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View Full Version : Is babolat the most succesful tennis racquet in history?


Gut Reaction
12-06-2006, 03:08 AM
Babolat is only roughly 10 years old. 4 out of the top 10 male players use babolat. In fact if you go through the entire ATP tour and the WTA tour I guarantee that you will find that babolat is one of the most popular racquets on both tours.

Wilson is definitely more popular in the USA but Wilson has been around at least 50 years and babolat in just about only 10 years is catching up very quickly.

Has any racquet company seen this much success this quickly? How the hell did they do it?

anirut
12-06-2006, 03:42 AM
There's a rule for success. If you ain't got the money, better have time, lots of time.

Now, Bab had the money to "shoot" it's way through, buying players from all over the place and sponsoring TP's here and there and eveywhere, and giving them good money (I suppose) to help sell the sticks. This, coupled with the change in the game style, made it easier.

What if, suddenly, say in two or three years from now, there are more really good players of Fed's style and rising numbers of S&V players who happen to not use (or refuse to use) Babolat? Things would begin to be different then.

A brand it like a plant, it needs fertilizer -- that's money. And it has to bear fruits, lots of it -- that's the players using the brand going to the top. In today's competitive market, without these two factors, the brand will be small or stagnant. It may not die, but won't grow at the rate of other brands having the two resources. If this small brand is lucky to have some prodigy playing with its frame and unwilling to change to some other brand, even refusing the sponsorship money (impossible of course), then you can expect some changes.

This, of course, is an example to convey my idea.

mfa81
12-06-2006, 03:43 AM
Giving racquets for the young players like Nadal, Gonzalez, etc... If you see, most of the old players, not so old, but players that are between pros for years use head or wilson frames... and most of the new pros are babolat guys !

it was Just out
12-06-2006, 04:09 AM
Roman Prokes of r-p-ny tennis says its actually kind of lucky.

He says that Luxilon and Babolat happened at virtually the same time. Babolats are wide bodys that only through the use of luxilon are the pros able to keep the balls in. Roman feels that no pros would be using babolat if it were not for luxilon.

El Diablo
12-06-2006, 04:35 AM
Most successful? No. Around 1978 we were all startled to see a young player named Pam Shriver playing at the US Open with a giant racquet called a Prince. It not only spawned a whole line of hugely successful racquets within only a few years (including POG in the early 80s) but led the rest of the industry to get around the Prince patent by developping what are now called mid and midplus racquets. That kind of success not only made Prince a giant but changed the way the game is played.

PimpMyGame
12-06-2006, 05:30 AM
Roman Prokes of r-p-ny tennis says its actually kind of lucky.

He says that Luxilon and Babolat happened at virtually the same time. Babolats are wide bodys that only through the use of luxilon are the pros able to keep the balls in. Roman feels that no pros would be using babolat if it were not for luxilon.

I don't think it's anything to do with luck. Babolat analysed the game and could see where it was going. They introduced rackets that perform very well in the modern baseline game. Sure they have a lot of pros on side but ultimately if the sticks don't do it for these guys they'll use something else.

rod_b
12-06-2006, 05:54 AM
...but ultimately if the sticks don't do it for these guys they'll use something else.

...when their contract$$$ runs out.

Tennis Man
12-06-2006, 06:02 AM
Maybe successful as a business but not as the best tennis company. The time will tell. I haven't seen a decent player's racquet from them yet.

PimpMyGame
12-06-2006, 06:16 AM
Maybe successful as a business but not as the best tennis company. The time will tell. I haven't seen a decent player's racquet from them yet.

The same could be said for Wilson, but both business models work. Think about awareness, interest, desire, action and take a look at some of the recent postings regarding K-Factor rackets. So many people using this forum are at the desire stage and the only thing stopping action is that the rackets aren't in the shops. It's great business whatever you think of their rackets (and I don't like them much).

Gut Reaction
12-06-2006, 06:16 AM
Maybe successful as a business but not as the best tennis company. The time will tell. I haven't seen a decent player's racquet from them yet.

well I think what It was just out was trying to say is that Babolats play like players racquets because of Luxilon...which came out at the same time as babolat.

Through Luxilon pros are able to still hit the ball with control even though they are playing with a widebody.

In short Luxilon turned wide body babolats into a players racquet. If you tried to use gut in a Babolat I think the pros would spray balls all over the place!

