When I got my hands on the inaugural Pure Strike (16x19) about three years ago, I immediately liked the frame. It had a slick cosmetic and performed with tempered power and better feel than some of the other Babolat offerings. However, I didn’t love it. And I really tried to. I played around with several string and tension combinations, and added mass to different parts of the frame searching for the right formula. It certainly delivered the goods when striking the ball cleanly, but something was missing.
I wasn’t alone; Babolat itself even came to the same conclusion. The company felt it was a good first effort, but wasn’t quite the racquet they were hoping to create. With its sophomore effort Babolat decided to make a couple of significant changes to the Pure Strike. The beam has been enlarged in strategic locations to improve stability and power, particularly on off-center hits, which was a noticeable drawback of the original. And the string spacing has been widened on the crosses to offer more spin potential and pop.
The result is an impressive upgrade. The new Pure Strike delivers on the promise of added juice and spin, but more importantly it has a more consistent and solid response. A broader, more forgiving sweet spot and sturdier backbone add up to a much improved hitting experience.
From the baseline the Pure Strike brings a desirable level of controllable power—not too much to contain on rally balls, yet enough to get you out of a jam. I tested the frame with Solinco Hyper G 18g (52 lbs) and the ball seemed to jump off the stringbed. I did encounter a few shots that took off on me, but I never felt the need to pull back on swings significantly to maintain control.
Even with the slightly thicker beam, the manageable weight and balance foster a quick racquet through the hitting zone. Along with the more open string pattern, it allows the Pure Strike to apply a healthy amount of spin for a 16x19 frame with eight main strings running through the throat. However, unlike the Pure Drive or Pure Aero, which I find to almost require a heavy amount of spin on strokes to be consistent, the denser center of the Pure Strike allows for flatter shots and more versatility. I think a player could use a hybrid string set-up, even with the multifilament in the mains, and still harness enough control from all areas of the court.
The response at contact is generally crisp and clean with limited amounts of brassiness outside the sweet spot. It still trends toward firm-feeling, and while more or less comfortable, I wouldn’t call it one of the frame’s outstanding features. If you’re looking for plush and arm-friendly there are better options, even at this weight, but that’s not this frame’s intention.
Living up to its name, it’s designed to play with pace and spin to land the first strike. I had little trouble doing that on my serves. I could dial up hard, flat deliveries or lively kicks, both with reasonably good direction. What probably impressed me the most—and it was similar with baseline play—was how easy it was to adjust to the Pure Strike. I’m not sure I was cracking my best serves, but it didn’t take me more than a couple of tries to start swinging the stroke with confidence.
Net play with the Pure Strike also proved effective. The firm beam led to assured deep volleys with some stick. For the weight I found the racquet to be surprisingly solid when handling incoming pace. I’d consider adding some mass for a little more stability, but it’s far from a pushover in stock form. Finesse volleys and touch shots drew mixed results, something I often encounter since it’s not a strong suit of my game. Again, the ball tends to jump off the strings and I couldn’t consistently absorb the pace. But I imagine players with more refined hands (and softer strings perhaps) will still be able to show them off with this frame.
Babolat is positioning the Pure Strike as a compromise between the Pure Drive and Pure Aero—it doesn’t quite deliver the easy power of the former or the spin potential of the latter, but offers enhanced control and all-court versatility with a friendlier feel. After my playtest I found it a very apt description. The Pure Strike capably occupies a spot in the category of modern frames—Yonex EZONE DR 98 and Wilson Blade 98 among them—that is lighter and provides more help than a traditional players frame, but still maintains a measure of the same playability. If you tend to like those types of racquets, you may love the new Pure Strike.