Eric Babolat, CEO of Babolat company, gave an interview to the TV-studio of St. Petersburg Women’s Trophy 2018. The press-service of the tournament publishes the most interesting excerpts from this conversation.
– Welcome to St. Petersburg and to St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy, Eric! What good wind brings you here?
– What brought me here? Well, Russia is an important place for tennis and has been for many years. Our company has been here for 20 years – since 1998, we distribute via our local partner NEVA SPORT company, so we are here to celebrate this 20th anniversary together.
– 20 years is a big number, a round number and a round anniversary as well. Russians like to come up with round figures and numbers. Could you share with us some statistics about your company?
– Our company has been involved in tennis since 1875. And I’ve just learned yesterday that it seems like the Russian emperor also received in 1875 the first tennis kit ever made and I think the racket was strung with our strings. Our company was the inventor of tennis strings in those times, so we are part of tennis history since way back when. Wimbledon started in 1877, 2 years after our company was launched, so it tells you how old our company is. Ever since Babolat has been the world leader in tennis in terms of making tennis strings and since the mid-1990s in terms of tennis rackets and now we also have balls, shoes and all the player’s equipment.
– Did you also provide tennis strings for the Russian players back then in the 19th century?
– Yes, yes, since forever I think we have been here. Two things are very important for our company: we are dedicated to tennis and we reach out for innovations. We are finding new products that helping players do perform better and become a better player. It also started with the French Musketeers and Suzanne Lenglen – and up until today. We also worked cooperated with the best Soviet and then Russian players.
– By statistics we also mean some business statistics. Over those 20 years you must have achieved some good results in Russia? What position are you holding on the Russian market and how can you compare it to your position worldwide?
– We are №1 in the world in rackets and strings since many-many years and we are №1 in Russia for 10 years in tennis rackets thanks to Pavel Solovyev, the director NEVA SPORT. So it’s a great achievement!
– Congratulations on these results. To what do you owe this smashing success? Is it the merit of your Russian partner or is it the merit of the Russian clients who are hungry for tennis and like to buy something new, something bright – and we know that your products are very colorful, appealing and high-tech?
– For sure the Russian tennis culture is deep and historical and for sure our distributor is doing a tremendous job. But I also think part of our success is due to the fact that we are a dedicated and specialized company, focusing only on tennis since a lot of years now. Our aim is to support the performance of professional players as well as amateurs. I mean, you can be sometimes a bad player and if you love the game and you want to play and improve, then we have got a solution for you. We study ballistics to produce good rackets and strings, special tennis shoes – and all these things are very important for players.
– Could you give us some examples of the tournaments – on top of this one – where Babolat is an official supplier of whatever product it might be, like tennis balls or something else?
– We are on many tournaments in different fields: we can provide balls, we are also providing the racket’s services for the players – I mean, stringing a racket, customizing it, changing the weight and the balance. The most prestigious tournaments where we are in – on top of those in St. Petersburg – are Roland Garros, where we do all of the things I’ve mentioned before for many years and Wimbledon. So we are the official ball of Roland Garros, the official racket – we have our rackets there with Roland Garros name – and also provide racket services for the players service (such as stringing and racket’s preparation). At Wimbledon we are the official tennis shoe and the rackets and also provide stringing services.
– If you look at the history of Babolat, it’s a history of innovation. You began with something very basic like strings which is very important. But then there were the rackets, then there were the shoes in cooperation with Michelin, then there was something very technical – that special device connected with a racket that can measure the speed and the accuracy of the ball, so you are always basically on the cutting edge of technologies. But you can’t stop, because if you stop, then the competitor will jump over and seizer this opportunity to leave you behind. Could you just open some secrets of your plans for the future?
– For sure innovation is the key, because tennis is a fighting sport and you need to beat someone in front of you, so all players are looking for materials that are helping them to be quicker, to be faster to beat their opponent. Of course, everything starts from strings. There are two basic things for players: how you hit the ball and we call it ballistics, and the strings. The strings are very important in the racket frame, because we can compare it to a race car: you have the body and the engine. The body of the racket is the frame and the strings are the engine. That’s the analogy. So strings are very important for power and also for ball control. And then it’s important to study the foot work to create the right tennis shoe. You mentioned our partner Michelin, with whom we designed our shoes especially for tennis players. The movements on a tennis court differ from your usual running. In tennis you go from side to side and you need jump to back to the other side, so a good grip (with the surface) gives you the power and the speed. And you also named the digital connected products and we see them as something important, because we are in a performance sport. And to perform well you need to measure where you are. Of course, the score and the statistics of the game are important. Thanks to our connected device we are able to give statistics on what happens on the court – the ball speed, the spin effect, the direction of the ball trajectory etc. That’s very important in order to improve the game and I think that’s why tennis lovers purchase our products because they expect our product to help them get better.
– How important for you is to be a partner of both St. Petersburg’s tournaments, the men’s and the women’s event? What does it give you in terms of exposure and promotion of your products?
– Too many reasons. First, it’s very important for all tennis lovers to see the best champion fighting and it’s very inspiring and it attracts these tennis lovers to the game. And for this season since Monday we are very lucky to have two World Champions in ATP and in WTA: Rafael Nadal and Caroline Wozniacki. Both of them play with the same Babolat racket (Pure Aero). So the visibility of the players is very important for us, but also the fact that all Russian tennis lovers from the regions, the kids can go and see in action the players (who entered St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy 2018) and get inspired. As far as I remember, 70 % of all Russian juniors are playing with our product and that’s good for our future and for the tennis future, that the new generation is coming. And, of course, it’s important for them to see today’s champions and to want to beat them. So the visibility of the champions promotes the game in Russia, where tennis is so important and surely it’s essential for us.
– Eric, we congratulate you on this round number 20th anniversary in Russia! Keep up the good work, keep being the leader in Russia, I’m sure that your Russian clients will be responsive to any innovations you have up your sleeve. We want you to enjoy this tournament and maybe also play some tennis if you have free time!
– Yes, I hope I will. Thank you very much for your support, it’s very important for us. I love my job and I love what we do and we love our sport – tennis. And I think it tells, and people believe in it.