Babolat Soft Drive Racquet Review

by Jonas Eriksson

Time for a classic racquet review.  I wanted to review my current match racquet, the first edition of the Babolat Soft Drive.

The Babolat Soft Drive was famously used by both Carlos Moya (for most of his career) and Rafael Nadal during some of his junior years (he later moved to the Pure Drive and after that to the Aero Pro Drive). If you want to read more about Nadal’s racquet specs and history, read this post.

The first edition of the Babolat Soft Drive has the same mold as the first edition of the Babolat Pure Drive (used by Fabio Fognini for example), but it is made with 20% fiberglass for a softer feel and comes in at a really low weight of 270 grams unstrung. This spec works well for a beginner but is not something to use for advanced players as the racquet will be a bit unstable and anemic.

Babolat Soft Drive Facts  

The Soft Drives I use currently were all customized by a racquet customizer from Babolat (I found them used) to the following specs: 335 grams, 32 cm balance, 323 SW. They come with lead tape at 3, 9 and 12 and silicone in the handle. I thought these specs would be too light at first, but I found them pretty much perfect now. There is not a perfect racquet out there and the Soft Drive also has its flaws, but I have not found a racquet I like as much as this one yet.

As you can see below, this racquet really needs customization to play well at a higher level.

Head size:100 sq. in. / 645 sq. cm
Length:27 in. / 68.6 cm.
Unstrung weight: 9.5 oz. / 270 gr.
Unstrung balance: 34 cm
Swing weight: 270
Stiffness: 65
Beam width:  22-26 mm
Composition: Graphite 80% / Fiberglass 20 %
String pattern: 16 Mains / 19 Crosses

How does it play?

I really like the first edition of the Pure Drive, but the softer, more comfortable feel of the Soft Drive is quite special. These older Babolat racquets are generally more gentle on the arm than the current racquets. Yes, the newer racquets from Babolat are pretty well-dampened, but these first editions have a raw and a connected feel that I really like. You instantly know where in the string bed you hit the ball.

The racquet plays stable (despite the softer feel). The power level is decent but not as high as with the first Pure Drive (or any Pure Drive for that matter). The racquet can generate plenty of spin thanks to the open string pattern (quite evenly open, not much tighter in the middle as many more modern tweener frames). The launch angle feels relatively controlled, although it is not a racquet if you mainly hit flat shots.

I am still looking for the perfect string for it. Favorite strings right now for the Soft Drive: String Project Magic, Mayami Magic Twist, and Babolat RPM Power.

Have you tried the Soft Drive 1st edition? Thoughts?


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Brad March 16, 2020 - 15:06

I have not tried it, but wish I could. Maybe Babolat should bring it back. Do you think it would do well?

TennisLion March 16, 2020 - 18:11

I’ve never hit with the SoftDrive and I think it would be much too light even for an amateur like me in stock 270g form. It sounds essentially like a junior / old-seniors frame, which I suppose Rafa & Moya only stayed with as they grew up because they were so used to it. Was there ever a Babolat frame that was similar to the SD with high fibre-glass content, but around 310-330g stock?

Finch March 20, 2020 - 00:50

What on the current market plays most similarly to this?

And PS wow 323 SW seems fairly on the low side!

Tennisnerd March 20, 2020 - 08:16

Not much to be honest, the Prince Phantom 100X 305 is what I would go for if I couldn’t choose this stick.

NNF March 24, 2020 - 20:36

Have you thought about doing a review on the Pure Storm line of rackets? They’re insanely popular with a lot pros as FAA, Sock, and Steve Johnson are just a few who either use or used the line in the past.

Tennisnerd March 25, 2020 - 10:17

Good idea! I have used all the Aero Storms to date, but I don’t have any in stock at the moment. But in the future, as a classic racquet review, it will be time to revisit them.

John May 11, 2020 - 07:52

I think that the soft drive is better than the pure drive because of the softer feel and it’s price. However, the weight on the soft drive was far too light, so I added lead tape around the handle and silicone into it and lead at 3, 9, 12

Robert S May 22, 2020 - 23:06

How is the Soft Drive different than the Babolat Z drive lite frames?

Diego August 24, 2021 - 15:39

Hi Jonas, have you tried the babolat pure soft? specs are 96inch, 62 RA, 290gr, 16×20, 32cm and 274sw unstrung. Looks like a beautiful platform racket. I think all Tnerds should have a stick to play with customizations and I’m going to give this a try. opinions?

Diego August 25, 2021 - 15:32

sorry, the racket is the pure soft control and specs are good but is a 100 si

Anna November 2, 2021 - 21:46

Hi Jonas! you said the Prince Phantom 100X 305 is the most similar to this racquet. Thw Wilson Clash 100 is also soft and its got power in my opinion, how would you compare both? Thanks!


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