Love At First 'Strike'?

When you start working in a tennis shop, it quickly becomes apparent that aesthetics are important to customers–perhaps the most important thing–when they’re choosing a new racquet. Often a customer’s eyes simply fix upon a racquet and it's love at first sight. Every other racquet, regardless of its suitability to their game, might as well be dead to them. 

One racquet that’s regularly catching the eye of customers at the moment is the third-generation Babolat Pure Strike. The predominantly white racquet head is oddly alluring, like an albino in a beauty contest, and the elegance that Dominic Thiem’s game brings to the brand/model is a perfect fit. 

Who wouldn’t drool at the thought of hitting Thiem’s fluid, single-handed slingshot of a backhand?


Thiem is reputed to have refined his backhand technique by ripping his heart out of his own chest (and presumably putting it back in again)


After a recent match, I was intrigued to find two players with vastly different styles–one a power baseliner, one a pusher–both using the Pure Strike. Interestingly, both players swore that it was the perfect racquet for them. 

Yesterday I took the store’s 16x19 demo Strike out for a hit of doubles, so that I could see what lay beyond its allure.

The Strike is designed for aggressive players who like to take the ball on the rise. I am not this type of player. My game is similar to Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei, the current world number 32, who hits a variety of cutters off both wings and likes to alter the pace so that her opponents can never settle into a rhythm. An anti-player, if you prefer. 

Throughout the hit, I never felt comfortable playing my forehand slice, dumping some balls into the net and lacking depth when trying to shield forehands on the return of serve. The forehand slice is not a shot that many players use regularly, so I don’t see this as much of a drawback.

In contrast, I slowly found my range on the backhand slice and managed to start knifing the ball deep into the court, which facilitated net approaches (a great tactic on slick, synthetic grass).

Where the Strike really lived up to expectations was when I opted to flatten out my ball. My first serve, in particular, was noticeably more powerful, especially when I shelved my slice serve and aimed/swatted for a spot in the service box.


Thiem (above) attempting to draw the Roland-Garros crowd's attention to some hilarious skywriting (even higher above)


Like Hsieh Su-wei, I don’t usually win a lot of free points on serve, however I was jamming my opponents with body serves and, on occasions, producing aces down the T. All of my opponents commented on the added ‘pop’ off my serve. 

I also found that when I flattened out my groundstrokes, I started to find the sweet spot on this racquet more regularly. There were numerous times when I attacked the net player from the baseline on hip-height groundstrokes. The ball seemed to be upon my opponents very quickly and often resulted in them barely having time to get their racquet on it.

I eventually figured out the right way to brush up the back of the ball on high forehands, so that I could generate topspin with an Eastern grip, relying on a Rafa-style, lasso follow-through. I genuinely felt as though I had an extra split-second of feel on the strings to ‘shape’ these shots (hybrid stringing: Volkl Cyclone Tour on the main and Head Sonic Pro for the cross).  

By the end of the hit, I was getting nice dip on topspin balls, especially lobs, and really found my range. I sense that this would be the perfect racquet for the red dirt of Philippe Chatrier!

One criticism from teammates (Thiem-mates!) who’ve used previous versions of the Strike is that it can be an unforgiving racquet if the ball isn’t centred on the string bed. I understand this criticism and found my normal racquet (Head Speed MP) has a greater margin for error on off centre shots. I also prefer the Speed to the Strike at the net, as it gives more touch on drop volleys and angled volleys, which my game is reliant upon.

The Strike is an excellent racquet, providing power and depth. It’s marginally more conducive to topspin than backspin. I have little doubt that it will continue to seduce customers over the Australian summer. As I suspected, it isn’t quite the right racquet for my game, although it did remind me of the type of player I’d like to be in a better life (Dominic Thiem). Not love at first Strike, but it was a fun one-night stand!

As always, if you need any tennis equipment, or just fancy a chat about the game, please drop by KK Tennis. 475 Malvern Road, South Yarra. Looking forward to a great summer of tennis!

November 25, 2019 — Murray

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