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Saturday, June 9, 2012

NEWS: Technology comes to tennis with Babolat's Play & Connect

When is a tennis racquet not just a tennis racquet? When it is a digital information gathering device as well. Enter the Babolat Play & Connect racquet being introduced at this year's 2012 French Open. Imagine comparing data about how you hit the ball with your tennis buddies, evaluating how you fared against a particular opponent, or reviewing an analysis of your strokes - from the on-board computer – and seeing how they match up to the pros.

The concept is a smart one (pun intended): gather "objective" data instead of "subjective." As tennis players, we depend very much on feel or perception of our strokes. Take the personality and pride out of the equation and we have hard facts that can help us determine the idiosyncrasies of our playing style and how they affect our strike of the ball based on the impact zone. This data can, for example, help players determine the weight distribution of the racquet that suits their game – notably head light, head heavy, or evenly balanced.

Not slated for release until 2013, players including Rafael Nadal, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga , Kim Clijsters and Li Na gave it a whirl for an audience that watched the action as live game statistics (on the big screen, tablet computer or smartphone) that included shot type, power, and consistency.

As somewhat of a tech geek, I applaud this effort and look forward to how this can help connect my love of technology with my love of tennis. But as a traditionalist, I'm a little worried about how sterile data can be. By the very nature of this game and it's subjectivity, we all get our own strain of passion, inspiration and awe from watching or playing a match. Let's hope we don't remove those factors thanks to silicon and microprocessors.

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