Richard Parnell
12-06-2006, 06:59 AM
Hey Guys,
Babolat hasn't just been around for 10 years. Babolat has been making tennis strings since 1875 (this makes it the oldest manufacturer of tennis products). The racquets were introduced in France in 1994 ande then Spain and Italy were added and so on. I have sold the racquets since 1995 here in Spain and when I received my first shipment of racquets in '95 I sold the lot in 10 days (40 frames) and I now sell more Babolat frames than any other make.The boom came when when Moya made the ozzie finals and then won RG.Nadal used the Pure drive before he had a contract.
Anyone remember the Babolat Resisto string used by some players in the late 90's ? It was a string made by Luxilon for Babolat (finished off in France) and was way before Luxilon came on the scene.
All the best,
Richard

Tennis Man
12-06-2006, 07:41 AM
The same could be said for Wilson, but both business models work. Think about awareness, interest, desire, action and take a look at some of the recent postings regarding K-Factor rackets. So many people using this forum are at the desire stage and the only thing stopping action is that the rackets aren't in the shops. It's great business whatever you think of their rackets (and I don't like them much).

I disagree. Wilson is one of the most successful tennis companies if not THE MOST at least based on their history (look at how many legends grew up and played with Wilson).

On another hand, Babolat decided (relatively recently) to diversify vertically from the strings to the racquets and accessories and so far is enjoying the hype it created. As I said, the time will tell.

I don't see why can't they make traditional classic-playing frames and eventually succeed in it. They got a good jump start. What is this wide-body craze? Feels like another fad to me.

jace112
12-06-2006, 07:52 AM
Babolat achieved such a success with their racquets because they already had many pros using their strings and managed to bring back some PK mold with nice mods. And they used a very smart marketing image.

NoBadMojo
12-06-2006, 08:08 AM
Hey Guys,
Babolat hasn't just been around for 10 years. Babolat has been making tennis strings since 1875 (this makes it the oldest manufacturer of tennis products). The racquets were introduced in France in 1994 and then Spain and Italy were added and so on. I have sold the racquets since 1995 here in Spain and when I received my first shipment of racquets in '95 I sold the lot in 10 days (40 frames) and I now sell more Babolat frames than any other make.The boom came when when Moya made the ozzie finals and then won RG.Nadal used the Pure drive before he had a contract.
Anyone remember the Babolat Resisto string used by some players in the late 90's ? It was a string made by Luxilon for Babolat (finished off in France) and was way before Luxilon came on the scene.
All the best,
Richard

Indeed Bab had a definite in already having established tennis distribution and their long time lock on the pro's gut strings business.

Do you not also think that Alex Corretcha (sp?) had an impact as far as getting lots of the pros onto the product? Here was a guy with no real weapons and not much of a serve who quite dramatically had a higher impact forehand and serve when he switched to the PD..other pros noticed this for sure.

As to the history behind the Pure DRive. The Pure Drive was poorly designed for the recreational 2.5 or so female player, so it really was a stroke of luck that it was discovered by a couple of pros and coincidently poly (which had been around forever but not used) was rediscovered and was the only string that would really work to stifle the rocket launching of the PureDrive.

So I would say there was quite a lot of serendipity involved with the success of Babolat racquets. The shame is that they made a harsh nasty frame which doesnt consider the health of the user

El Diablo
12-06-2006, 08:10 AM
Rafaello
What an interesting business mind you have! Why doesn't Babolat get away from what's made it so successful and start making the kind of racquets people want fewer and fewer of? (Nevermind the people on this board: come February you'll see countless K-90 frames listed "for sale."). Go to a typical tennis club and you'll see that the Wilsons most people use have more in common with Babs than with the 90 and 95 Wilsons.

PimpMyGame
12-06-2006, 08:12 AM
I don't see why can't they make traditional classic-playing frames and eventually succeed in it. They got a good jump start. What is this wide-body craze? Feels like another fad to me.

I think you'll find that Babolat do make more traditional frames, maybe not 85 sq inch heads but nonetheless narrow beam. Anyways, I don't know what the wide-body craze is but it works for me as I'm currently playing well with an APD. If you want fad-factor take a look at some of the Wilson monstrosities on sale and I think I saw a racket the other week (can't remember the brand) with a microchip in it! What's that all about?

sureshs
12-06-2006, 10:19 AM
As to the history behind the Pure DRive. The Pure Drive was poorly designed for the recreational 2.5 or so female player

Any evidence for this?

