Paris: A tennis racquet stuffed with electronic sensors capable of tracking a player's every slice, spin and smash made its public debut at the French Open on Thursday. Tennis stars Rafael Nadal and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga were among those who tested the racquet, made by French manufacturer Babolat, at a launch event on a sun-baked clay court.
As Nadal and Tsonga traded shots before an audience of Babolat employees and journalists, their prototype racquets wirelessly communicated data to two display screens. Stroke type, category of ball spin, shot power and the positioning of the ball impact were all tracked live by the racquets, which are due to go on sale in 2013.
Eric Babolat, who took the reins of the family enterprise in 1998 after his father was killed in a plane crash, said the "Play & Connect" racquets, which feel and weigh the same as a normal racquet, represented a great leap forward for the game.
"It's like going from silent cinema to movies with sound," he told journalists. Belgium's Kim Clijsters, who also tested the racquet opposite China's Li Na, described the technology as "amazing."
Babolat's aim is to appeal also to the non-professional players, who will be able to upload data to an online application and track their performance to improve their game. The company said the cost of the electronic racquet would be in the same price range as a high-end racket, about 250 euros.