I called the first post about this racquet “PD 2020”, but it’s actually a Babolat Pure Drive 2021 Review.
Babolat usually release new updates to their racquets every three years. Most manufacturers do 2-3 years in between an update and I think that’s a pretty sensible rhythm if there are improvements/changes made to the frame. In the case of new Pure Drive, it’s made from the same mold as the 2018 edition, but it’s more dampened and offers a slightly softer and more muted feel. In this Babolat Pure Drive 2021 review, I also got some opinions from one of my tennis friends, Matthew Cassar Torregiani, who liked the frame, but thought it was a bit too much of the good stuff for him.
That’s the thing with the Pure Drive in general. This iconic racquet line that in a way changed a lot of the game, is made for players looking for free power in a pretty easy-to-use racquet. The standard formula of what makes the Pure Drive so popular among club players (up to the WTA tour), is still there, but each generation offers a slight tweak to the feel, the string pattern and the technologies inside. Let’s look at what’s new in the 2021 Pure Drive.
In the 2021 version, Babolat has added something called an HTR system, which is a different layup supposed to give more power. More importantly, to increase the comfort in this traditionally very stiff line of racquets, there is also SWX Pure Feel, a viscoelastic rubber between the carbon layers of the racquet. I think this change is really noticeable and in my opinion, improves the feel quite a bit compared to several of the previous Pure Drives.
There is not much to talk about when it comes to the specs. They have pretty much remained over the years, with very slight changes. Below are the listed unstrung specs.
Head Size:100 in² / 645.16 cm²
Length:27in / 68.58cm
Unstrung Weight: 300g
Balance: 32 cm / 7 pts HL
Beam Width: 23mm / 26mm / 23mm
String pattern: 16/19
My racquet was, however, a bit over spec: 306g, 32.3 cm balance, and 300 SW (!). If you like more stability and can handle the heavy swing weight, this is good, but for most players, it will feel a bit heavy. I also generally believe that racquets that are below the listed spec leave room for customization, while racquets over spec can leave a player without options. I really hope Babolat the other big tennis brands can follow Yonex in their approach to quality control. Among the top brands, they are by far the best in the QC department.
I strung it up with String Project Armour 1.25 at 55 lbs/ 25 kg, added an overgrip and got the following strung specs:
328.7g, 32.7 cm balance and 333 SW (!) which is a remarkably beefy spec for a so-called tweener frame.
How does it play?
The Babolat Pure Drive 2021 is more dampened and feels more comfortable than the predecessor. My spec was quite cumbersome to swing for a racquet that is supposed to be a game-improvement frame, but it’s probably just a standard quality control issue.
I did also feel like this racquet handled flatter shots better than the 2018 version, which tended to launch balls on me from time to time. From my point of view, this frame is a clear improvement.
It’s got a lot of power. It’s the obvious thing for a Pure Drive, but it’s good to remind players that unless raw power is what you’re after, then this one might be difficult to control. My friend Henrik Wallensten reviewed this frame favorably a while back, ended up buying a bunch for competitive play, but has started to feel a bit of tennis elbow recently, so if you have a sensitive arm, I think this racquet will be too stiff, no matter what dampening technology is involved.
The target group for this frame is pretty obvious though. Players looking for extra power in a racquet that’s easy to swing. It has a big sweet spot and is a good choice for lower-level intermediate players who need help with depth on their shots.
Here is my bullet list about the new Pure Drive 2021.
- Same mold as 2018, but improved feel
- Key update SWX Pure Feel to dampen vibrations
- Better comfort, but still stiff
- Easy to generate power and spin
- Big sweetspot
- Easy to use, but difficult to control for players who hit big
If POWER is what you want, the Pure Drive is an obvious demo. But players with arm concerns should think twice and perhaps consider softer frames like Gravity or Clash racquets. One way to improve comfort is to string this racquet with a multifilament like Tecnifibre Triax or Wilson NXT which will give you even more pop. But the durability of that setup will not be great.
This is not a racquet for me or my game, but if easy power and spin are what you’re after and you’re not suffering from any arm issues, the Babolat Pure Drive 2021 is a solid choice. It’s simply an extremely popular racquet for a reason.
Have you tried the new Babolat Pure Drive 2021?