John McEnroe on Nadal and Babolat

Discussion in 'Pros' Racquets and Gear' started by Greg Raven, Jun 9, 2012.

  1. Greg Raven

    Greg Raven Semi-Pro

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    Did anyone else hear John McEnroe say the other day that before Nadal started using Babolat racquets, Babolat had no racquet business? He made it sound as if it was mainly due to Nadal's popularity that Babolat had FINALLY become a serious company.

    I realize that McEnroe and Gimelstob are hired as commentators more for their ability to talk non-stop for hours, rather than because they are ever correct or even insightful about anything, but this is ridiculous.

    Just for the record:

    + Babolat been in the tennis business since 1874.
    + Babolat strings were by far the most popular strings on the tour before the introduction of Luxilon strings.
    + A lot of players still use Babolat strings, both natural gut and polyester.
    + Babolat has been designing and manufacturing industry-leading stringing machines for decades.
    + Babolat start making racquets in 1994.
    + These racquets started catching on immediately thanks to players such as Andy Roddick and Carlos Moya (emphasis on Roddick, though).
     
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  2. hcb0804

    hcb0804 Hall of Fame

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    And Clijsters among others.......I took Macs point to be that Babolat racquet business really exploded with the emergence of Nadal, which is true. Yes of course they have been making racquets since 1994, but Babolat had a relatively small piece of the pie until Nadal.
     
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  3. El Diablo

    El Diablo Hall of Fame

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    Not sure why you list points about Babolat's string and stringing machines, when Mac was referring to the racquet business. Completely irrrelevant. Only your last point makes some sense; I bought my first Bab well befoe Roddick, when Moya caught my eye using one, and they were already becoming hard to get (dealer told me Bab was giving away so many of them to promising juniors already that the dealers sometimes had trouble getting them).
     
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  4. tlm

    tlm Legend

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    I like mac as a announcer but he has no clue on modern day equipment. I love it when he talks about the new luxilon synthetic strings, he never says poly strings i don't know if he even knows they are poly.
     
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  5. Bhagi Katbamna

    Bhagi Katbamna Hall of Fame

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    You have to understand that to Mac, anything that isn't natural gut is "synthetic" so even though it makes him sound like he is saying synthetic gut and polyester is the same, he knows it isn't.
     
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  6. decades

    decades Guest

    he probably meant they became a serious racquet company, which is mostly true. selling strings grips and machines is more akin to Gamma than wilson. Nadal put Babalot racquets on the map globally.
     
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  7. mcnota

    mcnota Rookie

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    nadal made babolat, without nadal babolat is nothing but a natural gut company
     
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  8. Venetian

    Venetian Professional

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    Even the idea that their racquets really took off because of Nadal is false. Babolat's racquet line exploded thanks to Andy Roddick in 2001/2002. I think Roddick did WAY more for the brand than Nadal. You still can't go to any level of tennis tournament without seeing close to 200 Pure Drives.
     
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  9. ATXtennisaddict

    ATXtennisaddict Hall of Fame

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    Don't forget Roddick and the Pure Drive.
     
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  10. tlm

    tlm Legend

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    I understand that but you would think a modern day announcer would know the term poly strings and also know that they are not these new synthetic strings as he says. They are only new to people like him who have no idea about todays modern equipment.
     
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  11. mavsman149

    mavsman149 Semi-Pro

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    No doubt Nadal is a better player than roddick could ever dream of becoming but roddick absolutely did far more for the brand than nadal.....before nadal won his first french open babolat was already a huge brand thanks to roddick and the pure drive
     
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  12. brinkeguthrie

    brinkeguthrie Semi-Pro

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    I remember when all the brand was, was "VS Gut," period.
     
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  13. ericsson

    ericsson Hall of Fame

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    The reason Nadal uses Babolat is Carlos Moya which was his mentor/idol...
    Moya put Babolat rackets on the map, the rest is history.
     
