Babolat Pure Drive 2021
In-depth Review & Playtest + Video
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New for 2021, the Babolat Pure Drive is a powerful and spin-friendly tennis racquet that remains one of the most popular on the market.
The latest release marks the 10th generation, and although Babolat doesn’t stray far from its time-tested formula, there are a handful of noteworthy refinements to the frame’s construction.
In this extensive guide, I’ll share everything you need to know about the Pure Drive’s backstory, specs, and performance to help you determine if it’s a good fit for your game or worth an upgrade.
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Video Review & Playtest for the Babolat Pure Drive 2021
If you prefer video, or you’d like to see the racquet in action, then be sure to check out my video review and playtest.
Below you’ll find timestamps for each section of the video so you can quickly jump to that section if you’d prefer.
- 0:27 Intro
- 0:40 Specs
- 0:52 Length, Head Size, String Pattern
- 1:01 Weight & Swingweight
- 1:27 Balance
- 1:36 Stiffness
- 1:41 Beam Width
- 2:00 Technology
- 2:25 HTR System
- 2:35 SWX Pure Feel
- 2:48 Elliptical Geometry
- 2:57 FSI Power
- 3:12 Design & Aesthetics
- 3:36 Strings & Tension
- 4:27 Playtest & Review
- 4:44 Playtest Notes
- 4:50 Groundstrokes
- 5:45 Volleys
- 6:15 Serves
- 6:37 Returns
- 7:01 Summary
- 7:30 Pure Drive vs. Pure Aero
- 8:22 How it Sounds
Within this article, you’ll find all of the information contained in the video, plus a bit of extra granular detail and plenty of photos. Keep scrolling to learn more about the Babolat Pure Drive 2021.
About the Pure Drive Series
Babolat, a French tennis company, has a storied history in tennis, which began in 1875 when Pierre Babolat led the production of the first set of natural gut strings – today, they remain some of the best money can buy.
However, it wasn’t until 1994 that Babolat would introduce the Pure Drive, its first-ever tennis racquet. Overall, it was a logical progression for the brand, which had heavily emphasized strings throughout its history and expanded into racquet accessories in the 60s.
A few years later, in 1998, Carlos Moya gave the Pure Drive its first Grand Slam title at the French Open. However, it was far from the last. Andy Roddick and Kim Clijsters are two examples of players that profoundly impacted the frame’s popularity.
For reference, here’s a look back at the different Pure Drive models:
- 1994 – Pure Drive Launches
- 2001 – Pure Drive Swirly
- 2003 – Pure Drive Team
- 2006 – Pure Drive Cortex
- 2009 – Pure Drive GT (Graphite Tungsten)
- 2012 – Pure Drive Cortex Active
- 2015 – 7th generation Pure Drive
- 2018 – 8th generation Pure Drive
- 2019 – 9th generation Pure Drive VS
- 2021 – 10th generation Pure Drive
Typically, Babolat releases updates for their racquets every two to three years, so if you’re buying the racquet and curious when the next update will be due, you can use these as a point of reference.
Why is the Pure Drive so Popular?
If you’re new to tennis or looking to upgrade from a less expensive racquet to a performance frame, the Pure Drive is likely one that’s going to pop up on your list of options to consider, but why is that?
First and foremost, the racquet has had some excellent endorsements from top players since its inception, and for better or worse, that will always fuel sales for specific racquets.
Beyond that, the Pure Drive’s specs make it an approachable racquet for a wide range of players, from strong beginners to advanced ball strikers. More specifically, its manageable weight, moderate head size, and easy access to power and topspin make for an appealing combination.
Add to that a relatively neutral and pleasing aesthetic, and Babolat landed on a compelling combination that men and women love.
Comparing Babolat’s Performance Racquets
Babolat offers three core lines or families of tennis racquets, all of which fall under the ‘Pure’ franchise, including the Pure Drive, Pure Aero, and Pure Strike.
Each racquet offers a unique hitting experience with various performance characteristics that cater to specific styles of play.