Tennis Man
12-06-2006, 10:26 AM
Rafaello
What an interesting business mind you have! Why doesn't Babolat get away from what's made it so successful and start making the kind of racquets people want fewer and fewer of? (Nevermind the people on this board: come February you'll see countless K-90 frames listed "for sale."). Go to a typical tennis club and you'll see that the Wilsons most people use have more in common with Babs than with the 90 and 95 Wilsons.

I understand what you are saying but as many times already mentioned here, majority of ppl ARE recreational players and can't play with demanding frames. I do not represent them on this board and I'm talking about the pro market, although I do not represent i either :).

When I turn 90, I will gladly use a widebody Babolat and will be very thankful :)

sureshs
12-06-2006, 10:32 AM
Rafaello
What an interesting business mind you have! Why doesn't Babolat get away from what's made it so successful and start making the kind of racquets people want fewer and fewer of? (Nevermind the people on this board: come February you'll see countless K-90 frames listed "for sale."). Go to a typical tennis club and you'll see that the Wilsons most people use have more in common with Babs than with the 90 and 95 Wilsons.

Except for the stiffness. Most Wilsons have a stiffness around 65, not 70. That is the most significant aspect of the PD, more significant that the 100 si head or the lighter weight, or the 25 mm beam. It is also the most critical for arm problems in recreational players. So I would not say that Wilsons are similar to Babs at all because of the importance of the RA.

Richard Parnell
12-06-2006, 10:42 AM
Hi NBM,
I think you will find that when the P Drive came out it was designed for the serious player.Pure = competition and Soft = club. The pure drive originally weighed 290 grms and the soft drive weighed 280 and there wasn't enough difference between the two and many of the players here in Spain put loads of lead on the soft drive and used it for competition.The PD was subsequently changed to 300 grms.Corretja had used Babolat natural gut in his Wilson frames (his Father had a shop below the old Babolat office in Barcelona) and always had a great relationship with the company and thus when he decided to look around for another frame his natural choice was Babolat. The soft power and soft drive were originally meant for the recreational player. I remember that Pat Rafter tried the Pure Power and loved it but terms weren't agreed on and he carried on with prince. The original Pure control (16 x19) was an excellent player frame but was really too demanding for the majority of players, When it was changed to 18x20 you had to have an arm like Arnie to use it. The Storm is an excellent frame and if you look at the evolution of the racquets over such a short period of time I would have to say (IMO) that the success of the brand is nothing short of meteoric and if the product wasn't up to standard then the endorsements alone wouldn't mean much in such a competitive market.
I can get off my soap box now (its late here in Spain).
All the best Guys and happy Christmas to all you fellow tennis geeks.
Richard

empee
12-06-2006, 12:57 PM
Is babolat the most succesful tennis racquet in history? Maybe that's why we have so many fake Babolats on e-bay :grin:

Gut Reaction
12-06-2006, 01:14 PM
Babolat achieved such a success with their racquets because they already had many pros using their strings and managed to bring back some PK mold with nice mods. And they used a very smart marketing image.


Then why can't technifibre do what babolat did? I know technibre just started but Babolat was huge the second they came out. Big nae pros were all on board already and as one poster on this board said...the frames were sold out almost immediately.

WhiteSox05CA
12-06-2006, 01:17 PM
They've been around for ever, just they've been making strings. They had the money and technology to start a racquet company, most other companies out it would be hard to compete right off the bat with Wilson, Head, or Prince.

NoBadMojo
12-06-2006, 01:48 PM
Any evidence for this?

sure..lots of evidence. if you think i just make stuff up., that's fine

Dr. Van Nostrand
12-06-2006, 03:41 PM
Hi NBM,
I think you will find that when the P Drive came out it was designed for the serious player.Pure = competition and Soft = club. The pure drive originally weighed 290 grms and the soft drive weighed 280 and there wasn't enough difference between the two and many of the players here in Spain put loads of lead on the soft drive and used it for competition.The PD was subsequently changed to 300 grms.Corretja had used Babolat natural gut in his Wilson frames (his Father had a shop below the old Babolat office in Barcelona) and always had a great relationship with the company and thus when he decided to look around for another frame his natural choice was Babolat. The soft power and soft drive were originally meant for the recreational player. I remember that Pat Rafter tried the Pure Power and loved it but terms weren't agreed on and he carried on with prince. The original Pure control (16 x19) was an excellent player frame but was really too demanding for the majority of players, When it was changed to 18x20 you had to have an arm like Arnie to use it. The Storm is an excellent frame and if you look at the evolution of the racquets over such a short period of time I would have to say (IMO) that the success of the brand is nothing short of meteoric and if the product wasn't up to standard then the endorsements alone wouldn't mean much in such a competitive market.
I can get off my soap box now (its late here in Spain).
All the best Guys and happy Christmas to all you fellow tennis geeks.
Richard

Very good information from someone who knows what he is talking about. The overall quality of information on these boards would increase 100X with more input from the likes of Richard Parnell, Thomas Martinez, and a couple of others who have a lot of factual knowledge regarding a wide range of tennis equipment and do not simply focus on their favorite brands.

