able to end the point quickly for me. I noticed lot's of players using racquets which had the two horizontal double stripes which I knew to be a brand called Babolat. I didn't really pay much attention to them as when I started tennis back in the late 80s and early 90s Babolat were only known for their strings and grips much like what Tecnifiber and Gamma are known for these days, although they do make racquets.

I also realized that there was one Babolat model in particular, which seems to be much more common and popular amongst the pros. It had a cool luminous blue tone to it, and the biggest server on tour Andy Roddick was weilding it to great effect. I soon found out that this
Babolat model was called the "Pure Drive". It was not only one of the hottest racquets on tour, but one of the hottest racquets in terms of racquet sales here in Singapore. I quickly concluded that this racquet must be really something, as if it was crappy, nobody would be buying, using or let alone even endorsing them! I know there would be definitely a caveat for the pros, as each of their racquets in terms of cosmetics visibility looks the same, but they are customized to their individual liking in terms of the weight, balance and swing ratio although most manufacturers would swear that the factory model and the ones their pros use are exactly the same. That aside, I was already tempted to know more about this model or hope to demo it someday.

The chance to try it came along when Apollo snapped his strings and he borrowed his housemate's Pure Drive. Since I was playing with him that day, I took a chance to demo the racquet. To date, I had only held it unstrung in some sport stores. Although strings are relatively lightweight, a strung and unstrung racquet feels very different it terms of the balance. I had a bad wrist injury then and was recovering from it, the Pure Drive at that time felt very heavy and my wrist hurt slightly when just holding it. This thus gave me the impression that the Pure Drive was NOT the racquet for me. Since Apollo had the racquet that day, I grabbed the chance at trying it out for a full demo of it's capabilities!

Initial Impression:

It was the most damped racquet I have ever felt. Bare in mind, I have used so many different kinds of racquets but this one feels like you are hitting at a cotton tennis ball. There was practically "no feeling" when you hit the ball! Even when you connect at the sweet spot, it still gave you that same damped feeling. I would later find out that this was what Babolat credited to it's famed "Woofer" technology. Some individuals don't like this feeling as they rather "feel" their shots bite into their strings especially when hitting with spin. I was very impressed with the racquet and was soon on my list of items to purchase.

I did more research on the Pure Drive on the web. I would highly recommend this site called Tennis Warehouse for reviews from Pros as well as positive and negative feedback from customers. I also visited Babolat.com to get more information on this racquet. I quickly realized that there seems to be two different models which are totally identical in cosmetic appearance, but the only difference was their lengths. The Pure Drive Standard and the Pure Drive Plus. There is no way you can tell the difference by it's outwards appearance. You only could tell by the small + (plus) symbol at the neck of the racquet as well as the additional one inch length when you compare the standard and the plus model side by side. You might think that small one inch difference does not make much of a difference. But mind you it does, and by a great margin!

I thus decided to get the "Plus" model for it's extra reach... Big mistake! While the Babolat Pure Drive Plus (+) had it's pros as well as cons, it did not dawn upon me that a slightly longer racquet was more suited to an individual who uses a double handed backhand. It is harder to swing with a single handed backhand with a longer racquet, I personally found that out the hard way. But while I lost the ability to execute my single handed backhands effectively, it gave me additional reach running for shots using my back hand slice with great effect. I could also volley better with the additional reach and it gives you an outstanding forehand which you can unleash with great effect, this racquet had alot of Juice!!! The great difference which was most noticeable, was the huge serve that it could generate almost so effortlessly. Andy Roddick can generate lot's of pace with his serve with any racquet due to his great technique, but I personally feel that this racquet compliments his game as it is really suited for a big server. You can easily serve bullets with this racquet and if you are naturally a big server who plays with a two handed backhand this is THE racquet for you!

I finally came to the decision that although the Pure Drive Plus gave me lots of power, I needed my backhand drive back in my game and didn't just want to be held back with a defensive backhand slice shot. I eventually sold the Pure Drive Plus for $100 (half the price I paid for it originally) after about 2 months and decided to go for the Pure Drive Standard. instead.