Babolat Pure Drive
The original tennis racquet that started it all for Babolat, the Pure Drive is the highest-powered frame in their lineup and one of its key distinguishing factors. Beyond power, players can expect excellent topspin and an overall user-friendly package that caters to a wide range of players.
Babolat Pure Aero
A close cousin to the Pure Drive, the Pure Aero is Babolat’s most spin-friendly racquet that also offers solid power. However, players looking for a bit extra control and better feel will likely prefer the Pure Aero.
Babolat Pure Strike
For optimal control and feel, the Pure Strike is an excellent option and consistently one of our top picks for the best tennis racquets. Compared to the Pure Drive and Aero, it features a slightly smaller head size, thinner beam, and reduced stiffness for enhanced precision.
Babolat Pure Drive 2021 Specs & Technologies
All racquets have specific measurements or specifications that players can use to compare different frames side by side.
Although useful for comparison, it’s important to avoid getting too wrapped up with these numbers. Instead, I encourage players to use them as a baseline for determining if a racquet might be a good fit but to try or demo a racquet before buying if possible.
Below you’ll find an overview of the specs for the Babolat Pure Drive 2021 as well as a writeup describing each and links to explore these topics further if you’d like to gain a deeper understanding.
The Pure Drive comes in your standard length of 27 inches with a mid-range head size of 100 square inches, which will provide players with an extra margin for error when swinging to hit the ball.
Furthermore, an open 16×19 string pattern increases the spacing between strings to influence the amount of spin a player can generate.
Babolat quotes the racquet’s unstrung weight at 10.6 ounces or 300 grams, and the racquet I have on hand weighs 10.8 ounces or 307 grams, which is a sizeable variance.
However, to be fair, it’s within range of the expectation they set directly on the frame, which is plus or minus 7g.
The specifications you find quoted above and on various retailer websites are those provided by the manufacturer. Generally, companies aim to keep as close to these specs as possible through quality control, but there will virtually always be a slight variation from one frame to the next.
For its strung weight, you can add 18 or so grams, depending on your string of choice. Plus, you’ll find its swingweight or how heavy the racquet feels when swinging, coming in at 290.
The Pure Drive has a 7 pt HL balance at 32 cm unstrung, which drops to 4 pts HL at 33 cm with strings installed. A racquet’s balance indicates how the racquet’s weight distributes throughout the frame.
For its stiffness or flex, the Pure Drive has a high-end RA rating of 72.
Finally, the racquet has a somewhat thicker variable-width beam that measures 23 mm at the throat, 26 mm at 3 and 9 o’clock on the racquet’s head, and 23 mm at the top.
Babolat Pure Drive 2021 Technologies
For the 2021 version, Babolat makes a few minor refinements to the racquet’s tech, but for the most part, it remains relatively consistent with the prior 2018 model.
Before jumping in, keep in mind that while it’s useful to learn about the intentions behind the tech, what really matters is how the racquet feels, so if possible, I’d encourage you to try a racquet before you buy to form your own opinions on the racquet’s performance.
The Pure Drive introduces their HTR or High Torsional Rigidity system, optimizing the graphite lay-up in the frame’s hoop to improve stability, energy return, and power.
SWX Pure Feel
Next up, the frame offers SWX Pure Feel, a refinement on the prior generations Cortex Pure Feel technology through the racquet’s shaft to reduce vibration for a dampened feel and a unique sound at impact.
Babolat retains the Pure Drive’s elliptical geometry for a stiffer or more rigid frame that reduces twisting and bending resulting in more power.
Last but not least, its FSI Power technology combines an open 16×19 string pattern with diamond or hexagon-shaped grommets for greater string movement and spin, a larger sweet spot, and enhanced power.
Pure Drive 2021 Models
The Pure Drive is a distinct line of tennis racquets within the Babolat family with a handful of models that carry the name. Each racquet offers a slightly different range of specs to cater to a broader audience.
