I just got done interrogating Mark Boone after his trip to Babolat last week for the launch of the Babolat PLAY racquet. He was kind enough to write some feedback on his experience for you guys to check out. Here it is — enjoy!
I was fortunate enough to get an invite to the launch of the new Babolat PLAY Technology, in Louisville, Colorado. I knew that tagging along with Chris Edwards was going to be an education in itself, and once I saw what the schedule was for the couple of days we were there, I was admittedly a little giddy.
The first evening was the presentation of what to expect the following day with the newest Pure Drive, and if the level of anticipation I developed that night was by design, the good people at Babolat were successful on all fronts. I went back to my room thinking that this was the longest build-up to playing tennis that I have ever had to deal with, so it was hard for me to wait until the next day to actually “Play and Connect” with the Pure Drive.
Technology wise, I am not exactly the equivalent of “Fred Flintstone in the rock quarry,” but I am not always on the cutting edge of digital technology either. As a result, the learning aspect of connecting the technology with the frame and how to use it was a little overshadowed by my desire to just go play tennis.
At the first couple of educational stations, the developers of the racquet and its technology were on hand to to guide/simplify the process. Within minutes, I was able to understand, navigate swiftly through the Babolat app and set it up for play. As soon as my personal profile was completed, which among many things differentiates the dominant hand, I was ready to skip lunch and get started!
My first session was with Chris, which lasted 15 minutes. In that time I was able to hit a total of 206 shots (mostly groundstrokes, with a few volleys). The app records/displays lots of details about your game/style that you cannot see in yourself while playing. I hit 84 backhands versus 121 forehands, and the longest rally was 15 shots. The technology then breaks those numbers down into how many flat, slice or topspin shots I hit off of either wing. It also assigns a percentage number that is relative to a specific level of power (racquet head speed) that the player exhibits for each swing/gesture that the ball makes contact with the stringbed. For the second, third and fourth sessions, I did serve, along with hitting lots of overheads, which seemed to all be recorded accurately. As it was explained to me, the difference between the serve, second serve and the overhead, is primarily based on the duration of time between shots. So if a groundstroke was quickly followed by an overhead-type of shot, the technology identifies it as an overhead, but if there is slightly longer duration of time between shots, the “overhead” gesture will be logged as a serve.
One of the aspects I liked the most was seeing where I am making contact with the ball on the stringbed, percentage wise. This can be viewed in terms of all shots or specific ones, which I feel is helpful. I also believed that I hit with more topspin on my backhand wing, and this technology definitely dispelled that myth. Now I can work on that progression and monitor any change in spin level with this new Pure Drive.
All in all, I feel like I am able to view my tennis-self in a slightly more realistic manner than before, and I appreciate the ability it features to compare results with other players who share the same technology. I now have the desire to see what I am doing after my matches or practice sessions. Keep in mind that the app does much more for the player than I have even touched on and which I have yet to explore. And a more refined version of the app will also be released when the frame goes on sale.
However, like most tennis players, we are masters at detecting any finite flaws and inconsistencies with any part of our equipment choices, and there was one facet of the app that got some of that attention. Once I arrived back here at TW to give a report on the trip and display how the racquet technology works/looks, an astute observation was made by a rather well respected player here. He noticed that, off the forehand wing, the app indicated that I hit 22 slices. We all know each other’s games pretty well, and he lamented that I rarely use that squash shot forehand. He was correct — it is almost impossible for me to hit a forehand without excessive top spin. I tested this out, and realized that the gesture between the forehand volley, and the forehand slice are similar enough that the listing of the shot is a bit ambiguous. Basically, I was hitting some volleys at net, which were getting logged as groundstrokes.
Overall, the trip turned out to be great success and was very educational. I am going to continue to explore what this app can do for a player’s practical skill improvement. If/when any other details come up, I will try and communicate them back to you. The new PLAY Technology from Babolat is, without a doubt, a new chapter for tennis and tennis players, and as Babolat said it’s “a new book all together.”