Throughout the development of a tennis racket, testing plays a prominent role in the process. For the new Pure Strike, Babolat took a step further in responding to the needs of players by involving a large network of ambassadors from around the world for an unprecedented collaboration in tennis.
“It was a real surprise to receive the racket prototype. To participate in the development of a new product felt really special,” says David Jobert, a Babolat ambassador in France. This feeling was shared by all “”testers”” when discovering #ProjectOne7, the prototype that would become the new Pure Strike.
It was the same impression on the other side of the Atlantic. “It was an honor for me to have been chosen as one of the few people who could test #ProjectOne7,” adds Carlos Juarez (New York, USA). “Every time I played with this racket, the players on the other courts watched me, came to ask me about the racket and if they could try it. The Pure Strike is solid on every stroke, which means I can trust it to hit clean shots every time.”
To understand the context, we must start at the project’s origin. First, there was the analysis of the original Pure Strike, the first version released in 2014. “It was a demanding frame, very technical and highly targeted to experts,” explains François-Xavier Quesse, Global Product Manager at Babolat. “If we wanted to appeal to a wider audience of players, the frame had to evolve.”
In order to achieve this, Babolat decided to create a collaborative program. Initially, Babolat engaged more than a hundred expert players (professionals, coaches and national level players) to test the prototype. The recruitment of these testers was done per specific criteria corresponding to the benefits of the racket; namely attackers who like to strike first. Ideal testers were players who prefer to end the point in several shots, those who can generate their own power, and those who prefer to take the ball early.
Once the feedback from these testers was analyzed, the project entered its second phase: expanding the test to 300 new players worldwide.
This time, the prototype of the future Pure Strike was no longer black, but white. Babolat chose white to differentiate it from the typical black prototypes used in racket testing. Its code name: #ProjectOne7.
The involvement of testers and the quality of
their feedback provided important lessons learned.
François-Xavier Quesse. Global Product Manager
The happy few who received these unique models were invited to share their impressions on social media. #ProjectOne7 quickly took over Twitter, Facebook and Instagram with thousands of posts from all corners of the globe. Through videos and commentary, the ambassadors shared their feedback in the most objective way possible – giving Babolat the ultimate validation of the product before launching the new Pure Strike. “The involvement of testers and the quality of their feedback provided important lessons learned. The relevance and accuracy of their remarks were a real plus to confirm the playability and design of the racquet,” notes François-Xavier Quesse.
I loved contributing to the development of
the new Pure Strike in a concrete way. Dominic Thiem
During this development, there was also the input of Dominic Thiem (AUT), the youngest player in the top 10. In April 2016 at Monte Carlo, the tournament that launches the clay season, the Austrian player began playing with #ProjectOne7. “I loved contributing to the development of the new Pure Strike in a concrete way,” commented Thiem “It’s important to be able to interact with the Babolat teams, to provide feedback and to be able to evolve the racket that has allowed me to climb in the world rankings since entering the circuit.”
More precisely, it was with #ProjectOne7 that Dominic Thiem managed to reach the semi-finals of Roland-Garros, his best performance in a Grand Slam tournament. “Dominic has been very involved, as well as other champions on our team. They were all very motivated to participate in this test and played along with the mystery that surrounded #ProjectOne7,” said Jean-Christophe Verborg, Babolat’s Director of Competition.
Thanks to all the feedback, #ProjectOne7 soon became a reality with the launch of the first model in the new Pure Strike range in September 2016. The new Pure Strike integrates innovations like FSI Power, which optimizes the stringing pattern with wider spacing of the crosses to boost power, and Hybrid Frame Technology, with wider beam sections in the throat and head of the racket to enhance precision and increase racket stability.
In all, the new Pure Strike is a perfect balance between power and control while being significantly more forgiving than the previous model. Once the technical data was obtained, it was time to validate the new design of the Pure Strike. Testers had unanimously approved the white prototype. “While the first Pure Strike was very demanding, its look – black and red – made an impact we wanted to preserve,” commented François Xavier Quesse. “As soon as the #ProjectOne7 prototype landed with our testers, the reviews of its look were unanimous. Beautiful, different, racy – all words used to describe its ‘reveal.’ This organic buzz was amplified as soon as Dominic Thiem stepped out on the Monte Carlo courts,” adds Verborg.
In the end, all these comments confirmed it was necessary to keep this DNA –a symbol of audacity and expertise. “The look of a racket also makes you feel good when you take it in hand. The white, with orange touches…I liked it immediately. It’s out of the ordinary; the pure, clean side reflects what the racket brings me,” comments Thiem who had a remarkable season in 2016, topped with qualifying for the ATP World Tour Finals in London.. In an industrial process as cumbersome and strategic as the development of a new tennis racket, especially for this type of hybrid frame, Babolat was more than innovative. Drawing on its team of pro players and ambassadors, Babolat returned to its research and development department. This dialogue and technical conversation allowed for a real evolution in playability and design. It resulted in a powerful and precise racket, perfectly adapted to the target segment: attacking players who want to dictate points and put the ball where they want, whenever they want.
With the September 2016 release of the flagship model, the 16/19 with 98 sq. in. / 630 cm² headsize, and the entire range release in early January 2017, it is clear that the Pure Strike has found its audience. “We very quickly sold out at pre-launch. It reminded us of the Aero, where we missed the mark on the first version and had to return to the drawing board,” recounts Quesse. “With the AeroPro Drive, we maintained the key benefit and target of the frame, but updated it to be more playable. This evolution resulted from close collaboration with Rafael Nadal. As we know, the Aero went on to become one of the best-selling rackets in tennis history and has accompanied Rafa throughout his storied career. Of course, we want the same destiny for the Pure Strike: to empower our champions to win major titles, whether it is Dominic Thiem or Thanasi Kokkinakis. Likewise, we hope it will be a weapon for club players who seek a performance racket to enhance their games with power and precision,” concludes Quesse.