Expert Review: Babolat Pure Strike 98 Racquet · 18x20 Unstrung
This review is my honest opinion of the tennis racquet, which I tested for 5 days in August of 2022.
About this Review: This review is my honest opinion of the tennis racquet, which I tested for 5 days in August of 2022.
The Babolat Pure Strike 18x20 is ideal for advanced players looking for precision and feel with very good stability. The moderate 11.4oz strung weight makes it less demanding than many classic players’ racquets, but the high 334RDC swingweight maintains all the stability that players need when facing hard-hitting opponents. The Pure Strike 18x20 offers the best feel of any Babolat racquet and should be a must-try for any high-level player.
About the gear
- Model: Babolat Pure Strike 18x20
- Grip Size: 4 ⅜ / EU 3
- String and Tension: Babolat Hybrid with Babolat RPM Rough Red 17g in the Mains and Babolat Xcel 16g in the Crosses. Strung at 56lbs.
- Head size: 98
- Racquet Length: 27
- Any Customizations: Wilson Pro Overgrip
- Height: 5’11”
- Weight: 185 lbs
- Previous Racquet Played With: Head Graphene 360+ Gravity MP
- Experience: 28 years
- NTRP/UTA Rating: 5.0
- When I tested these: August 2022
- Days tested: 5 days
- Court Surfaces: Hard
- Match Play/Practice Session/Both: Both
- Where I’ve used it: Kingsford High School, Kingsford, MI
How it performs
What I was looking for
The current Head Graphene 360+ Gravity MP that I have been playing with since June 2021 is my favorite Head racquet that I’ve used in a long line of racquets. It offers a modern take on a traditional player’s racquet with easier access to spin and a sweet spot higher up on the stringbed to suit the modern forehand. It is a lighter racquet, though, with a 295g unstrung weight, and it can get pushed around by hard-hitting opponents, especially on first-serve returns. I added weight to the head, but it changed the overall feel, so I reverted back to stock form and instead tried to rely on better timing to compensate for the instability. I’ve been testing racquets looking for something that offers the feel, control, and spin of my Gravity while also offering more stability.
Why I chose this gear
I’ve never gotten on well with Babolat racquets throughout my playing career. They are typically too stiff and overpowered for my playing style, but the Pure Strike 18x20 gave my current racquet a run for its money. The stability, comfort, and control were great, offering plenty of pop for my game. If the swingweight were slightly lower, maybe 330RDC rather than the 334, for more maneuverability, I would have taken a long hard look at switching.
What I love about it
- Control: The tight 18x20 string bed and low-powered frame allowed me to swing freely on groundstrokes and be aggressive when choosing targets. The Pure Strike 18x20 doesn’t rely on easy spin generation to keep the ball in the court, but it does offer spin with the right technique. The control also shone through on serves where I could place the ball with ease, especially on first serves.
- Feel: When looking at the 66 RA stiffness rating on the spec sheet, I worried that the Pure Strike 18x20 would be another overly stiff and harsh-feeling Babolat racquet, but I was wrong. The C2Pure Feel dampening technology at 3 and 9 o’clock of the head must contribute to this. The feel of the ball at impact was crisp yet comfortable and reminded me a lot of the newest Auxetic racquets from Head.
- Stability: With a 334RDC swingweight, I knew going into the test that the Pure Strike 18x20 would be a big step up in stability from my Gravity MP. It did not disappoint. I was able to take full swings against big first serves. The racquet plowed right through the ball. When stepping in to take the ball on the rise, I never felt the racquet flutter, which let me drive it deep and on target.
Issues I’ve encountered
- Power: The Pure Strike 18x20 is meant for players that generate their own power with long, fast strokes. The frame is low-powered, the string bed is tight, and the beam is designed for control. This isn’t an issue as long as one knows what to expect going into it. The higher swingweight let me get some good pace on groundstrokes when swinging fast, but the racquet didn’t offer any free help in terms of power.
- Maneuverability: That high swingweight that makes the Pure Strike 18x20 so stable and smooth is also its main downfall. I think a slight reduction to 330RDC would give the racquet just enough quickness for a more modern forehand style while maintaining the stable feel. Thanks to the high swingweight, I could feel my timing being just slightly late at the end of a long match and started missing targets I hit easily earlier with the racquet.
- Serves: I mentioned above that targeting on serve was tremendous, but the overall experience was merely adequate. Again, that heavy swingweight took away some of the racquet head speed I utilize to get a good kick serve and generate pace on my first serve. Serving with the Pure Strike 18x20 was predictable and safe for me, rather than being a shot with which I could go on offense.
Favorite moment with this gear
Hitting my first 10-15 forehands with the Babolat Pure Strike 18x20 was eye-opening. I had just been hitting with the Yonex VCORE Pro 97, and my timing was a mess. I was shanking balls left and right and didn’t have a good feel of the ball on my strings. I grabbed the Pure Strike 18x20, and it instantly calmed everything down. The stability, comfort, and control felt like a warm hug that reset my game.
Value for the money vs. other options
The Babolat Pure Strike 18x20 is a great value for the money as it is priced $20-40 less than similar racquets such as the Head Prestige MP, Wilson Blade V8 18x20, and Yonex Ezone 98 Tour.
The Babolat Pure Strike 18x20 offers a classic player’s racquet control and feel and pairs it with modern technology. With a high swingweight, it has all the stability a high-level player needs to go up against big-hitting opponents. It could be a bit more maneuverable, but for a player with great technique and footwork, it can provide laser-guided accuracy from all over the court.