Data has become a massive part of sports in recent years. The advancement of sports tracker technology has meant that recreational players and professionals alike can track, record and use their playing data to improve their game.
Back in late 2013, Babolat released the Babolat Play, a device fitted inside the handle of the racket that tracked all sorts of playing data. First launched in a Play Pure Drive racket, the device worked in tandem with the Babolat Play App which gave players the ability to analyse their session.
The App showed the number of forehands, backhands, serves and volleys the player hit during their session. It also compared the spin and speed of the user’s strokes to those of top 20 ATP players, so recreational players could test themselves against the game’s elite!
This promised to be the next big thing in tennis technology. But as of late, we don’t see too many Babolat Play rackets around… so what happened? Well, we will explore how useful the Babolat Play rackets are, along with whether you should buy one!
How it Works
The Babolat Play line of rackets feature a small motion sensor inside the handle of the racket. This is operated using a removable butt cap that houses two small buttons. The first of these is the on/off button, so you can decide when you want the device to record your strokes.
The second button serves two purposes. The first is to pause and restart the Babolat Play data collection, so if you are between sets or want to distinguish between practice and a match, you can pause the device.
Furthermore, the second button also allows the racket sensor to pair to your smartphone, which enables the Babolat Play App to show you your playing statistics.
You will also see a small socket from which you can plug in your Babolat Play racket to charge up the sensor, ready for your next session.
When you first download the app, you are asked whether you are right or left handed, so the motion sensor can determine whether you are hitting a forehand or a backhand at any given moment.
Once you have finished your session using Babolat Play, you can simply log in to the app and view your stats. The app is user friendly and also lets you connect with other Babolat Play users, so you can compare your data. So if your coach wants to keep a watchful eye on your matches or training sessions, they can see how well you’re hitting those forehands and backhands!
What it Measures
Babolat Play measures the power of your shots by recording your racket head speed, along with how much spin you generate on your shots compared to top 20 ATP professionals. The app also depicts a virtual racket head, showing you what percentage of balls were struck in each area of the string bed. So it’s clear to see how often you’re really hitting the sweet spot!
The integrated device also tracks which spin you are hitting, be it topspin, slice or flat. This can be surprising for some players who may be hitting the ball flat more often than they expect!
The Babolat Play app also gives you a pyramid of progress, so you can assess your technique, endurance and power. These are measured based on your total play time, number of individual shots you hit, your longest rally length, serving speed and impact indicator.
You can also see how many forehands, backhands, serves and volleys you hit in a match for example. Therefore you can see how much you really do get into the net, or whether your tactic to get round your backhand and hit more forehands was implemented well or not.
Combine this with the spin indicator and you really do get a good insight into your own playing style.
Therefore, you can visually see where your strengths lie and where you need to improve, helping you to tailor your practice sessions and training to develop your game.
This data can therefore be a very useful tool for understanding where your game is currently at and identify areas you need to specifically improve on. It’s also quite cool to see how your forehand or serve speed compares to that of the best players in the world!
Babolat Play’s Limitations
With all the advantages of using data to track your tennis progress, it may be difficult to understand why the Babolat Play rackets have not been more popular. Surely if the data was so useful and the system worked so well, then why doesn’t everybody use it?
Well, whilst the benefits outlined above are clear to see for a player looking to improve their game, there are a few limitations associated with the Babolat Play.
Firstly, whilst this is not necessarily an issue with the device itself, Babolat Play records the same data constantly. This can make improving your game difficult in the long term, as you will be presented with the same data over and over again.
Perhaps if the Babolat Play came equipped with some coaching points or methods for improving each area of your game, it would be more useful.
Additionally, many reviewers and players have experienced issues with syncing the sensor to their smartphone and the app not registering their sessions correctly. Whilst this only may be an issue with earlier versions of the device, it is still worth noting as these kind of teething problems can be very frustrating. Especially as Babolat were charging nearly double the price for their Play line of rackets compared to the regular versions.
Other Smart Sensors
Coolang Tennis POD
The Coolang Tennis POD is a lightweight tennis sensor that uses revolutionary motion sensing technology. It connects externally to the bottom of your racket’s handle and even records video of your tennis session!
QLIPP Tennis Sensor
Unlike most tennis sensors, the QLIPP Tennis Sensor is designed as a shock absorber rather than fitting to the bottom of the tennis racket. Positioned on the strings, the QLIPP gives incredibly accurate spin, speed and sweet spot accuracy data that can be shared via the dedicated smartphone app.
Sony Smart Tennis Sensor
Similarly to the Coolang Tennis POD, the Sony Smart Tennis Sensor attaches to the bottom of your racket’s handle, meaning it can be used on any tennis racket you choose! The Sony sensor was the main competitor to the Babolat Play technology back in 2013, and unsurprisingly from a company as well known as Sony, it delivered.
The Sony sensor also uses a smartphone app to record and track data. It records a similar level of data as the Babolat Play but is more versatile since it can be used on many different rackets.
Should You Buy a Babolat Play Tennis Racket?
The Babolat Play is a useful device for recording your tennis data, which can give you valuable insights into your game. Tracking and analysing your data can help you understand your game and give you the ability to improve it more easily.
However, the Babolat Play line of tennis rackets now seem to be expensive and outdated compared to the current crop of portable smart sensors. They restrict you to only using that specific racket where other sensors can be used on any racket, and do not give any significant advantage over the competition.
So overall, whilst Babolat Play tennis rackets offered a revolutionary introduction of data into the world of tennis, the rackets themselves have been overtaken by the competition. Therefore, we would recommend going for an alternative tennis sensor.
Babolat Play paved the way for data to become a more integrated part of the game of tennis. When it was first launched, the tennis world took to it and understood the benefits of collecting and analysing data. This gave a clear indication as to how understanding more about your game can help you improve.
However, the limiting factors of the Babolat Play are clear to see. The expense and lack of flexibility with the line of rackets meant that the door was open for other, less expensive sensors could come in and take over the market.
Therefore, whilst the Babolat Play was a pioneer in its space, it is not the best tennis sensor on the market. There are now many other sensors that track and record data just as well or better, but cost less and can be used on any tennis racket.