Posts Tagged ‘babolat’

PostHeaderIcon Racquet Review Wednesday with the Babolat Pure Strike and Pure Control Tour

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Two years ago, I participated in a video racquet review for the Babolat AeroPro Drive. We hit first with the (then) current version of the racquet, and then with the newer version that was to come out in 2013. I hated the first one, and hated the second one only slightly less. For me, it was a total Babolat fail.

Since then, I’ve had a strong bias against Babolat racquets as “stiff, unwieldy beasts offering minimal control”. Sure it’s worked well for Rafa, but I’m not Rafa. With that, I turned my racquet-review attention to racquets that could help more than just lefty spinners from Mallorca!

babolat-overview-articleFast forward to the final months of 2014 and the realization that, personal feelings notwithstanding, Babolat racquets have become increasingly popular with both adult and junior players, and I need to find out why. So for my final racquet review of the year, I wanted to see if there were newer models that could help me overcome my anti-Babolat bias.

As it turns out, there were two! I asked my friend Marla at City Racquet Shop which Babolat she’d recommend, and she gave me two: the Pure Strike 18×20 and the Pure Control Tour. Much to my surprise, I liked both, and LOVED the Pure Strike.

Though the AeroPro line might still be “unwieldy”, Babolat has clearly managed to come out with sticks that are good for everyone else not named “Nadal”. 😉

Check out my reviews for both of these great racquets by clicking the links below:

Racquet Review: Many Reasons to Love the Babolat Pure Strike

Racquet Review: Babolat Pure Control Tour Offers Good Spin/Pace, But It’s a Beast!

(A big thanks to City Racquet Shop for the demos. If you’re in the Bay Area and interested in demoing and/or buying either of these racquets, stop by and Marla will hook you up!)

PostHeaderIcon Racquet Review: So Many Reasons to Love the Babolat Pure Strike

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[Spoiler] The Babolat Pure Strike is my personal favorite of all the racquets I demoed in 2014. Why such high praise? I’ll start with groundstrokes, then work my way through all of the reasons why this racquet has successfully knocked the Wilson Pro Staff 100LS from atop the list for my next racquet.

Groundstrokes

babolat-pure-strike-articleSimply put, this racquet felt “right” from the very first groundstroke that I hit during warmups. In spite of its’ relatively light weight, shots felt solid, with minimal excess vibration. And pretty much every shot felt good (or at least decent) no matter where it hit the racquet face.

A buddy of mine made a similar observation after hitting with it, telling me that his shots sounded the same regardless of whether or not he hit the sweet spot. I’m not saying that you can’t still shank shots with the Pure Strike. But what it does show, in both instances, is a positive perception on how shots feel coming off the racquet. And in my book, “positive perception” will almost always translate to shot confidence.

With respect to my ground game, forehand shots felt the best. The racquet easily took to the natural spin on my forehand stroke, and gave me decent depth (and pace) with an easy, full swing. The ball sometimes flew long to the backstop, but settled back down as long as I stopped forcing the shot.

Two-handed backhands felt decent, and any deficits on that wing were more a function of my technique than the racquet. Because of the racquet’s light weight, it was a little difficult to keep the ball low AND get good depth on one-handed slice shots without a deliberate, full swing. Anything less sent the ball to the bottom of the net or flying high for an easy doubles put-away. (Note to self: no more “lazy” slice shots.)

Serve

The Pure Strike worked well with my serve.  I had great control on flat and spin serves, as well as easy pace. And the “solid feel” described above on ground strokes was also present on serve. Well-struck serves felt great, and off-center serves felt okay. This is a far-cry from the awful feeling, pain-inducing vibration included, that so often accompanies a shanked serve. I definitely give it high marks on this front.

Volleys

I don’t have the strongest volley game. And, regrettably, this racquet didn’t do much to help with that. With the racquet’s reduced weight, it was hard to get depth or stick my volleys. My volleys weren’t awful; they just required more work on my part to achieve good depth, pace, and placement.babolat-pure-strike-article2

Overall

I was actually surprised at how much I liked this racquet. At a time when I’m feeling good about my game but also struggling with some pain in my surgically-repaired shoulder, this racquet seemed to provide everything I need!

It provides great support for my ground game, works well with my killer serve, doesn’t hurt my volleys or backhand, and is a weight that doesn’t bother my shoulder. It works just as well with topspin as it does with flatter shots. And though I initially wasn’t a big fan of the red color, but have gradually grown to like it.

I realize that I said many of these same things about the Wilson Pro Staff 100LS, but there is a big difference between the two. The Pure Strike’s 18×20 string pattern provides for much better ball control than the Pro Staff’s 16×15 pattern. And for club players like myself, more (and better) control is ALWAYS a good thing.

This is, hands down, the best racquet I’ve demoed all year. If you’re looking for a new stick, give this one a serious look.

Note: If you’re interested in this racquet, take it out for a hit and judge for yourself. Racquet specs and marketing-speak are no substitute for knowing the strengths/weaknesses of your game, and how a racquet might help or hurt your goals.

