Corbas (France) (AFP)
For Rafael Nadal, it’s a long-standing association with Babolat, for Roger Federer, it’s a Wilson while world number one Novak Djokovic is powered by Head.
Tennis fans may dream of emulating the stars using the same rackets as their idols, but the “Big Three” in the sport are very specific when it comes to their needs.
Suppliers, too, keep the tricks of the trade close at hand.
“The racket is vital for the career of any player, it is an extension of the arm,” Nadal told AFP, about to embark on his attempt to win a 21st Grand Slam.
“It’s through her that the sensations pass and at the end of the day, without a good feeling with your racquet, it’s very difficult to be successful.
“If I try another racket today, I won’t be comfortable at the start. Whereas with my racket I feel good because I know it by heart, I know where to hit, I know what I can do.
“At all times I know how the ball can react to the movement I am making. “
Nadal has shot forehands and backhands around the world with a Babolat racket in hand.
His relationship began when he was just nine years old when he and his uncle Toni, his trainer for the majority of his greatest triumphs, walked into a sports store in his hometown of Manacor.
As he approaches his 35th birthday, he has never changed equipment supplier.
# photo1 It’s a partnership for “his entire career and even beyond,” said Babolat managing director Eric Babolat, who is as stunned as fans of the Spaniard.
When they saw Nadal play, the senior officers of the company said to themselves, “A UFO has arrived, what can we do? “, did he declare.
At Roland Garros in 2020, when Nadal won his 13th Roland Garros title, he was using his personal branded racquet.
Developed over the years in close collaboration with Nadal, the result is a carbon composite frame weighing 300 grams without the strings, which anyone can buy.
But from there, the frames made in China go through the Corbas laboratory, near Lyon, where they are then adapted to Nadal.
To customize a racket, it takes 20 to 90 minutes of work for an estimated additional cost of between 150 and 200 euros.
First of all, there is a customization of the handle – the size can be fine-tuned, the shape adapted even to the point of carving a slit for a finger.
Technical customization will follow – adding material to the frame or neck to modify the racquet for power or its center of gravity for precision.
“It’s tailor-made, we work on different sizes, different playing intentions, to adapt the racket to the player’s needs,” explains Sylvain Trinquigneaux, engineer at Babolat’s performance laboratory.
The settings remain confidential.
“Involving all our players in research and development would be ideal, but it is impossible,” added Trinquigneaux.
“However, Rafa is Rafa. His feedback is super interesting and super enriching. Ditto for Dominic Thiem. “
However, for gamers, pros or amateurs alike, looking for a factory-made magic wand, Trinquigneaux has bad news.
“The ideal racket does not exist. “
© 2021 AFP