Babolat The Brand
Babolat has been one of the foremost innovators and has had a big impact on the history of tennis. This can be seen through their development of strings and racquets but also in a more behind the scenes capacity with their stringing and customization machines.
From a stringing and customization stand point, they have been at the pinnacle for decades. Their stringing machines have combined reliability, precision, ease of use and inspire confidence among touring professionals when they turn up at any event. The fact that the Babolat Star 4 is still used by the most prominent travelling stringing company (despite it being nearly 30 years old) is a testament to the brand’s quality. Their RDC machine has also allowed racquet technicians the ability to measure and adjust a racquet’s specifications so that the weight, balance and swing weight can be fine-tuned to each individual player’s needs.
A year after tennis was born; Pierre Babolat would change the sport forever.
Pierre Babolat (image: babolat.com)
In 1875 at his home in Lyon, France, Babolat fashioned racquet strings from sheep intestines – a process that was deemed revolutionary.
Babolat strings would stand the test of time, helping to produce some of the game’s greatest champions, including 19-time major winner Rafael Nadal. It also provided the foundation of a five-generation family business that continues to thrive 150 years later.
The company’s roots and reputation started with the invention of tennis racquet strings and eventually expanded its footprint to produce some of the best quality tennis, squash and badminton equipment.
1930s Logo (image: recreation)
In 1925, Albert Babolat introduced the VS Natural Gut string, taking the company and the sport to another level in France.
A group of players known as “The Musketeers” received string samples listed alphabetically. When the four players - Jean Borotra, Jacques Brugnon, Henri Cochet and René Lacoste - reached sample V, it was agreed, “V is superior,” hence the name V Superior (VS).
Rene Lacoste and Suzanne Lenglen became the first players to win the French Open with Babolat strings.
Their VS Natural Gut strings have evolved quite extensively over the years with coatings being added to help increase its life, as well as hold up better in extreme weather situations. It’s quite uncommon that the gut is used for a full stringing job on tour now; however its comfort, tension maintenance and power are still used by between 30-40% of the professionals as part of a hybrid. With that in mind Babolat had to join the polyester revolution and they have done so with huge success. Their RPM Blast string is one of the most popular strings among professionals, always in the top 3 types of string used at any big event.
In the wake of World War II, manufacturers’ interest in synthetic materials led Babolat to invent the first synthetic string in 1955, known as “Elascord.”
1970s Logo (image: recreation)
1980s Babolat VS Logo (image: recreation)
In 1981, the company introduced the first electric stringing machine called “The Exclusive.” This machine was a more reliable means of stringing by having a computerized electric motor control the tension, allowing for more accuracy.
Exclusive Stringing Machine (image: babolat.com)
The following year, Babolat released “Elastocross”, an innovative racquet string protector which functions to prolong an installed string’s lifespan.
Babolat Elastocross (image: babolat.com)
1990s Logos (image: recreation)
In 1992, Babolat created the Racquet Diagnostic Center (RDC) technology, allowing for a quick and very reliable diagnosis of a racquet’s weight, balance, swing-weight and flexibility.
RDC Machine (image: babolat.com)
Two years later, Babolat introduced its first tennis racquet, the iconic Pure Drive. The success of this racquet was celebrated with Carlos Moya’s 1998 win at the French Open.
1994 Pure Drive (image: babolat.com)
The Pure Drive racquet, after its introduction in the mid-90s, lays a huge claim to changing the game as we know it. Gone are the days of serve and volleying dominating the tour. The extra power and spin potential available from the Pure Drive has allowed players to move further back and be able to hit shots never before possible, creating angles and added power to pass anyone who ventured forward. Since then every racquet has become more powerful with a wider range of racquets available in the 300 gram mark than any other.
Woofer technology (image: babolat.com)
Further technological advancements of the racquet arrived five years later with Woofer - an interactive system of a racquet’s frame and strings when making contact.
2002 Logo (image: recreation)
During 2003, the French company teamed up with Michelin, the world’s leading tire expert, to create its first shoe. Furthermore, tennis professional Rafael Nada ladopted the launch of the new “Aero” racquet concept: the world’s first aerodynamic frame and best seller at Merchant of Tennis.
2003 Footwear (image: babolat.com)
Two years later, Nadal won the first of his many French Open titles using racquets and strings produced by Babolat, a company that began in a home just over 450 kilometers south of Paris.
During the 2005 season, Andy Roddick signed a contract with Babolat to wear team all court shoes. The professional tennis player was known for using the Pure Drive Roddick, a customized version of the Pure Drive Tour and a best seller.
Andy Roddick: sponsored Babolat player (image: babolat.com)
Three years later, Babolat launched the Play Pure Drive; a sensor racquet that collects data on a player’s game and transfers to a smartphone or tablet application for analysis. The world’s first of its kind.
2012 Logo (image: babolat.com)
Today, Babolat is known as the oldest racquet sport company and is found in more than 100 countries. Since 1998, the current CEO of the family owned business is Eric Babolat