(Racquet provided by City Racquet Shop of San Francisco.)

Racquet Specifications

Head Size: 98 sq. in. / 632.26 sq. cm.
Length: 27in / 68.58cm
Strung Weight: 11.4oz / 323.18g
Balance: 12.9in / 32.77cm / 5 pts HL
Swingweight: 324
Stiffness: 66
Composition: Graphite
Power Level: Low
Stroke Style: Full
Swing Speed: Fast
String Pattern: 18 Mains / 20 Crosses
String Tension: 52-62 pounds

PostHeaderIcon Racquet Review: Babolat Pure Control Tour Offers Good Spin/Pace, But It’s a Beast!

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I demoed the Babolat Pure Control Tour after an earlier hit with the Pure Strike. Though my impressions of it weren’t quite as positive as the Pure Strike, I still mostly liked it. It’s a good racquet, but is also a bit of a beast. Let me explain why while diving into my impressions of this racquet, and how it worked with my game AND my body.

Groundstrokes

babolat-pure-control-articleThough its’ strung weight is only 1/10th of an ounce greater than my current stick, the Pure Control Tour feels heavy. But with this heft comes greater pop on your shots. However, that pace is unfortunately offset by its’ 16×20 open string pattern.

Still, my forehand felt solid, with good pace and decent spin/control. But as with racquets like the HEAD Extreme, it’s easy to send the ball flying – though definitely not to the same degree. Admittedly, hitting with the low-power Pure Strike beforehand might have something to do with this. The same swing used successfully with the Pure Strike is much less successful with this racquet. Timing matters.

My two-handed backhand felt good, though it was too easy to over-hit. Conversely, my single-handed slice felt GREAT! I was able to get plenty of depth and bite on that shot much more easily than with the Pure Strike. This was a huge plus during the set of doubles I played during my demo period.

Serve

Well-struck serves using the Pure Control Tour were virtually unreturnable because of the spin and extra pop that this racquet provides. Unfortunately, I struggled with control and made a few more double faults than I would prefer.

The larger issue with this racquet, however, was the negative impact of the weight and vibration. My shoulder began to hurt after a few service games, and off-center serves caused vibration that further irritated my shoulder and elbow.

Volleys

babolat-pure-control-header2Another plus: volleys felt great. The Pure Control Tour gave me a ton of control and depth without popping the ball up, and leaving me vulnerable to my opponent’s passing shot attack. In this instance, the racquet’s heft was extremely helpful.

Overall

Don’t get me wrong. I liked the Pure Control Tour, and would probably have liked it even more if my shoulder hadn’t been bothering me as much. Apart from the shoulder pain, however, there are other considerations that make this racquet problematic for me and my game.

The Pure Control Tour is a great racquet to help take your game to the next level. At the age of 51 with two surgeries under my belt, I’m not looking to get to the next level. Though I’m always working to improve my skills, I need a racquet that supports the maintenance of my current level while also preventing injury. This is not that racquet.

If I were younger OR hadn’t had shoulder surgery, I would have given this racquet more time to impress. As it was, I had to cut short my demo due to increasing shoulder pain.

The Pure Control Tour is a great racquet if you are looking to take your game to the next level. If not, then you may want to consider some other options.

Note: If you’re interested in this racquet, take it out for a hit and judge for yourself. Racquet specs and marketing-speak are no substitute for knowing the strengths/weaknesses of your game, and how a racquet might help or hurt your goals.

(Racquet provided by City Racquet Shop of San Francisco.)

Racquet Specifications

Head Size: 98 sq. in. / 632.26 sq. cm.
Length: 27in / 68.58cm
Strung Weight: 11.8oz / 334.52g
Balance: 12.63in / 32.08cm / 7 pts HL
Swingweight: 317
Stiffness: 63
Composition: Graphite & Flex Carbon
Power Level: Low
Stroke Style: Full
Swing Speed: Fast
String Pattern: 16 Mains / 20 Crosses
String Tension: 52-62 pounds

PostHeaderIcon Sharing My “Racquet Demo Hell”

I typically suffer in silence when going through the process of demo’ing racquets (wherein as you are trying to find your next racquet your game slowly starts to deteriorate because of all the changes until you can’t even hit a decent shot with your old racquet). But one of my hitting buddies persuaded me to share my experiences here on my blog so that it might help someone else who is also suffering through this process (thanks Patrick). 😉

I’ve used a Volkl Tour 10 V-Engine since it first came out several years ago. Back then I needed a racquet that would force me improve my stroke production and technique. It was perfect. Well-balanced and good power/control with proper stroke production. It was the racquet for becoming the better player I wanted to be. But as I have gotten older (almost 48) with shoulder/knee surgeries in the past 4 years (both on my dominant hitting side) plus other various injuries, I need a racquet that suits my current game and body. I find myself struggling with both power and control as soon as I lose even a single pound of tension in the strings. After a rough USTA season I decided to suck it up and start the process of finding my new “The One”.

