To quote a singular voice who recently left us, that was my initial reaction after letting loose with the Pure Drive Tour+. With its mass and extra length, this member of the Pure Drive family has always been designed to overwhelm opponents with a combination of raw power laced with heavy spin. Updated with wider string spacing and comfort features, this latest version may be the most effective to date.
If you like to play the bully, the Pure Drive Tour+ has the goods to intimidate. Launching massive serves, jerking opponents around the baseline with aggressive groundies or going from defense to offense with one angry swipe, it was very inviting to dictate points with this frame. It possessed some versatility and could engage in neutralizing tactics, but ultimately it was made to (ruthlessly) attack the ball.
There were instances when this power could corrupt. These were undoubtedly user errors, but the potential to hit Delpo-like missiles with the frame was nonetheless seductive, bordering on hypnotic. Standing four feet behind the baseline, and almost by accident, uncorking an inside-out forehand winner can have you thinking: I should be playing in Melbourne. But attempts to recreate similar magic can also elicit over-hitting and sloppy performance. When the ball was struck in the sweet spot, a big swing resulted in an imposing shot that penetrated the court; when it was off-center there was the potential to penetrate the back curtain.
Again, that’s not the racquet’s fault. It’s the difference between enjoying its benefits responsibly and getting drunk on its excesses. As long as I treated the frame like any other and welcomed those instances of turbocharged strokes during the framework of sensible technique and tactics—not every forehand and serve had to be tattooed—then we got along just fine. I’ve never found consistency a hallmark of the racquet, but it proved to be steady enough to be effective.
The previous version had a denser string pattern in the sweetspot, which perhaps gave it sharper directional control. It was still acceptable this time around, and it was really distance control that was the more pressing issue. Something has to rein in all that power, which was where spin came into play. The string pattern and spacing are now better configured for heavier topspin. However, the one caveat is the extra length—more so than the weight—can make it more challenging to whip the head through contact. It wasn’t necessarily a demerit—given the specs the racquet handles rather well—but something that required more effort than the standard version. And when my technique did match my intent, the extra leverage produced great results, exceeding the spin generation I achieved with the previous version.
The technical additions to this latest Pure Drive line—wider spacing on the crosses, diamond shaped grommets, heightened dampening—did make for a more muted, comfortable feel at impact. Keep in mind, that’s when compared to previous iterations. It’s still a Pure Drive and still exceptionally firm. And because of the power-potential, it’s almost a requirement to use polyester strings to tame some of it, as well as create more opportunity for control spin. (I tested the racquet with RPM Rough @ 50 lbs).
So, given the lack of flex in both frame and strings, it’s unlikely to ever be a cushy playing experience, or kind to sore joints. That said, when contact was in the sweet spot, it felt remarkably solid, with little negative feedback. Outside the sweet spot the frame still had the capability of feeling brassy, but not as offensively as in the past.
That sturdiness was appreciated at net. Even when contact was off-center, it wavered about as much as a redwood in a light breeze. In typical Pure Drive fashion, simply getting the racquet face in front of the ball seemed to be enough to hit a deep, dependable working volley. And anything around chest-level or higher could be punched into the open court with authority. The extra length afforded extra reach on stretch volleys, but did raise the difficulty when fending off shots that required quicker reflexes.
Playing with touch could also be somewhat elusive, although not impossible. The ball just wants to jump off the string bed—the more muted feel doesn’t help the cause, either—but I imagine repetition would help figure ways to take pace off incoming shots. However, I also suspect players drawn to this type of frame aren’t looking to bewilder their opponents with a barrage of drop shots.
No, the allure of this frame continues to be its assistance in hitting the monster serves and heavy ground strokes coveted by offensive players. Counterpunchers could certainly find success with it, but it seems best-suited for assertive, first-strike tactics. The compromise for Pure Drivers familiar with previous versions will be a less connected, more muffled response at contact. But compared with those predecessors—dating back to when it bore the Roddick moniker—and in the landscape of extended frames, this Tour+ is as pushy as they come.
Oh my, indeed.