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  14. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    Roddique and Moya
     
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  15. Fed Kennedy

    Fed Kennedy Hall of Fame

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    Damn kids and their synthetics in my day We played in the snow
     
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  16. JGads

    JGads Hall of Fame

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    Second rule of Fight Club: nobody bashes Johnny Mac, no matter what he says. Legend.

    The tennis gods will get you. Probably with a Dunlop.
     
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  17. Wuppy

    Wuppy Professional

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    I agree with the announcer man
     
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  18. Shasha

    Shasha Rookie

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    Agree, Roddick helped too, but a bit later.
     
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  19. Torres

    Torres Banned

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    McEnroe was talking about their racquet business, not Babolat as a tennis company so that stuff you mention about strings and stringing machines is neither here nor there. Babolat historically was always a string company, selling primarily natural gut. Larger, with a halo product of VS, and longer history, but really not too dissimilar to what Tecnifibre is today.

    I have to agree with McEnroe. Nadal had a MASSIVE effect on popoularizing Babolat's (then small) racquet business and turning it into what it is today particularly amongst recreational players. Their market share before Nadal started winning slams was tiny. Everyone buys APDs because of the association with Nadal and the hugely successful 'spin' marketing campaign which again, is centered around Nadal. This whole 'spin / Nadal' thing really has been a unique selling point and hugely successful. It's not as if Tsonga for example is going to sell many APDCs. Nadal has had the same effect with RPM.

    Roddick increased brand awareness in the US but he's nowhere now, but due to increasd awareness of their brand (Nadal) in the market, the massively increased revenues generated, its allowed Babolat to increase their market share (at the expense of Prince and smaller manufacturers) and sponsorship of more tour players, particularly on the WTA and at junior levels. Babaolat's racquets business wouldn't be anything close to what it is today without Nadal.
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2012
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  20. PED

    PED Legend

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    +1, when my son was playing junior tourneys back in 05, PD was the default stick of choice out there.

    Rafa has since taken them higher sales wise, but Moya started it all and ARod popularity was a massive boost here in the states.
     
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  21. Venetian

    Venetian Professional

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    Not correct at all. Babolat is everywhere BECAUSE of Roddick. I still see way, way more PDs than APDs out and about. You must not have been playing tennis for very long if you think Babolat had a small presence in the racquet industry before Nadal came along. It literally blew up around 2001 when Roddick hit the scene. After that every tournament and every public court was virtually nothing but Pure Drives.

    People also keep mentioning Moya, but he was nowhere near as influential as Roddick in getting the public to buy off on the Pure Drive. Even though Roddick was not out winning slams left and right, he was a young, good looking, charasmatic kid with a booming serve and forehand. He was supposed to be the next big American player and everyone wanted to use what he used.
     
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  22. Torres

    Torres Banned

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    Don't make me laugh.
     
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  23. tennis_balla

    tennis_balla Hall of Fame

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    Roddick is a big reason Babolat gained so much popularity. It might not seem like it but he sells a TON of rackets for them. This isn't some fact I'm pulling out of my ***, I had a discussion about this with one of the Babolat reps in Canada a year or so ago and those were more or less his words. You wouldn't think it, but Roddick helped as much if not more than Rafa but of course Rafa's influence on the brand is big as well. Still the biggest selling racket of the past decade is the PD.
     
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  24. Venetian

    Venetian Professional

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    I don't understand why people wouldn't think that Roddick had a big influence. I thought that was common knowledge. Babolat racquets were huge well before Nadal came unto the scene around 2005. And he didn't become really popular until a year or so after that. I remember playing in high school in 2001-2002 when out of nowhere every other junior in the world started using the Pure Drive.

    Heck, Roddick even has his own signature Babolat racquet. That should tell you something.
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2012
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  25. Venetian

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    Here's a quote from an interview with Babolat Vice President Jean-Louis Boyre...

