Published on June 24th, 2015 | by Greg0
Babolat AeroPro Drive PLAY: Technical Tennis
When two of the best professional tennis players in the world endorse generations of a racquet, you can rest assured that it has something to offer. Especially when the two names are Rafael Nadal and Caroline Wozniacki, and the company behind the gear is 140-year old Babolat. Despite their age, they’ve created some pretty cutting-edge technology, including the world’s first connected tennis racquet.
Today, we’re looking at the latest iteration of the system, the Babolat AeroPro Drive PLAY, with that last part indicating the unique data-rich feature set. They’ve been adding the Bluetooth wireless module across their multiple models, but the challenge has been to integrate sensors in the handle of the racket without changing the playability or the feel of the racket. Their app has continuously improved- we checked out an earlier version a while back in the form of the the Play Pure Drive (before they standardized the upper-case capitalization for the family).
The aforementioned sensors help PLAY racquets, via your smart device, provide access to a variety of information, including stroke power, impact location, and the type and number of strokes. You can also see your effective play time, power, endurance, technique, consistency, energy and even rallies. As we mentioned in our previous review, tennis has been a sport revolutionized by technology- the modern racquet is so far superior to older ones as to be a completely different game. And changing your own tennis game is not quite as simple as adding a USB port, or even checking on some feedback. We’ve seen quite a bit of connected sports gear, from soccer balls to basketball gadgets, but the most critical part is not the hardware- it’s the software. Thankfully, Babolat’s app is great, and nudges you in a lot of small ways to improve- both by offering clean and precise data and making it simple to track your changes over time.
Some basic stats on the racquet, available with or without PLAY technology: the head is 100 square inches, the racquet 27 inches long in total, with a strung weight of 11.3oz, or about 320 grams (300g unstrung). The only major change from the previous models is the updated striking black, yellow and orange cosmetic, which is pretty stunning. Style-wise, the AeroPro Drive is a fast, powerful, all-around capable machine, and it scales well meaning that beginners can appreciate it and won’t outgrow your trust sidekick. It’s a medium-power, solid-serve racquet- it isn’t the fastest, or the lightest, nor does it offer the biggest sweet spot. But it’s one of the most versatile and friendly on the market, and available now online and in stores for around $350.