In August, Babolat announced the new Babolat Play. I've since had the chance to chat with Eric Babolat, Babolat President and CEO, about the new stick:
TennisIDENTITY: Have any of your top sponsored athletes (male and female) used the Babolat Play and analysis or is this more of a learner's/recreational player's racquet?
Eric Babolat: As is the case for all Babolat products, we worked closely with our pro players to develop Babolat Play. They gave us their input and their feedback at different stages of the development process. For example some pro players (Nadal, Tsonga, Na Li, Clijsters) tested it at the French Open in May 2012. These same players amongst others (including key coaches like Toni Nadal) tested it at other stages of the development process.
Babolat Play is a great asset for the players as it provides information that their coaches or cameras around the courts cannot provide. We know how each detail is important at the highest level and Babolat Play could make the difference.
As for names, we cannot communicate on who will start playing with Babolat Play (Australian Open 2014 might even be too soon to say), but we think all our pro players will adopt it quickly.
This racquet will be for all tennis players, not just pro players. Players of all levels will appreciate the information and experience offered by Babolat Play.
Are special strings required for the new racquet?
No, it’s the same as a regular Babolat Pure Drive. Our stringing recommendation would be the same as for a regular Babolat Pure Drive.
Will you be rolling the technology into more racquets. It looks like you only have it in one at this time or is it a series that incorporates the technology?
Our objective is to integrate this technology on several racquets in the range. At the beginning, it will be on one model: the Babolat Play Pure Drive, our most versatile and maneuverable racquet. We want this technology, from the start, to be accessible to the largest number of players, the Pure Drive is used by club players as well as competition player.
Our vision is that in 10-15 years, all tennis racquets will be connected!
What do you feel is the most useful information that one can garner from the information gathered using a Babolat Play during a match?
Really what Babolat Play offers is a more holistic way to view your game. It’s not just the data that will be interesting, it’s how that data is used that is most meaningful. The more you know about your game, the better you perform. Players can analyze all aspects of their game: style, new skills, when your backhand is getting better, or when you break a personal record or even an international one (Examples of data: type and number of strokes, spin level, ball impact location, total and effective play time, power, endurance, technique consistency, energy and rallies…).
Players can follow theirevolution step by step, go back in time and track the progression of their game. By using the skills features you can see you need to improve. Could your slice be even more precise? Or is your serve as strong as it could be? In “Skills” you get an easy look into which strokes you often use, and which ones you haven’t implemented into your game. The more diverse your style is, the tougher an opponent you become.
In addition to getting information about one’s game, the Babolat Play adds a new dimension to the game: the sharing and the community aspect.
Would you say that a tennis teacher/coach would find it useful for their students to use the Babolat Play's capabilities?
This is a formidable tool for a coach. This technology gives the coach more specific information about the player. He can have information about all his players, and have an overview of his each player. This allows him to identify area for improvement for his students for better coaching: the coach can give more relevant advice based on objective data. The coach will get factual information about the game, instead of mere sensations, as has been the case until today. It is the coach’s job to interpret the information and to translate the data into relevant advice for the player.
Or for example, the player can do training sessions by himself, according to a program agreed upon with his coach.
New ITF rule? We have been working closely with the ITF for more than a year to respect the rules of tennis and make sure all tennis players could benefit from this breakthrough innovation, on any court.
In support of this new innovation in tennis, the ITF have recently modified the rules of tennis by adding the Rule n°31, which allows the use of player analysis technologies during official competitions. This new rule will apply starting January 1st 2014.