Although it didn’t feature in my Christmas Gift Ideas for Tennis Lovers blog post (as I only discovered it afterwards) I ended up buying my other half a Babolat POP from Tennis Warehouse Europe for Xmas. I wasn’t sure if it was just a bit of a gimmick, but it actually turns out that he loves it and is using it for all of his trainings and tennis matches. He has even developed Excel spreadsheets for tracking his progress (which I have turned into a template that you can download at the end of this post!). So I asked him to help me write a review about it on my blog, in case anyone reading this is thinking of buying one and wants to find out more.
The Babolat POP is a sensor that slips inside a wristband which needs to be worn on your dominant arm when playing tennis. You connect it to your smartphone via a downloadable app. It records data related to your forehands, backhands, serves, volleys, and smashes and you can assign each recording you do to either a training session, a match or an open session (which might be, for example, when you are warming up or rallying with a friend). For your forehand and backhand it can identify the racket speed and whether the shot is flat, sliced or with top spin. It will also record the racket speed on your serves and the total number of smashes and volleys. Once the app has recorded all of your shot statistics, it will calculate a PIQ score for your forehands and backhands. We aren’t sure of the exact details of the calculation of this score, but it appears to be a quality score that combines the speed, style and spin (see screenshots below).
The first thing my partner did when he had installed the app was to record an open session in our living room, where he simulated a number of different shots. He just wanted to see how close the sensor got to reality (even if, admittedly, he wasn’t really playing tennis). The sensor did well, and identified the various forehands, backhands, slices, top spin, smashes and volleys that he simulated. This was good enough for him (phew – my Xmas pressie was a success!) and he has worn it every time he has been on a tennis court since (and so he is no longer a Babolat POP ‘newbie’, has passed through the ‘rookie’ stage, and has now reached the slightly more respectable state of ‘ace’).
The features he likes best are the racket speed and PIQ scores and the fact that he can compare the statistics from his training sessions and matches. He has been surprised to see just how much worse his shots are in matches as compared to training, and so his objective this year is to improve his scores in both, whilst at the same time reducing the difference between them.
Although the app does provide some visual representations of the data, my partner felt he needed more post-processing (for example, it only gives the average PIQ score from the last 6 sessions rather than all of them) and so he created his own template in Excel where he can copy that data from each recording, and it produces summary graphs. (I think I have told you before that we are both engineers and love our statistics!) Here is a screenshot of his summary sheet so far (I’m sure he won’t mind me sharing it with you…)
If you would like to produce some similar plots with your own Babolat POP data, you can download his simple template (with some example data). It is rather rudimentary, but we hope the Babolat POP team can come up with something similar (though better!) in the future.
To conclude, the Babolat POP tennis sensor is a great gadget for a tennis player, it works well (as far as we could tell through simple tests), encourages improvement and allows you to track your progress over time.