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Friday, December 06, 2013 Babolat Play Review

By Matt Locke

For this self-professed tech junkie, getting the Babolat Pure Drive Play in the mail a few weeks back was like an early Christmas gift. In minutes I had it unwrapped and plugged in so that it would be fully charged for hitting. I have gotten to spend a bit of time with it and am happy to report that it is every bit as fun, addicting and useful as it sounds. For those wondering, it plays just like the standard Pure Drive. It has the same specs when it comes to weight and balance. The frame hits with loads of power, generous spin production and a firm, solid feel. Keep reading to see our in-depth look at the unique features that make this such a revolutionary product, and see what Rafa Nadal has to say by watching the video on the left.

The connectivity aspect of the frame is first on the list. You can download the Babolat Play app to your iOS or Android device. There is not a tablet specific version at this time, so phones work best. Once the app is installed and you have created your profile, you simply pair the racquet with your device wirelessly using Bluetooth. Once paired, all you have to do is open the app and have it sync your information. The racquet can also be plugged in to a PC or Mac via USB for uploading information. The computer option is nice because it has a bit more functionality than the mobile app at the moment. No matter which method you use, connecting your racquet to upload data is quick and easy to do.

babolat play

Babolat play pulse

The PULSE section (left) is a quick snapshot of the overall balance of your game. It shows the overall endurance, technique and power averages of all your stored data. As you improve the variety, power and energy you put into your sessions, your Pulse increases. Spend too much time away from the court? The app will email you a reminder if your Pulse starts dropping too low. This serves as a nice motivator to find time to get out and hit.

The ANALYZE section (below) is the bread and butter of the Pure Drive Play Experience. Here is where you get to breakdown each of your hitting sessions and see all the good, bad and ugly of your game. You can specify the conditions of your session (training vs. match, win/loss, outdoor/indoor, surface type and how you felt) and then save it to the app (and share to Facebook if desired). Once done, you can then examine the specifics of any session.

The system (right) shows the time played, energy spent and number of forehands, backhands first and second serves and smashes hit. You can then take any individual stroke and see how many topspin, splice and flat shots you hit. It will also give you average ratings for the level of spin and power each was hit with. One other cool feature in this section is the Impact Locator. For each stroke, you can see how your points of contact vary across the string bed. I already knew that I tend to hit high on the string bed but this did a great job of showing me just how much it happens. This has allowed me to focus on footwork and spacing in order to hit more in the sweet spot. There is no limit to the different ways you can use the info in this section to influence your training and strategy. Babolat play analyze
babolat play skills

The EVOLUTION section is where you can track your data in a historical comparison. It graphs out data for all of your sessions. Want to know if the grip change you implemented has led to increased power or spin? This is where you will be able to see progress over time. It's a powerful tool for tracking whether or not you are meeting specific long haul training goals. The more you’re playing, the more information you will have to guide you on understanding your strengths and weaknesses.

Want to challenge yourself to progress and hit as much as possible? If so, you will enjoy the SKILLS section (left). This section assigns a level to each player and you must work your way up the ladder of levels by hitting set amounts of each shot type. The levels progressively take more and more to unlock so your progress entirely depends on your personal motivation to get on the court. Your level is a badge of honor and is very similar to how a lot of connected fitness systems build in a motivation system.

The COMMUNITY section (right) is where it’s all about bragging rights. Taking a cue from the video game world, this section shows how you stack up against your friends and the rest of the world. This is another section that seems to be a strong tool to provide motivation for continued improvement. After all, nobody wants to see their friend three spots ahead of them in the rankings. Those who may not want to share their data with the world should fear not. You have options in your profile to share your data with the world, just your friends or not at all. You will also be able to see how you stack up to Babolat’s top pro players and work your way closer to catching them. babolat play community
babolat play records Players should think of the RECORDS section (left) like the high score section of video games or like merit badges. Here is where you can see when you hit your most powerful serve, when you had your best technique day and when you spent the most energy. I expect this to be a list of accomplishments that Babolat will continue to add to via updates to the app. Overall, this is another great section devoted to increasing your motivation to get on court and beat your personal bests.

It should be noted that the app for the Pure Drive Play is still in beta at this time in order to allow Babolat time to find and fix bugs prior to launch. I have experienced some hiccups and they have been tremendous at communicating and addressing them quickly. Overall this will be like any other technology for early adopters when it comes to minor kinks needing to be ironed out. The early returns however are extremely promising. The Pure Drive Play strikes a great balance between being a fun, addicting fitness device and a powerful tennis-specific training tool that can provide concrete insight into multiple facets of your game.

Babolat has said that they will continue to add additional functionality and refinements over time (coaches viewing multiple players data, split set recording, etc.). This is a frame that lives up to its unique place on the market and has strong potential to unlock deeper understanding of each user’s game as well as push them to further success. The Babolat Pure Drive Play is available now at TennisExpress.com


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