Tennis requires fitness, practice, and strategy for a player to really excel. Now, in the age of smart sports, there’s plenty of gear designed specifically to tennis players improve, both on and off the court.
Babolat has been around for over a century. In 1875, Pierre Babolat stretched some natural guts to make the first tennis strings, and a legend was born. By 1950, any player who was anyone wanted Babolat strings. Since then, Babolat has pioneered innovations in tennis tech, with new synthetic Elascord — and later multifilament — strings, and oil to maintain the natural strings for those who weren’t ready to make the switch. The Babolat Company has created electric stringing machines, a racket diagnostic center and, in 1994, its own line of tennis rackets. Eventually, they expanded to include balls, shoes, and other accessories like bags.
Their more recent offerings include the smart racket line. They look like plain ol’ rackets — plainly beautiful graphite and tungsten — but have sensors integrated into the handle that connects to their Play app. These rackets can detect the location of the ball’s impact on the racket, the type and number of strokes, and stroke power. The battery lasts about six hours, with a 150-hour memory capacity. Though reviews differ on the accuracy of the records, you can share your data with the worldwide community of Babolat players.
Sony Play Sensor, $200
If you already have a racket you love, adding the Smart Tennis sensor to the grip end is like putting your racket through college. The sensors fit four major brands; Wilson, Yonex, Prince, and Head; there’s a list of which rackets are compatible here.
Sony’s Smart Tennis Sensor records and reports the number of shots, hit location, nine swing types, swing speed, initial ball speed, and ball spin. The sensor itself is tough little nub; waterproof and dustproof. Once fully charged it will last about an hour and a half with Bluetooth going (assuming you’re swinging away) and twice as long without Bluetooth active. It will store up to 12,000 shots so you can use it without being connected to your phone and upload the data later. Or, if you have a smart watch, you can see your stats immediately on your wrist.
You can view and share your skills, photos and video via the iOS or Android app. The app can also record video; the Live Mode function syncs your shot data with the video so you can check your form along with your swing records. The sensor also works together with Sony’s Motion Shot app so you can take a photo sequence of your swing.
Available at: Sony
Zepp Smart Tennis Sensor, $150
Zepp also offers a racket attachment that connects to an app via Bluetooth. The difference here is that it focuses on your form, allowing you to more easily see where you’d like to adjust your serve — assuming it needs adjustment. The sensor translates your motion into a 3D model of your swing viewable on your phone so you can check yourself right away.
Zepp also tracks the standard tennis stats, like power, spin, acceleration and swing time, ball and racket speed, as well analyzing the location of your hits to show your strike consistency — how often you hit the ball with a given point on the racket per type of swing. The sensor itself comes with a mount that attaches to any racket, negating compatibility issues.
Pulse Play, $75-$125
Pulse Play is a smart watch — for once, nothing to do with rackets — that keeps score and acts as a digital announcer. With a click, you send your score to the cloud where it syncs with your opponent’s watch. It works for both singles and doubles games, as well as off the court or badminton and ping-pong.
Taken together with the Pulse Play app it’s is like having an international online racket sports tournament service. The app helps you find matches, keeps a match history, and ranks you globally against other players. You will, however, need an internet connection for the watch to ping the cloud. The Pulse Play also functions as an actual watch. Since it’s still up for funding on Indiegogo you can still grab one for $75, $50 off the proposed retail price.
Available at: Pulse-Play