If an eyeball test means anything, and if we’re being honest, it does, then we’ve found the most popular racket of 2015 -- and it’s only February.
A few weeks ago, while rummaging the grounds of Melbourne Park, I couldn’t help but notice a fashionable blue-and-black-colored frame. Turn left, turn right, there was one of Babolat’s latest iterations of the Pure Drive. From a bevy of junior players to the likes of WTA No. 8 Agnieszka Radwanska and No. 13 Sara Errani to Australian Open doubles champion Fabio Fognini, the Pure Drive was everywhere. And, by the way, it complimented the overall Aussie Open color scheme quite nicely as well.
Yes, this was perhaps the most omnipresent racket on the ground, which makes sense since the Pure Drive is the epitome of the modern-day racket. It conflates power, control and maneuverability into one potent 27-to-27½ inch slice of graphite.
The Pure Drive does it all. Originally made popular by Andy Roddick, the 2015 model makes power even easier, thanks to Babolat’s strategic move to raise the sweet spot higher in the hoop. And in an effort to offset some of the raw power, which at times could reach unwieldy levels in the older versions, Babolat tightened the upper cross strings for greater command.
Some might call that a win-win.
Just before the Aussie Open, I took the standard version of the Pure Drive out for a test run. Upon my return, I gave the plus some ample playing time. The first thing I noticed was how freely they both swung through the air and how heavy the response was in what I would consider two rackets on the lighter side -- though both weigh in at just over 11 ounces.
It goes without saying that the Pure Drives are tailor made for today’s baseline-bashing paradigm. But what surprised me, was the confidence I had to decelerate and transition into a counterpunching game if I felt it necessary. We all know it’s fun to go out there are rip shot after shot, but if you’re going to play competitively, it’s not an ideal (or realistic) strategy to punish the ball unrelentingly if winning is your thing.
I found that in the standard version specifically, I could take unfettered rips or slices, then move my way into the middle of the court and eventually to the net without second guessing my shot selection. In the extended version, it took a bit of an adjustment to get by shoulders turned and make contact inside the baseline without a concerted effort to remind myself to do the basics. Specifically, I was getting jammed on my forehand (my two-handed backhand was unfazed). But after 30 or 45 minutes, I became acclimated and actually found I was hitting the ball deeper in the court.
The one clear advantage in using the extra half inch -- and this will come as no surprise -- was the increase in serving power. I’ve heard various figures when it comes to how many miles per hour a half inch adds, but the only thing I can tell you is that there was a discernible increase. But like groundstrokes, I felt like one of the salient takeaways was the control factor and precision from serving from both frames. My service deliveries were finding their intended corners, while I could kick serves in with heavy-than-usual spin.
The bottom line here is that the 2015 Pure Drive meets the three hallmarks that fashion the modern-day racket: power, control and maneuverability. This current incarnation is a smart update that will appeal a greater variety of players than its predecessors.
Typically, I would end one of these reviews with something like “give this one a whirl, you might dig it,” but since the racket is already a universal standout, we’re pretty sure you’ve used one of the new Pure Drive, if not already own one.