Monday, June 13, 2011

Swing away "Babolay"!

Because it’s a French company, I’ve always pronounced its name Bab-o-lay not Bab-o-lot, and it works better as a title for this article in any case.

Saturday was my first match with my new racquet; in fact, it was literally the first time that I took it out of the bag. After choosing my new stick, I knew that I was taking a risk playing with it even though I’d gone through an exhaustive 3-week process of evaluating it. Firstly, I went with the 2009 version vs. the 2011 version that I’d demoed. Secondly, it had new strings strung at 60 lbs.; the demo I’d tested had strings that were near the breaking point, which had been strung at 58.5 lbs. I don’t know about you, but my racquet always needs a breaking-in period after a fresh stringing, to get the ‘slickness’ off the strings and/or to loosen any stiffness from the sticking together at their crossings.

I did leave early and got to our opponents’ courts by 8:30 AM for our 9 AM match, but that’s always risky because sometimes they’re locked behind gates. They weren’t, so I hit a bucket of balls serving. When our line 1 man showed, I only got to hit a half a dozen balls before their captain, who turned out to be my opponent at line 2 (and who played with the Ltd version of the racquet I’d just bought), got there and we had to exchange lineups. Obviously I then got to warm-up with the new racquet before we started the match.

Other than a slight ‘tinging’ sound when I hit the ball – caused by not having my usual, longer damper on the racquet yet – which took some getting used to, it played great! Early in the match I noticed what I had during the demo process, I was able to maneuver the stick quickly for volleys and for shots hit at me when I was near the net. Even though the specs claim that my new stick is just as heavy – fully strung and swinging weight – as my previous racquet, this one appears lighter yet still firm enough to “muscle” the ball over the net on off-center or weakly swung shots. I had several “pickups” at net and hit more than a few backhands which seemed to have more pop than they would have with my old racquet.

My service games were better not because I felt that I had any more velocity on my serve, but because I could place it wherever I needed to in the box. Time and time again I got cheap points by serving it wide into the ad-court service box, to my opponent’s backhand. My forehand, well, it’s my weapon anyway, and I while I did overpower the ball (long) on 1 or 2 occasions, the vast majority of the time I was able to swing freely through the ball and have it go where I wanted:  drill the middle, pass or at my opponent who had no time to react. Comfortably ahead in the second set after having won the first, I swung as hard as I could on many occasions and was rewarded with winners; even a framed shot found its way in the alley past my opponent.

In other words, I was able to “swing away” with my “Babolay”!

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