NoBadMojo
12-06-2006, 04:20 PM
Exerpt from USA Today Article 8.2004 w. quote from Eric Babolat bolded who I believe to be a reliable source

<snip>
Racket maker hopes to shine at U.S. Open
By Noelle Knox, USA TODAY
LYON, France Behind the scenes at the U.S. Open, which starts Monday in New York, there is another cutthroat competition.

Racket maker hopes to shine at U.S. Open By Noelle Knox, USA TODAY
LYON, France Behind the scenes at the U.S. Open, which starts Monday in New York, there is another cutthroat competition.
By (http://images.usatoday.com/_common/_images/clear.gif[/IMG]By) Roberto Schmidt, AFPThe market for tennis equipment makers is fierce, and the stakes are higher: This is a $345 million game in the United States alone, where sales can soar if the Open winner is using your racket.
The Wilson nCode nSix-One tennis racket in the hands of No. 1-ranked Roger Federer could go up against the Babolat Pure Drive Plus, swung by Andy Roddick, the defending U.S. Open champion. Among the women, defending champ Justine Henin-Hardenne is armed with a Wilson H Tour. ]A win could be particularly important for Babolat. Outside pro shops, few in the USA have heard of the small, family-owned French company.
While Babolat has dominated the market for strings since tennis rules were written in 1875, the company didn't start selling rackets until 1998 and not in the USA until 2000. It had just five players in the international circuit under contract six years ago. Today, it has about 150, plus a couple of thousand smaller, national contracts.
Overcoming odds
Like so many good stories about sports stars, Babolat's tale is one of overcoming adversity, coping with tragedy, meeting the test of endurance and having a little bit of luck.
"In terms of market share, Babolat is a relatively minor player in the U.S. market," says James Martin, senior editor of Tennis magazine. "But their growth is impressive. No other company in recent memory has created so much buzz, generated primarily by getting their blue Pure Drive Team (rackets) in the hands of stars like Andy Roddick and Kim Clijsters. Usually, racket endorsements have little to no effect on sales, but this is one case where it's had a huge impact."
When the story began, the city of Lyon was famous throughout Europe for craftsmen, including Pierre Babolat, who made musical instruments. Babolat was renowned for his musical strings made from sheep intestines. When the game of tennis was born, the first racket maker asked Babolat to make a musical string, only longer.
Even today, Babolat is the only major tennis company making natural gut strings (now made from cow intestines), preferred by almost half of the players at the U.S. Open. Though they cost three to five times more than nylon strings, the collagen in natural-gut strings gives them more flexibility.
Still, the advent of synthetic strings in the 1950s was a threat to Babolat's fortunes. Tennis players snapped them up because they were cheaper and lasted longer. Wood rackets also became obsolete with the invention of high-tech graphite. The new rackets didn't break often, so again, players needed fewer sets of strings.
Pierre's grandson, Paul, had no choice but to match the competition if the company was to survive.
"I remember my grandfather saying, 'That's not the product. Natural gut is the product.' But we needed to do that because the market was changing," says Paul's grandson, Eric Babolat, now the fifth-generation Babolat to hold the chief executive's job.
A new racket
Then, in the 1990s, tennis had lost some of its bounce and sales were falling 30% a year. "The tennis game was still there, but the phenomenon was not," Babolat says. "My father's feeling was there is a big risk we will become an accessory company."
So Eric's father, also named Pierre, bet on rackets. "Everybody thought Babolat was crazy," the CEO recalls. Even by today's numbers, the proposition is daunting. Competitors like Wilson have four times Babolat's sales and 15 times as many employees.
Nevertheless, in 1994, Babolat made its first racket. In 1998, Carlos Moya won the French Open playing with a Babolat.
But the celebration turned into mourning three months later when Pierre was killed in the crash of Swiss Air Flight 111 off Nova Scotia, Canada. Eric, then 28 with just four years' experience in the company's marketing department, was thrust onto center court.
"My father died at 51. My father wasn't thinking about his successors. He never raised me to say I'd be next. He always said, 'You never know what will be,' " Eric Babolat says. Running Babolat was "something that came naturally, but it was not expected. I think it was the same for all generations."
Two years after taking over, Eric Babolat launched Babolat rackets in the USA. With an average retail price of $179 to $199, Babolat targets the pro shops and once-a-week players.
The strategy also serves the company because this is where corporate talent scouts find the best players the future U.S. Open winners.
Babolat spied Andy Roddick at the 1998 U.S. Open playing juniors doubles. Despite his low ranking at the time, the company gave him a generous contract. "These players, when they grow up playing with one of these rackets, they don't switch lightly," says John Horan, publisher of Sporting Goods Intelligence newsletter.
The company not only had a good eye for talent, it also had a lucky break: "The racket Andy is using, one of the first rackets we did, at the beginning was made for leisure-women's playing," says Babolat, who only has time to play once a month. "We never imagined this racket would go into competition. At that time, the game was changing, and we did not know in what direction. Suddenly, young competitors used light rackets with lots of weight in the end."
Since Babolat introduced its first racket, sales have more than doubled, and rackets now account for half the company's sales. But Babolat doesn't have the distribution power of the Big Three Wilson, Head and Prince which cover the retail shelves of the big sporting goods stores in the USA. And the family-owned company has no plans to go public.
"Maybe it's a David and Goliath story," Eric Babolat says.
Still, the company continues to widen its niche. Last year, it introduced an apparel line and its first tennis shoe, with a sole made by Michelin, the French tiremaker

