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Babolat Pure Strike Tennis Racquet Review

Babolat Pure Strike Tennis Racquet Review

When Babolat announced that they would be releasing an entirely new family of player-oriented racquets called Pure Strike, lots of people got excited. Although they've had some control frames in the past, Babolat has been best known for lighter, more powerful frames like the Pure Drive and later on the AeroPro Drive. For players who are intimately familiar with Babolat's racquet lineup, the new Pure Strike family will be more or less replacing the Pure Storm family; however, the Pure Strike frames are completely new racquets and really aren't intended to be a direct replacement for the Pure Storms.

Although the Pure Strike line has several different racquet configurations—including a Pure Strike 100 and a Pure Strike 18x20—I decided to try the Pure Strike Tour first since it's fairly similar to my normal racquet. The Tour is definitely the heavyweight of the bunch, weighing in at 11.8 ounces strung. It has a 98 square inch head and an 18x20 string pattern. As you'd expect, the Pure Strike Tour (and the other Pure Strike racquets) feature plenty of proprietary Babolat technologies, but the real story is more about the Pure Strike Tour's solid feel and precision performance.

From the baseline, the Pure Strike Tour actually provided a bit more pop than I initially expected, but it's still a demanding control frame for advanced players who are taking big cuts at the ball. The Tour lends itself well to heavy-hitting and its weight helps provide a stable platform even when returning big shots. If you get stretched out or pulled out of position, be prepared to work for pace and depth; the Pure Strike Tour isn't going to give you much help. It did, however, seem to be fairly forgiving on off-center hits.

I tried the Pure Strike Tour without a dampener and was happy to hear a solid thwack at ball impact. I know some people prefer more of a ping sound, but that's just not for me. It's completely a personal preference, of course, and shouldn't really affect the playability of the racquet, but I never really liked racquets that were too "pingy."

The ball came off the racquet with plenty of spin and I was able to hit safe shots with margin as well as flatter shots when the situation demanded. My usual racquet has an 18x20 pattern like the Pure Strike Tour, so I'm used to it, but I wish Babolat had made a second version of the Tour with the same heft but a more open string pattern. The tennis world seems to be focused on mega-spin right now and I would've been interested to see how the Pure Strike Tour might have played with an open pattern.

Volleys felt solid and the Pure Strike Tour's weight made it stable enough to handle passing shots hit with lots of pace. But the weight is a little bit of a double-edged sword at the net. Even though the Pure Strike Tour is head light, it's still a heavy racquet and isn't the most maneuverable at net. It didn't bother me any but I don't spend that much time at net anyway. Serve-and-volley players or doubles players might be more interested in some of the lighter racquets in the Strike lineup, but if you don't mind the weight, there's no reason you can't serve-and-volley successfully with the Pure Strike Tour.

Serving with the Tour felt fine, but I didn't really notice any spectacular change in power or spin. Admittedly, my serve is usually a bit rusty by this time of the winter, but the Pure Strike Tour neither wowed nor disappointed. It just felt… normal. I was able effectively place first serves and the Pure Strike Tour gave me enough depth and spin on second serves so that most second-serve points at least started on neutral ground.

In the end, finding the right racquet is all about personal preference and a little bit of trial-and-error, so I can't say that the Pure Strike Tour is for everyone, but I liked it. As a whole, the Pure Strike Tour is really an impressive racquet that deserves some serious consideration from advanced players who are looking for a control-oriented frame. It has a nice, solid feel on groundstrokes, volleys, and serves, but won't provide a lot of extra power. While that's perfect for players who are used to generating their own pace, players looking for something a little more forgiving might be better served trying one of the other Pure Strike offerings—like the Pure Strike 100. I had no issues generating enough topspin, but folks looking for maximum spin might ultimately get better results trying something with a more open string pattern.

View All Balablot Pure Strike Tennis Racquets

Ask the Stringer: Why Are My Crosses Wearing Out so Quickly?

Ask the Stringer: Why Are My Crosses Wearing Out so Quickly?

Q: The last few years I have mainly had my racquets restrung with hybrids — normally some kind of gut in the crosses and another material in the mains (Dunlop Hexy Fibre 17, for example). I haven't broken the mains once in the last few years—it's always the crosses that end up breaking. Most recently I had some type of gut put on for the crosses and they showed evident wear really quickly in several places around the "sweet spot" and they finally broke after only 10 or so hitting sessions. The mains, however, seem to have no evidence of wear at all. Is there any way to salvage the mains and just add new crosses? And why might my crosses be wearing out so quickly? I'm thinking of going with the same string for crosses and mains from now on.

A: This is actually a very good question and it touches on a few things we hear about fairly frequently from other customers. Since there are actually a few different questions buried in there, I'll do my best to break it down and offer some insight on each individual part—hopefully without missing any important details!

First things first, your cross strings are broken, but your mains are intact, so can you remove the cross strings and leave the mains? Technically the answer is yes. Since you mentioned specifically that you're using a hybrid set-up, I know with certainty that your racquet was strung in two pieces. Since the mains and crosses are tied off separately, you may be able to cut out the cross strings without losing any further tension in your mains. You'll run into some difficulty removing the knots used to start and finish the cross strings, though, depending partly on the pattern of your racquet and the kind of starting knot your stringer likes to use. Usually the starting knot uses one of the main strings as an "anchor" string—which means the starting knot is tied around the main string. This makes cutting the knot a little tricky without cutting the main string too. It can be done, but it requires a little bit of a steady hand. Depending upon whether the cross strings tie off using a main or a cross as an anchor, you may or may not have the same problem there.

