Babolat Pure Drive Plus 2012 Racquet Review
- Power and more power
- Access to spin
- Extra reach
- Added leverage
- Sluggish feel due to extra length
Extended length racquets are not as common these days as they were just a few years ago. It was not surprising then, that our team found a minor adjustment was needed to get used to the 27.5-inch length of the Pure Drive Plus tested here. With the adjustment made, our testers started to tap into the power and spin potential of this racquet. Whether they were trading shots from the baseline or looking to start off the point with a big serve, this racquet had them finding more power and spin from their swing. Babolat has updated the racquet with Cortex Active Technology to enhance the feel, but our testers found the best results when they threw touch to the wind and took a good rip at the ball in typical Pure Drive Plus fashion. Fans of previous versions will find this update a natural transition, as the core benefits of every Pure Drive Plus predecessor remain - great power and lots of spin. At net our testers noted a crisp response and easy access to depth. While it might take some adjustment if you haven't hit with an extended racquet in a while, the response from this one on a powerful serve or topspin groundstroke makes it well worth the investment.
Groundstrokes - Score: 80
The extended length of 27.5 inches added power to our testers' groundstrokes. "Hello, power!" Jason simply put it. "The amount of pace and spin this racquet produces is almost addicting. I wanted to keep taking bigger and bigger swings just to see how many winners I could hit (unfortunately, it meant I hit some errors, too). I really loved it for hitting down the line shots on either my backhand or forehand. Where I struggled was hitting the inside-in shot on my forehand. I had trouble pulling it down the line and ended up hitting most shots right down the middle. I had to almost aim at the doubles alley to get the ball close to where I wanted it to go."
Tiffani compared it to the standard length Pure Drive by saying, "I tested this alongside the standard length Pure Drive, and though I thought that version was powerful, the Pure Drive Plus packs an even bigger punch. I felt like I could hit a heavier ball with the Plus version ... that is when I got the racquet around effectively. I didn't struggle as much with racquet head speed on my stronger two-handed backhand, but on forehands I found the racquet to lag sometimes, likely because of poor technique. This led to me spraying shots at times, and I found it difficult to create topspin on forehands to control the power because of the lower maneuverability."
The added half-inch over a standard racquet meant Brittany had to adjust. She said, "Like the standard length version, I found plenty of power off both wings with this racquet. The extended length did take some getting used to, especially with my down the line two-handed backhand (my best shot!), and I felt myself making a slight adjustment by choking up just a little on the grip."
Sean got aggressive with his groundstrokes. He said, "With the larger sweetspot I had no trouble making some minor adjustments to hitting from the baseline. The spin potential for topspin shots off both wings, as well as slice shots, enabled me to hit more aggressive shots that dipped down into the court. On the other hand, I also had problems keeping the ball in the court on a few occasions with this racquet due to its high power. That extra power came in handy as I had more success using this racquet's length to go for flatter, penetrating shots from the baseline to get control of the point."
Volleys - Score: 76
Our testers found plenty of put-away power when volleying with the Pure Drive Plus. Brittany said, "I received plenty of power and stability when it came to this racquet. I was a bigger fan of more aggressive put-away volleys than I was of touch and finesse shots. Similar to the standard length, I again had some difficulty with the maneuverability of this racquet at net -- especially on quick volley exchanges. The added length, however, did increase my wingspan, and I felt more confident hitting volleys I had to reach for."
Also noting the maneuverability was Tiffani. She said, "The racquet played on the sluggish side for me. I found myself hitting short volleys and catching the ball late too often. However, it has good power for punching volleys deep, and, though the extended length hindered me more often than not, I did appreciate the extra reach. What impressed me, too, was touch. Because the racquet has a firm feel I thought I would struggle finding my targets, but I placed the ball better than expected on touch and angle volleys."
The racquet helped Jason focus on his technique. He said, "The somewhat sluggish response was much more noticeable up at net. Which was good and bad. I tend to swing more than I should on my volleys, and when I did that with this racquet I'd be very late on my shot. It really had me focusing on just punching the ball, which is what I'm supposed to do anyway, but it was bad for those shots hit at the body. The swingweight, combined with the added length, was hindering my ability to get a clean volley on those types of shots. Like the standard length Pure Drive, I felt like touch was an issue; there was just a bit too much pop for consistent touch and drop volleys."
