Nadal and Babolat - an incredible partnership over 20 years
French Open 2020: Rafael Nadal lies exhausted in the red sand of the Court Philippe-Chatrier at the Stade Roland Garros on Sunday after his victory over Novak Djokovic. Once again he made history, a new chapter in an epic full of round numbers. Right now, for example, we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of his partnership with Babolat.
last edit: Oct 13, 2020, 02:43 pm
The win on Sunday was Nadal's 13th win at the French Open and his 20th Grand Slam title, which coincided with his 100th win at the Stade Roland Garros and a period of 15 years between the first and (so far) last of his big ones Covers title wins. After the first victory in four sets against Mariano Puerta at the French Open 2005, Nadal called the Babolat team and thanked them for the most important tool for this great triumph.
No wonder that the likeable Mallorcan says: “As much as you fight, victory never belongs to you alone.” A tennis player's most important weapon is his racket, and Nadal's long journey to the top began with his yellow aero. But his shared history with Babolat began long before that memorable day in June 2005.
The young Rafa was just eight years old when Babolat launched its first racket, the Pure Drive, in 1994. A year later, the boy turned out to be such a promising talent that his trainer, his uncle Toni Nadal, started looking for a better weapon for his left-handed nephew. Because Babolat chose Spain as the first foreign market after France for the Pure Drive, exactly this model was on display in the store. The fact that Carlos Moya also played with it impressed the sports-loving boy. Moya was not only an aspiring Spanish player at the time, but like Nadal he came from Mallorca. Nadal tried the lighter version of the Pure Drive, the Soft Drive, and found it good. So began his story with Babolat.
As he got older, Nadal switched to Pure Drive. In 2004 he switched again.
Babolat Pure Aero - specially developed for spin
Babolat was convinced that Nadal would develop into a top player and dominate his opponents with a strong top spin. That is why the first “Aero” racket was launched in 2003 - specially developed for spin. With an aerodynamic section to increase the "head speed", which gives the ball more revolutions per minute, the racket proved to be perfect for the topspin-heavy game with which Nadal was to conquer the tennis world. Eric Babolat, CEO of Babolat explains: “It was important for us to support Rafa and the development of the game. That's why we decided to design a new racket with a very special focus on power and spin. ”Nadal played with this racket from 2004 - from the year in which he also played a decisive role in the Spanish Davis Cup winning team.
He won his first six big titles with the early Aero: four times the French Open, once Wimbledon, once the Australian Open and Olympic gold in 2008. Until then, it was the striking yellow that we still know today. At the end of 2009 he started playing the RPM Blast, a string with an octagonal cross-section. The string contains silicone to make it more elastic so that it can generate even more spin. In September 2010 he won the US Open with it and was again at the top of the world rankings with this "Golden Slam" status.
Since then, in addition to the general technical development of the Aero, significant changes have been made at two strategically relevant points in time to adapt Nadal's racket to his personal needs - "essentially" according to the standards of a perfectionist who pays attention to the smallest details.
Nadal is looking for "more tasty"
After six years of constant success, Nadal faced a new challenge in 2011. Against Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, all in good shape, Nadal had to find something new, especially against Djokovic, the man who took his place as number 1 on the world rankings. Nadal found that he needed to play closer to the baseline. So he had to make sure that his racket gave the ball something “more tasty”. That is why the Babolat service team had a small strip of tuning tape attached to the upper edge of the frame to reinforce the “hammer effect” a little. This increased the weight of the racket by three grams - a lot in relative terms.
The result was striking. Nadal was back in the game. In 2012 and 2013 he beat Djokovic at the French Open and especially in the final of the US Open 2013, a strenuous match with a rally over 54 strokes in the second set. In October 2013 he was again at the top of the rankings.
Then, after another difficult season in 2016, he asked for another two grams, also on top of the frame. "Aside from these strips of lead tape, there is almost no individual specification of his racket," explains Guillaume Cambon, one of the technicians working on Nadal's racket frame at Babolat. The result was a tenth win at the French Open, the "Decima", and then another win at the US Open that same year.
Nadal's colors on the Pure Aero: red for Spain, orange for sand, purple for honesty
Meanwhile, the racket in Nadal's hand looked a little different than the Pure Aero, which is officially available in sports stores, but it was essentially the same racket. Together with Nadal, Babolat added a few accents of the warm, bold colors that are important to him: red for the Spanish flag, matching the yellow background of the aero, orange for the clay court and purple as the color that is for him stands for honesty and integrity. This means that the racket he plays with is clearly his - but many other players can benefit from the same technology and innovations.
Now Rafael Nadal has managed to equalize Roger Federer's record of 20 Masters titles - and in 2021 he could clearly surpass him. Despite this success, Nadal has remained a humble man who never underestimates his opponents, takes nothing for granted and never believes that everything can only be traced back to his own efforts. And he would never let himself go and break his racket out of anger.
Babolat is very proud of the incredible and lasting partnership with this remarkable person.