sureshs
12-06-2006, 04:33 PM
Hi NBM,
I think you will find that when the P Drive came out it was designed for the serious player.Pure = competition and Soft = club. The pure drive originally weighed 290 grms and the soft drive weighed 280 and there wasn't enough difference between the two and many of the players here in Spain put loads of lead on the soft drive and used it for competition.The PD was subsequently changed to 300 grms.Corretja had used Babolat natural gut in his Wilson frames (his Father had a shop below the old Babolat office in Barcelona) and always had a great relationship with the company and thus when he decided to look around for another frame his natural choice was Babolat. The soft power and soft drive were originally meant for the recreational player. I remember that Pat Rafter tried the Pure Power and loved it but terms weren't agreed on and he carried on with prince. The original Pure control (16 x19) was an excellent player frame but was really too demanding for the majority of players, When it was changed to 18x20 you had to have an arm like Arnie to use it. The Storm is an excellent frame and if you look at the evolution of the racquets over such a short period of time I would have to say (IMO) that the success of the brand is nothing short of meteoric and if the product wasn't up to standard then the endorsements alone wouldn't mean much in such a competitive market.
I can get off my soap box now (its late here in Spain).
All the best Guys and happy Christmas to all you fellow tennis geeks.
Richard

Finally a great post. This claim that PD was for the 2.5 female player has been mentioned more than once as historical fact, but no evidence was forthcoming on enquiry.

Edit: stand corrected. NBM was right all along! Just cannot believe it. OK, 2.5 was a bit mean, but still, it was a leisure woman stick. NBMJ: produce evidence faster in the future on being asked.

NoBadMojo
12-06-2006, 05:12 PM
Finally a great post. This claim that PD was for the 2.5 female player has been mentioned more than once as historical fact, but no evidence was forthcoming on enquiry.

Edit: stand corrected. NBM was right all along! Just cannot believe it. OK, 2.5 was a bit mean, but still, it was a leisure woman stick. NBMJ: produce evidence faster in the future on being asked.

gee..i'm so sorry i didnt get that to you quickly enough for your liking.

sureshs
12-06-2006, 06:19 PM
gee..i'm so sorry i didnt get that to you quickly enough for your liking.

Don't do that again :-)

jace112
12-06-2006, 09:46 PM
Then why can't technifibre do what babolat did? I know technibre just started but Babolat was huge the second they came out. Big nae pros were all on board already and as one poster on this board said...the frames were sold out almost immediately.
Tecnifibre is now becoming bigger and bigger really quickly here in France. They offer really nice deals / contracts to a lot of young players. You can see many juniors now playing with TF. The new TF line is also well designed and can suit most ppl game. Like Bab, TF uses it's name and the couple frame/string.

Gut Reaction
12-08-2006, 06:15 AM
Sometimes the simple answer is just the right one:

BABOLAT MAKES AWESOME FRAMES