Sean felt hindered by the extra length. He said, "I didn't have as much success with this extended length racquet as I did with the standard length Pure Drive for a couple of reasons. The maneuverability of this version really affected the timing on my volleys, and I had some trouble getting the racquet into the right position on some tougher shots. I did feel like I had more overall court coverage, both side to side and protecting against lobs. My control seemed to take some adjustment, and I never quite got completely used to using this one around the net, although I can see the extra length being an advantage."
Serves - Score: 85
The power was again helpful for our team on serves. Tiffani offered, "Once upon a time I was a Pure Drive Plus user, and this was my favorite shot to hit with that racquet. This still rings true today. It took a few swings for me to adjust to the added length and higher swingweight, but I was happy with the results once I did. The added power the Pure Drive Plus can provide is always welcome, especially on serve."
Jason agreed, adding, "Any added power on my serve is much appreciated, and that was the case with this racquet. I really liked the combination of power and spin. I didn't really notice the higher swingweight on this stroke, so that was a definite plus."
"One of the positives of the extended length came on serve," said Brittany, who likes to start off a point with a big serve. "I felt an immediate increase in power on both my first and second serves. And to balance out that power, especially on the second serve, I found plenty of access to spin. This racquet was easier to swing than the standard length Pure Drive. I absolutely loved hitting serves with this racquet."
Sean is tall, but he too enjoyed some added leverage. He said, "Easily my favorite perk of using an extended length frame such as this one is the added performance it gives my serves. With a little extra downward angle I can really put a first serve past my opponent or through them to grab an easy point. Along with some power, this racquet gave me some serious spin when serving out wide, or on a second serve to keep my opponent from being too aggressive. This racquet felt like an extension of my arm on serves, was incredibly solid and didn't require much effort in order to unleash some great serves."
Serve Returns - Score: 78
The Pure Drive Plus allowed most of our testers to return serves offensively. Sean relied on the racquet's power. He said, "I think I had better success blocking back shots deep into the court rather than taking bigger swings. My control and direction were definitely not as accurate with this racquet, so I was forced to back off and go for more conservative returns. Finding depth in the court was very easy, and even when stretched out wide to return a tough serve, I was able to get my return back without relinquishing the point outright."
Brittany had no problems. She said, "I hit my returns with confidence with this racquet. As with the standard length Pure Drive, I made a minor adjustment to my strokes at the beginning of the playtest by adding more spin to my shots to make sure the ball stayed in the court. Like the groundstrokes, I had to make a slight adjustment on my backhand with the timing. Once I was dialed in, returns felt effortless."
Returning with variety was Jason. He said, "I had very similar results with this stick as I did with the standard version. It was great for being aggressive, thanks to the power and spin, and when on the defensive there was nice pop to put the ball back deep."
Tiffani had her ups and downs. She said, "The sluggish feel was a big factor for me on returns. I really had to focus on shortening my backswing or else I would be caught late. If on time, this was a great returning racquet. I could hit attacking returns and effectively push my opponents back off the baseline. However, I couldn't do it consistently because of the heavier feel."
Overall - Score: 80
Jason - "Great power, spin and feel."
Tiffani - "I could hit a heavier ball compared to other racquets in this weight category."
Brittany - "I liked the power I received, especially on my serve."
Sean - "Some added power for big shots and a great racquet for serves."
Jason - "It felt sluggish at times and too stiff (especially with a poly)."
Tiffani - "The extended length makes it more difficult to swing, and it's especially noticeable on volleys and returns."
Brittany - "I felt this racquet was a little stiff, and I am generally not a fan of extended length racquets."
Sean - "It's not as maneuverable as the standard length racquets at this weight, which made it feel somewhat clunky."
(Scores are determined by averaging individual play test scores)
Jason: 4.0 baseliner with a semi-western forehand and two handed backhand. Currently using a Boris Becker Delta Core London.
Tiffani: 4.0 level baseliner with a semiwestern grip on the forehand and hits a two-handed backhand. Currently playing with the Tecnifibre Rebound Pro.
Brittany: Open level player with a semi-western forehand and a two handed backhand. She currently plays with the Yonex V-Core 100S.
Sean: 4.5 baseliner using the HEAD Youtek Prestige Pro. Sean has a semi-western forehand, 1 handed backhand.
Review date: January 2012. If you found this review interesting or have further questions or comments please contact us.
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