First up was the Wilson Blade 98 BLX. It’s the racquet seen in the commercials with Federer, Venus, and Serena. They push a couch onto court to help counsel a struggling player, telling them this racquet will help them get more feel. It’s great advertising! I especially like the Roger commercial. Who doesn’t like a commercial with two cute guys, right? Anyway… it was a no-go for me and my game. The racquet gives a solid feel on groundstrokes, but is much more head-heavy than my current Volkl. So I felt a distinct lack of control on all shots when I was pressured, especially coming in for short balls. Serving was difficult as well. Too much vibration, and no control on serve placement. If the serve landed in it was usually a good one with lots of weight behind it, but I couldn’t tell you how I did it. Not the feeling you want in a racquet. NEXT!!!

Next demo test racquet was the Wilson BLX Pro Tour. I was told it is the racquet used by Juan Martin del Potro. A quick trip to Wikipedia showed that he switched to The Wilson K Factor 6.2 after coming back from his wrist injury. I won’t give any commentary on the reasons why he may have switched from this racquet, but after hitting with it for 5 minutes I hated it on all fronts. Bad for my backhand, forehand AND serve. NEXT!!!

I’ve never owned a Babolat racquet, but after hitting with a friend’s last week I decided to demo one. I picked up the Babolat GT Pure Storm, and I hated it. Racquet felt pretty lackluster on the backhand, and every forehand hit the back fence behind my hitting partner. I didn’t even bother attempting other strokes. NEXT!!!

After round 1 of demos, I went back to the pro shop to get some more demos based on my feedback from the first batch.

I came out with two Volkls and a Head. The Volkls were updated versions of the racquet I have been using. They were the PB9 and PB10 racquets. I had high hopes for these. The pro at the shop mentioned that most people who play Volkl don’t really find satisfaction with other brands. So I thought these two sticks would follow in the same tradition and work perfectly on first contact. Result: not so much. The PB10 felt heavy from the first ball strike…much more than my current racquet. And stiff.

My hitting partner could only focus on how bad the vibrations felt from this racquet more than any other aspect. Also, if my goal was to find a maneuverable and forgiving racquet, this was not going to cut it. Didn’t even wait to try serves before switching to the PB9. It was better than the PB10, but still didn’t feel right. Forehands were tough to control, backhands had no feel. The weight didn’t feel good in my hand. It went back into the bag. NEXT!!!

Having suffered a major Volkl letdown (my last 3 racquets have been Volkls), I tried the last of the demos: the Head Youtek IG Speed MP 315. Novak Djokovic uses Head racquets. I wouldn’t pretend to think that my game is anywhere near comparable to his game. And I have never owned a Head racquet. So my expectations were pretty low for this racquet.

However, on first strike it felt surprisingly good. Really good. I have a long but quick stroke (too quick at times). This racquet allows for that kind of wind-up and still keeps the ball on the court. It feels good off both sides, and gave me good feel and depth on both wings. Serves were a dream. I felt like I could maneuver the ball all over the box with a ton of added slice. Volleys felt solid with good control, short balls felt good too. It didn’t take long to make up my mind on this Head racquet… I pretty much had what I was looking for.

Of course rallying is a very different experience from set or match play. The weight difference between my current Volkl and the Head is significant. The light weight caused some problems. Playing a set was a challenge in slowing down a swing speed that’s been programmed over 7 years. When the adrenaline starts pumping during match play, it’s easy to swing too fast putting the contact point way far in front of you (which sends the ball straight to the bottom of the net). That’s okay though. I should be able to adapt with time, right? 😉 Bottom line: I’m still stoked by the potential of this stick!

I will demo a few more models and report on those within the week. But the Head Youtek IG Speed MP 315 is definitely the frontrunner!
(SPECIAL THANKS to Lynnette and Keri at the San Francisco Tennis Club pro shop for their help in finding a racquet that suits my game.)

PostHeaderIcon Wednesday’s Surprise

work shelf with a new additionI was plugging away today at work and just happened to look up at the shelf above my monitors to a cool surprise.  You know the shelf we all kinda have at work for general stuff we want to keep at work, but also becomes a bit of a forgotten land.

My shelf has old birthday cards, a carved elephant statue from India, my Imax 3D glasses from Avatar at the Metreon, an “Ancient Hawaiian Tiki” (at least that’s what it’s labeled), a trophy for the scariest costume from our Halloween party in 2008, a small nurf-type novelty car from an auto dealer tradeshow, and a great pic of my and one of my ex-coworkers with Santa Claus at a holiday “carnival” party.  Quite a collection, huh?

Today there was a new addition:  a can of the new French Open branded Babolat tennis balls.  No note, email,  or anything.  Yes almost everyone here knows I’m a total tennis freak, but still it caught me off-guard… in a very cool way.  Especially now that I’m getting a little more hardcore with my tennis-ness, it was a nice touch to start the day.  Eventually the secret Santa came forward.  So to him I say, “thanks Ric”.  🙂

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