The Pure Drive Standard was a totally different animal altogether! I thought it would play the same as the Plus, but again I was dead wrong! It was a totally different feel and it lacked the heft and power of the plus which was evident when I first picked up and hit with the racquet. One inch could really make a difference in the racquet! So don't judge the book by it's cover. It took me sometime to get use to the shorter racquet and gradually I got my backhand drive back, but it was seriously lacking the power which will do the damage. I finally fixed this problem by using the Toalson Hybrid (Apex) strings which was strung at 56 pounds. For me, only this combination of the string type and tension was the key to the success of my racquet in terms of power generation. I was lucky to find the right combination as I was getting slightly frustrated with the Pure Drive Standard.

The other glaring problem with this racquet which I feel that should be highlighted to Babolat is that their grip sizes are not only larger by one size compared to other makes, but are generally larger than other Babolat models! A Pure Drive 4 1/4 is equivalent to a 4 3/8! A side by side comparison with a 4 1/4 grip size (which is my current grip size) with the Pure Drive and Pure Control (Red color) shows a great difference. A 4 1/4 Babolat Pure Control has a smaller grip size compared to a 4 1/4 Babolat Pure Drive! I feel more comfortable holding gripping the Pure Control. I believe this is a manufacturer or quality control defect but apparently all the Pure Drives Plus and Standard comes with this larger than usual grip when I was both using them. This has problem has also been highlighted by the Tennis Warehouse Review as well as the user feedbacks. I constantly take note of this problem every time I visit stores selling the Pure Drives, the new batches also have this same problem.

Conclusion:

The Babolat Pure Drive Standard has indeed improved my game significantly. It has given me the ability to finish the point quickly without expanding too much energy. The only major problem with this racquet is the grip size which Babolat should review accordingly. I have suffered alot of mis-hits due to the lack of the ability to grip the racquet tightly due to the larger grip size. I believe that to get the correct grip size for me, I should be looking for a 4 1/8 Pure Drive but it seems that the distributors for Babolat don't carry this grip size here in Singapore as I have inquired at many sports shops about the availability of a smaller 4 1/8 grip size to no avail... :(

Since my recent elbow injury which I believe was attributed to the larger grip size, I have removed the original grip and replaced it with two regular over grips. I is slightly better now, but now I feel the wooden bevel of the grip. In the past I used the original grip with the thinnest overgrip which I could find which was the Tourna grip stretched tightly over the original grip. This however did not help as my injury suggests...

If any Babolat distributors, representatives or executives stumbles upon this blog, I strongly urge them to do something about this as I truly believe that they have designed a truly wonderful racquet despite of this glaring problem!

Very detailed review of the Bab PD. Your tennis blog is very interesting because of the original content you have. I've linked to it from my own tennis blog.

hi guys

here's another condo tennis community to hook up. http://rvtennis.multiply.com. I will put up your link at your site.

Cheerio, albert , Rivervale Tennis

Excellent review of the Pure Drive. I have a couple of this fabulous racquet, and the grip size is L3. I have two very small hands... so maybe it would be better to use L2, and also Pure Drive with this grip size are sold in Europe, but it's not easy to understand which is the right grip size! To me, playing with the L3 is quite ok, but I can't buy a Pure Drive L2 onlty to demo this size! The italian shops rarely have demo racquets. Anyway, you could find on Ebay some Pure Drive L2 above 100 Euro (make change of currency by your own!). If I can add an impression about this racquet, it has not few bumps that require a bumper on the strings. This is probably why the new Babolat racquets (both Pure Drive and Aero series) have the cortex system just above the handle. Bye.

This was really a great and detailed review i really liked it.

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  • I'm Nawin from regentville
  • Residing in Hougang Singapore
  • Racquets: X2 Prince EXO3 Graphite 100 (Main) X3 Wilson K Blade Tour 93 (Backup) Strings: Toalson Ultimate 115 Strung @ 48-50 pounds. Plays: Right Handed (Single Backhand). Shoes: mi Adidas Barricade V Apparel: Lacoste & Adidas Favourite Players: Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic

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