But, should you remove just the cross strings and salvage try to the mains? Personally, I'd say no for a few reasons. The main reason is that over time, strings lose tension and resiliency, even if they don't break. This process actually happens over time regardless of whether the racquet is played with or not (which is why we recommend restringing at least once a year whether you've played a lot or not). So, by the time you break strings and get ready to restring, chances are that your main strings have lost significant tension and resiliency and you'd benefit from a fresh set anyway.

Additionally, cutting out just the crosses while leaving the mains means that you're exposing your racquet to a lot of uneven stress. See my post about properly cutting out strings for a little info on that topic. All in all, I think it's just a better policy to go ahead and restring the whole racquet. That way you'll know you've got a fresh, string job that's got plenty of tension and is ready to go.

So why are your cross strings breaking before your mains? Although the main strings commonly break first since they're doing most of the sliding around during ball impact, hybrid stringing changes the balance of things, so to speak. In order to compensate for mains that break more quickly, most hybrid configurations feature a more durable string in the mains (polyester is pretty popular for that, nowadays) and a softer string in the crosses. Even though the mains are still taking a beating, the use of a more durable main string may mean that it simply is going to last longer than the softer string in the crosses. The Hexy Fiber you are using in your mains is actually somewhat soft, so that may not be the cause in your case.

A second scenario is that your cross strings may have actually sustained some wear during installation. It's always important to be very careful when weaving and pulling natural gut, but some extra caution is warranted when your main strings are a geometric string with sharp edges or a textured "rough" string. There's a fair amount of friction any time cross strings are installed and geometric or textured main strings can easily damage the coating on a soft cross string, leading to premature breakage. If someone else is stringing your racquets, make sure that they take care when installing the crosses. If you're stringing your own racquets, simply pull the cross strings through more slowly and try pushing the strings down towards the throat as you do so (so it makes a big smiley) and this will help ease some of the friction. You can straighten them out once all the string is through.

Those scenarios aside, from a technique standpoint, I've also seen this happen to players who hit the ball a little later than they should. If none of the above info seems to apply, or you think you're catching the ball late, try working with a local pro who might be able to help you catch the ball further out in front of your body.

Finally, I noticed in your question you mentioned that your cross strings started showing wear pretty quickly. You didn't mention how long it normally takes for your strings to start showing wear, but I'm guessing that they usually don't wear quite that quickly. Again, it's possible that the cross strings were damaged during installation, but it's completely normal for soft strings to start "fraying" as they're played with. This is especially true if you're hitting with a fair amount of topspin.

As far as switching your string set up, I'm always encouraging people to experiment with new strings, tensions, and hybrid combinations. Even if you don't find anything you like, you can always fall back on your tried and true combination.

Hopefully I helped shed some light on your particular situation. Feel free to let us know if you have any other questions!

Did you know that we employ two professional stringers, including a Master Racquet Technician? That’s the highest level of achievement that United States Racquet Stringers Association (U.S.R.S.A.) offers. Do you have a question for one of our stringers? Ask it in the comments below or send it to us and we will provide with an answer as fast and accurate as our on-site stringing.

Ask the Stringer: What is the Most Exciting New String Technology?

Ask the Stringer: What is the Most Exciting New String Technology?

Q: In your opinion, what is the most exciting string technology to come along lately?

A: String companies are always innovating and trying new things so you never know when the next big thing will hit. I would say that the biggest change in the last 10+ years has probably been the rise of polyester strings and their evolution. Polyester strings have actually been around in some form for quite a while, but they didn't really catch on right away. Over the years, string manufacturers were able to refine their process and improve their polyester strings. Professional players began getting on board thanks to polyester's amazing durability and increased spin potential. As more of the world's best players embraced polyester strings, the trend began to trickle down to amateur and recreational players. These days, polyester strings are more popular and more readily available than ever.

Despite their tremendous upside, polyester strings aren't for everyone. Polyester's durability is part of what makes it desirable, but it also means that the string is very stiff. Anyone who is suffering from arm pain—or anyone who has suffered in the past—should strongly consider going with a softer, multifilament string that won't be as harsh on their arm. I also try to steer younger junior players away from polyester and towards softer strings when it's possible. Most players that young aren't frequent string breakers so there's not as much need to give them a harsh, durable string that could ultimately cause arm pain. Finally, players should take a moment to think about how polyester strings will interact with their racquet. If you are using a stiff racquet, stringing with stiff polyester can be a recipe for arm discomfort or injury.

Pros and cons aside, I nearly always encourage players to go thinner when they are using polyester. Most polyester strings are available in 17 gauge and many are even available in 18 gauge. The thinner gauges provide a little bit more feel and they'll still offer plenty of durability for most players. Experimenting with polyester hybrids is also a great way to go. By blending polyester strings (usually on the mains) with a softer multifilament or natural gut (usually on the crosses), players can get the best of both worlds. The polyester string will still help enhance durability and boost spin, while the softer string will enhance comfort and feel.

Did you know that we employ two professional stringers, including a Master Racquet Technician? That’s the highest level of achievement that United States Racquet Stringers Association (U.S.R.S.A.) offers. Do you have a question for one of our stringers? Ask it in the comments below or send it to us and we will provide with an answer as fast and accurate as our on-site stringing.

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