Babolat Pure Drive
The standard Babolat Pure Drive is the racquet line’s flagship model, which is the most popular and is well-suited for many players.
For my playtest, this is the racquet that I reviewed. It offers a 100 square inch head size, 11.2 oz strung weight, a 4 pt HL balance, 320 swingweight, and stiffness of 71.
Babolat Pure Drive Plus
Players looking for even more power and spin might consider the Pure Drive Plus, an extended-length version of the Pure Drive.
The weight stays the same as the standard model, but it’s a 1/2 inch longer. As a result, the balance shifts toward the handle at 6 pts HL. Its stiffness drops to 69, and its swingweight increases to 324.
Babolat Pure Drive Tour
Intermediate to advanced players looking for a bit of extra weight and stability to stand up to big-hitting opponents might consider the tour.
It weighs in at 11.8 oz strung, features a 326 swingweight, a 70 for its stiffness, and a bump up to a 326 swingweight.
Babolat Pure Drive 107
Larger head sizes increase a player’s margin for error when swinging to strike the ball, making them easier to use and enhance a racquet’s power and spin if the string pattern doesn’t change.
The Pure Drive 107 accomplishes precisely that with a 107 sq in head size and open 16×19 string pattern. However, it’s lighter and easier to maneuver at 10.6 oz strung, has a slightly shifted balance point at 5 pts HL, a lower swingweight of 309, and stiffness of 69.
Babolat Pure Drive 110
Taking large head sizes one step further, the Pure Drive 110 offers a 110 sq in head size for the most powerful frame in the lineup.
Babolat does reduce the weight o 9.5 oz strung, which results in a balance of 3 pts HL, swingweight of 298, and stiffness of 70.
Babolat Pure Drive Team
The Pure Drive Team is a lighter-weight version of the standard Pure Drive, making it easier to handle.
Instead of standard models 11.4 oz weight, the Team model comes in at 10.6 oz strung with a 5 pt HL balance, 313 swingweight, and 69 stiffness.
Babolat Pure Drive Lite
If the Pure Drive Team’s weight still feels a little too much, then the Pure Drive Lite might be your best option and makes for an ideal fit for juniors transitioning to a full-size 27-inch tennis racquet.
It offers the same 100 sq in head size as the standard model, but at only 10 oz strung, it swings easily and is a terrific option for beginners learning the basics and steadily improving their game.
Babolat Pure Drive 2021 Design & Aesthetics
I’ve always enjoyed the Pure Drive’s style, and as you’d expect, Babolat maintains the frame’s blue cosmetic.
However, instead of a lighter blue from the prior generation, it’s now two shades of metallic blue and a deep dark blue instead of black.
You’ll also find a few touches of silver highlights throughout, resulting in a frame that’s not too flashy or understated.
Players Endorsing the Pure Drive Series
The Pure Drive is a popular frame used and endorsed by various ATP and WTA players. Below you’ll find active and retired players who have used this frame.
However, as you review these, keep in mind that the actual racquet your favorite player might be using is likely an older customized model painted to look like the newest frame.
Brands like Babolat typically release new iterations of their racquets every 2-3 years, so it would be unrealistic to expect players to upgrade every time, especially if their current frame works well for them.
Please keep in mind this is not an exhaustive list of all professional tennis players. Also, the pros do periodically change sponsorships, so while I’ll do my best to keep these up-to-date, please don’t hesitate to comment at the bottom of this guide to let me know.
Babolat Pure Drive 2021 Strings & Tension
Regardless of the frame, strings and the tension you string play a crucial role in a racquet’s overall performance and feel.
As a starting point, manufacturers will provide a recommended tension range for every racquet they offer, which is determined to be optimal through their internal testing.
The recommended tension range for the Babolat Pure Drive 2021 is 50-59 pounds (23-27 kg). What you select is a personal preference.
For my playtest, I strung with 1.30 mm or 16 gauge Babolat RPM Blast at 52 lbs or 23.6 kg, which is a low-powered polyester that delivers excellent spin and is pairs well to help manage the frame’s higher power for a more balanced hitting experience.
