Review: Babolat POP Tennis Sensor

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…)

babolat_pop_piq-overview

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.

Review: Romp Supply Vibration Dampeners

I need to begin this blog post with two disclosures. The first is that when the email entitled ‘Product You’ll Enjoy’ from the owner of Romp Supply arrived in my inbox I almost sent it straight to my spam folder in shock, but then my eyes landed on the words ‘tennis fashionista’ and I realised it was definitely a serious message for me! The second is that as an outcome of this email, Romp Supply sent me three vibration dampeners for free which prompted this review, but I can assure you that all opinions remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company.

Romp Supply make three different brightly coloured vibration dampeners in lemon yellow, cherry red and sky blue. You could say there isn’t that much variety, but if you think about it, these colours do actually match a wide range of tennis rackets on the market. My tennis racket is an orange and black Head Radical Team and my partner’s is a Prince black and red Warrior 100 racket, so I let him have the red dampener to try (it looks so stylish!), and I took the yellow for myself.

rome_supply_tennis_dampener

They cost $14.95 for a pack of three (so they are a bit pricier than your standard dampener) and whilst they only currently ship to the US, they are looking to expand this to other countries in the future.

What I immediately liked about the Romp dampeners was how flexible they were, which makes them easier to put on. For someone who likes to look after her nails, trying to insert a vibration dampener can be a rather scary undertaking. I have broken at least one nail trying to get those pesky little things on – those small ridges just don’t want to slot onto the strings! I have also managed to lose my vibration dampener quite a few times on the court. I have no idea how common this is (perhaps this is just another of my failings, like throwing my racket across the court), but I think it either happens to me because I didn’t manage to put the dampener on properly and/or because I am learning and often miss-hit the ball, but it is certainly a problem I would prefer to avoid in the future (as I would be way too embarrassed to ask my partner to help me put on a dampener during a tennis match just to save my nails!).

The next thing that I realised was different about the Romp Supply dampener was how many more strings it stretched across compared to a typical button dampener – they are more like the worm-style dampener. Not only does this mean that these dampeners certainly aren’t going anywhere once they are on, they are likely to provide increased dampening. The only way to judge this was to train for a couple of hours with the dampener, which is what my partner and I did in our joint tennis lesson today. (By the way, we really enjoy having tennis lessons together and I recommend it to anyone that wants to find an activity they can share with their other half).

We both started off with our usual dampeners, and after about 30 mins we changed to the Romp dampeners so we could better gauge the influence of the latter (we’re engineers, and so we like to do an experiment properly!). As my partner doesn’t usually have trouble putting on dampeners, he actually found these a bit more time-consuming to attach, as they need to cover more strings. At the end of the 2 hour lesson, we did feel that they provided more dampening, but we weren’t sure if it was possibly too much. However, like all changes it is probably just something we would eventually get used to, and each player has a different preference for the amount of dampening they want (with some people not even using dampeners).

In summary, these are cute, colourful, nail-safe, stay-in-place dampeners that provide increased dampening to your tennis shots. A perfect gift for any tennis lover (except those that don’t use them, of course!).