    Boyre admits that “without Andy Roddick, we wouldn’t be at the same level. He has played a major role in where we are in the U.S. today.” But for Babolat, success bred more success, says Boyre. “Because more and more competitors are product-oriented, they will move to a successful brand.”

    http://www.racquetsportsindustry.com/articles/2004/07/risky_business.html
     
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  26. Venetian

    Venetian Professional

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    Another article....

    Buy It and Be Great

    By JOE NOCERA
    Published: August 19, 2007

    “Psychology is very strong in tennis,” Eric Babolat was saying. He was speaking to me from France, where his family-owned company, Babolat, has its headquarters; at age 37, Eric is from the fifth generation of Babolats to run it.

    How did Babolat become such a hot racket company so quickly? Luck, and some brilliant fantasy tennis.

    True enough, psychology is important in any tennis match. But that's not really what Babolat was referring to. Rather, he was talking about the relationship between a player and his racket, how the right racket can bring to mind that line from “Sweeney Todd”: “At last, my right arm is complete!” And from a commercial point of view, he was talking about another kind of psychology, the kind that can cause a piece of sports equipment to become the “it” racket.

    Eric should know. Though his company has been around since the dawn of modern tennis itself — his great-great-grandfather, who sold strings for musical instruments, created the first natural gut string in 1877 — it was only 13 years ago that his father, the late Pierre Babolat, made the decision to manufacture a racket. Six years later, in 2000, the company began selling its Pure Drive line of rackets in the United States.

    In retrospect, this surely ranks as one of those Harvard Business School case-study moments. With the tennis industry in the dumps, and the racket business dominated by Head, Prince and Wilson, most people thought Pierre Babolat was nuts to get into rackets. Now he looks like a genius. From a standing start, the company has reached about 16 percent market share, and it is closing fast on Head. (Wilson is the leader, with just under 30 percent of the market, but it sells to big-box stores like WalMart, which Babolat refuses to do.) Since it introduced rackets, Babolat's revenue has more than tripled, to $117 million in 2006 sales. “They have taken tennis by storm,” says Mark Mason, the longtime proprietor of Mason's Tennis Mart in Manhattan. “I've never seen anything like it.”

    If you play tennis, or even just watch the pros, you've surely noticed the Babolat phenomenon. The rackets are everywhere — at your local courts, and at this year's United States Open, where a huge number of players will be using them.

    Babolat will tell you that its secret sauce is its patented Woofer technology, which it says keeps the ball on the strings a split-second longer, imparting a trampoline-like rebound. Others note the rackets' “good looks,” with their clean and distinctive colored lines (depending on the model). But if I were writing the Harvard case study, I would stress something else: pure dumb luck. Sometimes, as the old saying goes, it's better to be lucky than good.

    Do you know about James Blake and Dunlop? Years ago, Blake began using Dunlop rackets, eventually signing an endorsement deal with the company. But in 2004 he had his annus horribilis — the broken neck, the death of his father, the shingles — and Dunlop dropped him. The following year, when Blake staged his remarkable resurgence, he signed with Prince. The problem was that Blake could never get comfortable with his Prince racket. There were even rumors that Blake was painting Dunlop rackets to make them look like Prince rackets. Finally, this past May, psychology won: he officially returned to Dunlop.

    The moral of the story should be obvious: when a player finds a “stick” he really likes, he is loath to switch — even when someone will pay him millions to do so. For racket companies, there is another moral: the earlier you can get your racket into the hands of young, promising players, the more likely they are to keep using it as they rise through the ranks.

    Each of the four big racket manufacturers, including Babolat, has a grass-roots program for getting promising juniors to use its rackets. Golf and ski companies have their own junior programs, but only the elite of the elites get free equipment; in tennis, the companies compete to distribute rackets to not only the top 20 juniors in every country, who usually get them free, but the top 100, who can buy rackets at a reduced price.

    Why? Because tennis marketers are convinced that when people watch good players, they want to try their rackets. “A player who is ranked 80th nationally could be the best player in some city or some big tennis club,” says Max Brownlee, who started up Babolat's United States operation in 2000. And when juniors see higher-ranked juniors using a racket, they often want to try it, to see if it raises their game as well.