Players looking for a bit of added comfort without giving up too much control might consider a polyester and multifilament hybrid. Another alternative would b to consider a control-oriented multifilament.
For reference, Babolat recommends stringing this frame with their RPM Power and Excel strings.
Babolat Pure Drive 2021 Review & Playtest Notes
Much of this resource is focused heavily on learning more about the Babolat Pure Drive 2021 and setting expectations for the frame. However, specs, descriptions of tech, etc., will only take you so far.
To bring this review full circle, I’ve thoroughly playtested the Pure Drive to share my experience and describe its performance with you. Before diving into the details, here are a few playtest notes that you might find useful when considering my thoughts and opinions on this racquet.
Below you’ll find ratings on a variety of criteria I use when evaluating a tennis racquet. In the following sections, I’ll seek to provide context for how I arrived at each of these scores.
On groundstrokes, the Pure Drive is a powerhouse. Even with a stiff poly like RPM Blast, it delivers excellent pace, and it’s well suited for baseline players who enjoy hitting a heavy ball.
With a 100 square inch head size and open 16×19 string pattern, topspin comes easily and is one of the frame’s highlights, which pairs well with its extra power to help players maintain control.
Regarding feel, the Pure Drive has a stable and crisp response, which is a function of its higher RA or stiffness rating of 71.
As a result, it lacks comfort, but I’d argue it outperforms in this area relative to what the rating suggests and highlights that players shouldn’t take stiffness at face value without full consideration of all specs, materials, and strings.
The Pure Drive’s moderate head size offers plenty of margin for error at the net, but volleys aren’t the racquet’s strongest area of performance, and its power can be tricky to control at times.
However, with that said, I do find the racquet to be sufficiently stable, and you’ll have plenty of power on tap for quick replies and confident put-aways that will keep your opponents on their toes.
Overall, the racquet works well at the net, but if your game places a strong emphasis on precision volleys and you’re looking for maximum finesse, then you will likely be disappointed by what the Pure Drive offers.
On serves, the Pure Drive is excellent, and it’s easily one of my favorite shots to hit with the frame.
It delivers exceptional power and plenty of spin, which I think will please many players looking to turn things up in this department.
However, if you’re more inclined to emphasize placement and you like to serve and volley, then you’ll likely find the frame’s raw power and net performance to be lacking relative to what you’ll get from a control-oriented frame.
Hitting returns, I found the Pure Drive to be quite good.
The frame is plenty maneuverable and stable enough to manage extra pace while offering ample spin and an excellent response when tightening up your stroke.
At times its power can catch you a little off guard, especially when fielding a heavier serve, so that may take some players a bit to get used to, but generally, I thought the Pure Drive was solid in this area.
Summary & Takeaways
Overall, the 2021 Pure Drive maintains its reputation as a high-powered, spin-friendly racquet that’s relatively easy to use.
It’s well-suited for experienced beginners transitioning to intermediate through advanced players who enjoy hitting a heavy ball.
However, all court players who demand precision and control or those prioritizing comfort in their search for a new racquet will likely want to skip this frame.
|Pure Drive Models|
|Babolat Pure Drive 2021|
|Babolat Pure Drive 2021 Plus|
|Babolat Pure Drive 2021 Tour|
|Babolat Pure Drive 107|
|Babolat Pure Drive 110|
|Babolat Pure Drive Team|
|Babolat Pure Drive Lite|
Babolat Pure Drive vs. Aero
The Pure Drive and Aero are two popular models from Babolat, both of which are excellent frames with many similarities, but there are a few key distinctions. For starters, let’s review their specs.
As you can see, they’re very similar racquets on paper with a subtle variation in swingweight and stiffness. However, on the court, their differences quickly emerge.
First and foremost, the Pure Drive offers an extra notch on the power spectrum, while the Pure Aero delivers greater spin. We’re not talking about substantial differences, but these characteristics are easy to discern between the two.
