(Louisville, CO 11/7/13) Babolat Play introduced as the first “connected” tennis racquet, in the form of the Babolat Pure Drive. Does it live up to what is promises? After spending a full day engaging with the Babolat Play development team, and experiencing the Babolat Play racquet and app first hand on court, the answer is YES.
Upon first glance the Play looks like a Babolat Pure Drive with a black/orange cosmetic update, where the standard version is blue. A more detailed look at the butt cap reveals there is more beneath the hood than just a fresh paint scheme. LED’s flash in various colors to indicate power on/off, bluetooth connectivity, and session reset options. Opening the trap door reveals the USB charging port to recharge the battery contained in the handle which powers the diagnostic hardware. This USB can also be used to load your data onto a tablet or computer that does not have Bluetooth capability.
Amazingly, this is achieved without changing the specs of the frame from the Pure Drive we already know and love.
In a hitting session, the Play racquet records the type and number of strokes (forehand, backhand, serve, smash), spin level, ball impact location, total and effective play time, power, endurance, technique, consistency, energy, and rallies. Turn the racquet on, play as long as you like, then once you finish a hitting session, sync via Bluetooth to smartphone with Babolat Play app installed and load your session data in a matter of seconds. Use this information to challenge yourself, challenge your friends, and see how you stack up against other members of the global Play community!
The data generated can be used in a variety of ways:
1) “Pulse” is a dynamic interface that changes according to the power, technique, and endurance of your game. The idea is that gives you a baseline on which to challenge yourself to improve your game.
2) Analyze your game data to improve weaknesses, and hone strengths even further. Track this data to actually be able to chart your progress with quantifiable numbers. Go for improving a personal record or see how you stack up against the other members of the Babolat Play community, or even stats from the Top ATP Tour players.
3) The “Evolution” feature allows you to see how you have progressed from session to session.
4) For a developing player seeking to get to the next level, the Skills feature allows you to break down which strokes you favor, and which ones need work to become a more complete player. Implementing new strokes/stroke types into your game is crucial to achieving a high technique score in your overall “Pulse” rating.
5) “Versus” allows you to not only challenge your own inner opponent, but to compare how you stack up against other Play users, as well as on a one-to-one level with friends.
6) “Community” shows you where you stand in the global ranking and by category. You are also able to look into the profiles and levels of your friends, of Babolat Pro Players, and the rest of the Babolat Play user base.
Upon completion of the first on court experience with the Babolat Play racquet, some thoughts:
The set up and integration of the technology is very user friendly. You do not need to be incredibly technically gifted to set up the necessary steps to use Play. If you run into problems, your grade school child can probably set it up for you! As with most technology, the key is to immerse yourself in it and be hands on. No one wants to read an owners manual to learn their new iPhone, iPad, etc. Getting comfortable with Babolat Play is no different.
We were using the racquets strung with Babolat Xcel 16 strung in the upper 50’s, in addition to playing at high altitude in Boulder, CO with non-high altitude Babolat tennis balls. To say this was a lively combination would be an incredible understatement. Once you adapt to this combo, 15-20 minute down the line hitting sessions went smoothly to generate some session data that could be loaded into the app. Once at least 2 sessions were completed, loaded into the app, and validated, we were able to see our “Pulse”. Very enlightening to be able to see your stroke preferences, where you hit each type of shot on the racquet face, and how consistently (or not) you thought you were. Humbling, yes, but very powerful to actually see the numbers!
Players of all levels will gain insight from reading the data, and whether you utilize the information for friendly competition, game improvement, or for serious insight into taking your competitive tennis to the next level, Babolat Play is poised to be a revolutionary concept for all passionate tennis players.
For sale 12/12/2013