    Most juniors eventually flame out, but some turn pro — and thus create another marketing opportunity. While companies build ad campaigns around top players like Andre Agassi (Head) or Roger Federer (Wilson), club players also notice what racket their favorite player is using and often buy an amateur version of it. (The pros' rackets are rarely identical to those sold at retail; pros usually customize their rackets.) Which brings us back to Babolat.

    Babolat came to the racket business with a big advantage: it had a lock on the market for natural gut strings, which are what most serious players want to use. Babolat strings are in such demand that the company has never needed to offer endorsement deals and has given them away only in the rarest of circumstances. (Pete Sampras was one of the few players who received free strings.) So when Babolat started its grass-roots program, it had the lure of free or reduced-price strings to get juniors to use its rackets.

    And it had luck. In 1999, a year before Babolat came to the United States and began signing up juniors, a Babolat executive named Luca Appino started talking to a tennis coach named Tarik Benhabiles about having his 17-year-old player use Babolat. Appino, who no longer works for the company, and Benhabiles, who no longer coaches the player, were old friends. At the time, the only pro using Babolat was the Spaniard Carlos Moya, from Majorca. He was “a good-looking, flamboyant dude,” in the words of tennis agent Ken Meyerson, but not someone who was going to move a lot of product outside Europe.

    Benhabiles's player was an American junior almost no one had heard of, Andy Roddick. “I didn't know much about him,” concedes Brownlee, who at the time was working for Prince. Back then, Roddick didn't have a big reputation; in 1999, he lost in the first round of two of the junior grand slam tournaments. Volkl was the only other company willing to give Roddick a racket, but he chose Babolat because of his coach's relationship with Appino.

    A year later everything changed. Roddick won three out of the four boys' majors and became the No. 1 junior in the world. Other juniors took notice, especially of his monster serve. Some actually phoned Babolat in France, to see if they too could get “Andy's racket.” “If he had been out there with a broomstick,” says Rick Macci, who coached Roddick between ages 9 and 14, “I think people would have wanted to try a broomstick.”

    Over the next three years, Roddick was the hottest thing in tennis, an electrifying player with a crowd-pleasing personality. And — how blessed can Babolat be? — he was American. If you are going to sell rackets in America, you need an American star.

    Needless to say, it wasn't long before Babolat was doing something it doesn't often do: paying Roddick to endorse its rackets. His agent, Meyerson, negotiated a small six-figure deal in 2000, shortly after Roddick turned pro, and then a much larger deal in 2003, right around the time Roddick won the United States Open. That deal nets him millions a year. Would Roddick have changed rackets had Babolat low-balled him? Probably not. But the company decided not to take that risk. A happy endorser is always better than a grouchy one.

    Eric Babolat was running the company by then. His father, Pierre, had died in 1998, in a plane crash returning from the United States Open. Pierre got to see Carlos Moya win the French Open in 1998 with a Babolat racket, but he died well before Babolat took tennis by storm. “I regret the most for my father that he never got to see the success,” Eric Babolat says. “He was vindicated after his death.”

    Roddick is still a hugely important endorser for Babolat, even as he has slipped in the rankings and Federer and Rafael Nadal have come to dominate the men's tour. He has a signature racket, called Pure Drive Roddick, which earns him royalties. When Eric Babolat decided to get into the highly competitive tennis shoe business a few years ago, he quickly got Roddick to agree to wear the shoes and signed him up as an endorser. Today, if you go to the Babolat display in any tennis store in the United States, you'll see ads for Roddick and his racket and shoes.

    But you'll also see ads for someone else: Rafael Nadal. And here you can only shake your head in wonder. Nadal was missed by the grass-roots programs of the big racket makers, yet wound up with Babolat.

    Why? Because he comes from Majorca. His idol is none other than the original Babolat man, Carlos Moya. Is it any surprise, then, that Nadal would use the same racket as Moya? Not to anyone who markets tennis rackets.

