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Tennis set for a smart makeover

Calcutta: If Rafael Nadal wants to know the details about his game, he may not now need to look beyond his racquet.

Babolat, the French company which invented racquet strings, is ready with another innovation that may change the way how the leading tennis players around the world read and analyse their games.

The new racquet, called Babolat PLAY Pure Drive, which is being touted as a smart racquet, looks like a regular one. However, according to the website of the company it has “sensors integrated into the handle to allow players to have access to a lot of information on power, impact locator, type and number of strokes (forehand, backhand, serve, overhead smash)”.

It can provide information on the power of the shots, the angle at which the racquet strikes the ball, the level of spin, total play time and ball impact location.

“Babolat’s challenge has been to integrate sensors in the handle of the racquet without changing the playability or the feel of the racquet. The design seamlessly integrates two buttons and a USB port inside the butt cap without changing the performance of the racquet,” according to the website. It will have memory capacity of 150 hours of tennis game.

The data can be analysed on a smartphone, tablet or computer. Founded in Lyon in 1875, the company has provided racquets to generations of tennis and badminton stars. Players like Nadal, Jo Wilfried Tsonga, Li Na, Sam Stosur and Agnieszka Radwanska are among the current crop of champions who use Babolat equipment.

Though the company has not identified the players who may be using it, they have confirmed that some of their sponsored players will use them in the upcoming French Open and Wimbledon. The guardians of the sport, the International Tennis Federation (ITF), has declared the racquet to be legal.

Eric Babolat, the company’s chief executive, was quoted in the British media as saying: “It is information coming direct from the racket, from the string bed, and it tells us exactly what is happening, not just a feeling from the player about what goes on.

“For me, it was incredible that you can take the No. 1 tennis player in the world and see that he doesn’t really know anything about what is happening in his racket, apart from his feel. He has no data about anything, and it is incredible to imagine. It is like you are a Formula One driver and don’t know how fast you are driving.”

He added: “We have a lot of players testing. It is going to happen soon. It is a question of days, not months.” The racquets will cost 325.

Mark Petchey, a former coach of Andy Murray, the Wimbledon champion, said that the new technology had “limitless potential”.

“From analysing the data, in one match or over several, you can analyse your player’s shot selection, you can see if your player is playing with too much variety or not enough variety, or maybe not playing to their strengths, maybe being a little too defensive,” he said.