Beyond that, here are a few other areas where I give a slight edge to one frame over the other in terms of performance.
- Control: Pure Aero
- Maneuverability: Pure Aero
- Stability: Pure Drive
- Touch/Feel: Pure Aero
Overall, if you’re looking for a high-powered frame that offers excellent topspin, then both are terrific options worth considering, and I’d encourage a side-by-side demo.
Why I Love It
In the past, I’ve found RPM Blast to pair exceptionally well with the Pure Drive, and the latest generation was no exception. Here’s a quick refresher on the string setup I used:
- String: Babolat RPM Blast
- Gauge: 1.30 mm (16 gauge)
- Tension: 52 lbs (23.6 kg)
RPM Blast is a lower-powered polyester that’s well known for its excellent topspin, but I find it provides terrific feel for a poly as well.
As covered earlier, the Pure Drive is a higher-powered frame, so I appreciate that RPM Blast helps tone things down a bit while helping maximize topspin for greater control. In other words, it helps put the player in the driver’s seat for more precise ball striking.
From my perspective, this racquet will perform at its best with a poly, so for those of you that are so inclined, here are a few additional options or alternatives to RPM Blast that I’d recommend.
Unfortunately, these are stiff strings, and the Pure Drive isn’t the most forgiving racquet, so players suffering from arm discomfort or have a history of tennis elbow will likely want to steer clear of a full bed of poly.
If that’s you, then you might consider a hybrid poly and multifilament string setup. Alternatively, a control-oriented multifilament could also be a terrific option if you’re looking to emphasize control without giving up too much comfort.
The Babolat Pure Drive 2021 is a powerful racquet that delivers excellent spin. It retains its user-friendly DNA, making it a terrific option for strong beginners through advanced players, and earns its spot on our list of the best tennis racquets.
It’s not the most comfortable racquet to hit with, nor does it offer best-in-class precision, but it’s well worth a demo if you’re looking to add some extra pace to your game while maintaining solid overall performance.
Babolat Pure Drive Alternatives
The Babolat Pure Drive is an excellent frame, but there are plenty of alternatives worth considering if you’re in the market for a new racquet. Here are some of my favorite with similar performance characteristics.
Babolat Pure Aero
Many players who consider the Pure Drive also seriously look at the Pure Aero because there’s a lot of overlap.
I won’t dive too deep here because we compared the two in a previous section. However, I think most players evaluating either of these racquets would benefit from a side-by-side demo to see if they enjoy the feel of one over the other.
Yonex EZONE 100
If you’re open to looking outside of the Babolat family of racquets, then one of the first I’d recommend you check out is the EZONE 100.
It’s an excellent frame with very similar specs and performance but less power and a bit more feel. With that in mind, some players will likely find the EZONE 100 offers a bit of extra versatility.
Wilson Ultra 100 v3
If raw power is a must-have, then the Wilson Ultra 100 v3 is another alternative that fits right within the Pure Drive’s specs.
It has a slightly lower swingweight, making it a bit easier to maneuver, but some players may find that reduces stability to a degree. Either way, it has more than enough similarities to warrant exploring.
Head Graphene 360+ Extreme MP
Another frame that’s well within the realm of the Pure Drives specs and performance characteristics is the Extreme MP.
Once again, I don’t find this racquet as powerful as the Pure Drive, but I think it offers slightly better feel. Beyond that, the differences are nuanced and will boil down to personal preference.
Dunlop FX 500
Although they don’t get as much attention as some of the other brands, the Dunlop FX 500 is an excellent alternative to the Pure Drive.
Its specs are very similar but expect a bit more power and stability from the Pure Drive 2021. On the flip side, you’ll get a bit of added maneuverability from the FX 500.
Although the changes are relatively subtle compared to the prior generation, the Pure Drive 2021 is a welcome refinement that sticks to Babolat’s time-tested formula and keeps a good thing going.
Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed this guide and find it helpful in deciding whether or not the racquet is a good fit or worth an upgrade. Of course, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to comment below.
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