    Today, at age 21, Nadal is one of the great forces in tennis, the one true rival to Federer. The pace and spin with which he hits the ball generate the same kind of awe as Roddick's service. That in turn leads juniors — and lots of club players — to the Babolat Aeropro, which is Nadal's racket. Not long ago, Babolat locked up Nadal with a 10-year deal, for a multimillion-dollar sum that makes him among the top racket endorsers (obviously Roddick is in the same category).

    Sales of the Babolat Aeropro, Brownlee told me, are 18 months ahead of projections. Then he let out a small chuckle and added, “What can you say?”

    Harvard Business School couldn't have put it better.
     
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  27. nn

    nn Hall of Fame

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    you are right.. I remember when he won his USOPEN and first time he beat pete people notice his racquet etc...
     
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  28. JW10S

    JW10S Hall of Fame

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    I'm sure Roddick had big influence in the US but I think Nadal has had a greater worldwide impact on the company. Either way the one thing Babolat did that was smart is that aside from Moya in the beginning they signed a lot of top junior players to use their racquets and therefore got a fairly big grassroots following. I see Solinco currently trying to do the same thing.
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2012
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  29. TheRed

    TheRed Professional

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    You should laugh. I ran a pro shop in 2001-2002 and Babolat was the "It" racquet company then. Customers were asking for Babs (we weren't carrying Bab racquets yet) and what they were asking for was the pure drive. It was Roddick and purely roddick that made Babolat a household racquet name.
     
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  30. tistrapukcipeht

    tistrapukcipeht Professional

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    I agree with everything you said.

    Babolat makes horrible racquets, low quality, cheap, no feel, almost like a cell vibrator, Drakulie presented the facts, it is only because Nadal uses it (I heard He doesn't even use these new ones) they sell a lot, I demoed them (APD and PD), these were the worst racquets I put my hands on.

    This is one of the threads with Drakulie presenting the facts.
    http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?t=422952
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2012
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  31. TopFH

    TopFH Hall of Fame

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    People should give credit where it's due. Roddick single-handedly made Babolat a name.
     
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  32. JGads

    JGads Hall of Fame

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    Guys. Who cares?
     
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  33. Greg Raven

    Greg Raven Semi-Pro

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    I was attempting to provide context in my point, which is that McEnroe was dead wrong about Babolat being some backwater company until Nadal came along. As frosting on the cake, he was dead wrong about one of the oldest and most respected tennis companies on the planet. He should have known better than to slime them, and that rather than just blurting out something false and negative about Babolat, he should have given the matter a moment's thought. If he's incapable of thinking before speaking, then he shouldn't be paid for speaking.
     
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  34. jackcrawford

    jackcrawford Professional

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    Some people just dig themselves in deeper rather than admit they're wrong. The Pure Drive was everywhere in 2004 when Nadal's highest ranking was in the 30's - if you want a good laugh, watch the then formidable Roddick blow Nadal off the court http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDYsdEzp9is and bloody his face at their 2004 US Open match http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/tennis/3626326.stm.
     
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  35. sports4eva115

    sports4eva115 Semi-Pro

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    the pure drive was popular when I first started (around when roddick was good but constantly denied by federer), the number of pure drives i saw back then cant compare to the number of aeropro drives I see now
    so imo babolat has always had a good share of racket business, but like federer with wilson, its nadal that allowed babolat to get a chunk more of the sales
     
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  36. vsbabolat

    vsbabolat Legend

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    I can tell you I have lost a lot of respect for Babolat when they changed and ruined their gut with BT7.
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2012
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  37. CDestroyer

    CDestroyer Professional

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    Yep

    I agree with everything you said and thats a good thread you linked to. Funny how a Babolat rep chimed in with typical lip service. Fact is Babolat does not stand behind their crappy product very well.

    The margins have to be good on those cheap racquets.
     
