Racquets for children are hardly new, but until now, most of them have been simply smaller versions of a full-sized model. Thanks to Babolat's pioneering work with scientists, coaches and behavioural experts in France and America, the Lyon-based company has now brought out a whole range of racquets conceived, designed and developed with the specific needs of 4-12 year-olds in mind.
As part of the launch of these racquets, the most successful coach of the French Open Toni Nadal taught 30 youngsters aged 8-12 how to play like the best. 2020 US Open Champion Dominic Thiem and US Open reigning champion Carlos Alcaraz were also part of the event to play with the kids.
The lucky youngsters were selected from Parisian tennis associations, Yannick Noah's Fête le Mur charity and Lagardère Paris Racing, the country club that hosted the event. The kids learned how to string a racquet – as Babolat believes 50% of a racquet's effectiveness comes from strings.
Babolat teamed up with two respected partners and a group of coaches to create the world's first racquet range designed to meet the specific needs of young players. Scientific input came from the French laboratory LIBM (Laboratoire Inter-universitaire de Biologie et Motricité), which looked at what a racquet needs to offer a child for optimum development to prevent injuries in growing bodies.
LIBM analysed more than 300 children from 15 tennis clubs in France to determine the best characteristics, like size, balance and grip. Pedagogic advice came from a group of around 10 top coaches who specialise in techniques of learning and teaching tennis.