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  38. drakulie

    drakulie Talk Tennis Guru

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    Mcenroe as well as Navratilova also contiually spew stupidities such as,

    "The strings these players hit with today are far more powerful than what we used". :roll:

    They all have no clue.
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2012
    #38
  39. CDestroyer

    CDestroyer Professional

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    Just to highlight herself because she had to use such primitive tools.
     
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  40. ruerooo

    ruerooo Legend

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    Emphasis on A-Rod only in the states, I'll bet.

    Rafa started using a Babolat racquet because Carlos used one.

    (Have you listened ever to any of his Spanish interviews? He wanted to do everything his mentor did.)
     
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  41. tomaskei123

    tomaskei123 New User

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    y does this bother u,u seem really angry :confused:
     
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  42. connico

    connico Rookie

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    I think after the pro-drive with the white stripes came out and Roddick started to really hammer those serves is when babolat took off. I think it was in the 2000s when babolat really took off in the united states. Before than it was a European brand only.
     
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  43. tennis_balla

    tennis_balla Hall of Fame

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    The US market is huge. Tennis is more popular in Europe but because the US market is so large, companies have to make it there in order to be considered big time. This is where Roddick played a key role for Babolat in their beginnings going into the racket industry so his influence on the brands popularity can be argued was bigger then Nadal's.

    There are only a handful of players who directly sell merchandise for companies. That is why they are paid big contracts. Roddick is one of them as per my conversation with the head Babolat rep in Canada. Just the way it is.
     
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  44. Greg Raven

    Greg Raven Semi-Pro

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    It bothers me because I think tennis is the best game ever devised by man, but to watch it on TV usually means having to endure non-stop drivel and stupid utterances by the commentators.

    It used to be that the commentators for the Monte Carlo masters had very little to say, and it was wonder. For that matter, it used to be that the commentators on U.S. televised tennis would shut their festering gobs during the point.

    These days, not only do the comments talk throughout the match, but they often talk about things other than the match, to the point where much of what they say is blindingly obvious, off topic, idiotic, or just plain incorrect.

    This shows they have less respect for the game than for the sound of their own voice. This ruins my enjoyment of the match, and degrades the very game itself.
     
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  45. drakulie

    drakulie Talk Tennis Guru

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    ^^^^^couldn't agree more.

    Even worse is when the terrible 5 commentate (carillo, shiver, fernandez, navratilova, evert)
     
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  46. tennis_balla

    tennis_balla Hall of Fame

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    Pam Shriver is the absolute worst. Remember Blake getting pissed off at her during his match at Wimbledon a few years back. Even after he told her off, she still didn't shut up and kept talking.
     
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  47. Venetian

    Venetian Professional

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    +1

    Babolat was already doing decent business in Europe at the time, thanks in part to Moya. But to really be considered a top brand in the racquet industry Babolat had to break into the US market. Roddick allowed them to do that.
     
    #47
  48. tennis_balla

    tennis_balla Hall of Fame

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    As far back as 2002, before anyone ever heard of Rafa, the talk was about Babolat rackets. Babolat was very aggressive in their campaign in North America, giving average ranked players 2 rackets, a bag and some strings for $200 if I remember correctly. Word got around and a fair bit of guys switched or at least gave the rackets a demo. By the time Rafa won Roland Garros in 2005, Babolat was already pretty well established in the US and worldwide.
     
    #48
  49. junbumkim

    junbumkim Professional

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    Babolat had relatively limited racket selection up untill 1999~2000. Their entire racket selection was probably fewer than 10. Even among European players, they were not very common. I can only think of Moya, Clisjters, and Hantuchova who were using them....Needless to say, they were quite rare in US.

    Babolat began to expand their racket line in 1999, and Roddick came onto the scene in 2001, which helped US become familiar with the rackets. I would say it was probably the beginning of Babolat "boom" if you would call it....Then, Nadal came along...Hard to say, what it would have been like w/o Nadal..But, they do make good rackets.
     
    #49
  50. JoelDali

    JoelDali G.O.A.T.

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    Roger would win a slam if he switched to Babolat. Too stubborn though.
     
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