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Tennis Elbow and Babolat Racquets

I have been play testing so many different tennis racquet brands and models and found while others vary considerably in terms of power, consistency and weight balance, one particular racquet brand that had always been very different in terms of “feel” and shock absorption - Babolat.

My first experience with the Babolat tennis racquets was back in 2005 when I bought both the legendary Babolat Pure Drive Standard and Bobolat Pure Drive Plus (these were the regular non cortex version). My original Review of the Babolat Pure Drive Standard and Review of the Babolat Pure Drive Plus found here (pictured right).

Back then, even before Babolat introduced the Cortex technology (shaft vibration dampening system), Babolat had already patented the Woofer technology, which that in itself was revolutionary from the very start. Having been using and trying out so many different tennis racquets, the feel on nearly all Babolat tennis racquet were very similar. All of them had the very dampen feel ,you don’t get much feedback off from the strings and felt muted. I play with shock dampeners by default on ALL my racquets. Even with shock absorbers or dampeners on my tennis racquets, almost ALL the other makes, none could emulate the feel of a Babolat’s dampened effect which is unbelievable!

Personally I found Babolat to make one of the best sticks in terms of comfort, playability and power. It is no wonder why most touring professionals use them and why they are one of the most popular tennis racquets where sales are concern. So popular are they, that there are even counterfeit and fake Babolat tennis racquets flooding the market now.

In terms of comfort, with the combination of the woofer and with its now most recent patented cortex shock absorption system, I would consider it second to none in this area as well. I loved the power off the Babolat Pure Drives which was built for raw pace. If you read many reviews, you will find that many players have difficulty taming the power of the Babolat Pure Drives. Many had to increase the tension to 60 pounds and some even higher to try to tame the beast. Since I had tennis elbow issues before, my maximum string tension is always around 53 pounds. My write up on tennis elbow treatment here. I regulate between 50 to 53 pounds seldom going above this maximum tension.

I never had any problems with the power of the Babolat Pure Drives and the so called “unstability” issues that had been plaguing so many players, labeling it a very uncontrollable racquet. The key to playing with all Babolat Pure Drive is the element of spin. Put enough spin on the ball and even at a lower tensions, it will serve you well. Regulating play with a series of flat as well as spin shots will clearly enable you to play to the racquet’s maximum potential with raw power and accuracy. The Babolat Pure Drive is one of the most enjoyable and playable racquets that I have played with. I find that many people who have used the Babolat racquets and never had any issues with the racquet in terms of control will agree with me. My love for Babolat racquets however ENDS here!

My last case of severe tennis elbow which took a year and a half to heal, I believe was attributed to the Babolat Pure Drive. Some of my friends and even my wife who played with it also experienced tennis elbow problems or pain in the wrist. I got severe tennis elbow after playing with the Babolat Pure Drive. I never had any issues with any tennis racquets after that, or prior to that, with the exception of the Donnay Pro One Midsized a long time ago. I had experienced pain in the wrist while using the Babolat Aero Pro (Non Cortex) version (pictured right) but that really didn’t put me out of action as I was not using it all the time regulating between that and my Yonex RDS 001 MP. My review of the Yonex RDS 001 Mid Plus here.

The last straw came with my most recent purchase of latest in the form of the Babolat Storm series. The Babolat Storm series were notably less stiffer than the Babolat Pure Drives, they were also considered lesser powered control oriented racquets, meant more for control than power. The particular model I purchased was the Babolat Aero Storm which like all the Babolat racquets that I have tried was a fantastic stick. My full review of the Babolat Aero storm here.

Babolat Aero Storm a Mini Review:

I however also decided to do a short mini review of the Babolat Aero Storm here since this was the racquet that eventually caused my tennis elbow to flare up. During my first session with the Babolat Aero Storm (pictureed right), I was already initially experiencing some wrist pain and felt some stain on the shoulder and forearm. I attributed this to the heft of the Babolat Aero Storm. The Babolat Aero Strom was 320g unstrung which is a pretty hefty frame. You didn’t feel much of the weight due to Babolat’s patented Aero technology and what I really like most about it was the aero shape profile of the throat which felt really nice for the single handed back hand grip. With its heft you could really feel the Babolat Aero Storm racquet plowing through the shots. Unlike the Babolat Pure Drive, the Babolat Aero Storm didn’t fire bullets or had great pace on the shots, it compensated lack of pace with “control oriented power” with its slower but heavy shots. You could physically feel and see that the ball was travelling at a much slower pace, but still had a lot of mass and weight behind it from the momentum of the heavy swings. With the Babolat Aero Storm you tend to slug your shots at your opponents.

My shots according to my opponents didn’t come with much pace but the momentum behind the “heavy” shots were there and would trouble them. Because it had some heft, it was really stable on returns as well as well volleys and smashes. In short, the Babolat Aero Storm was a sheer joy to use. I was playing some really solid tennis with the Babolat Aero Storm which I could have never asked for.

My single handed backhand drives were more solid and some of my friends were even saying that I played better with this stick. I had managed to also come back from some “come from behind wins” while fending off several match points and attributed this to the consistency, power and control that the Babolat Aero Storm was delivering.

After around 5 sessions with the Babolat Aero Storm, my elbow told me that it couldn’t take it anymore. Initially I had some slight pain but I managed to play some more matches with it. I believe that my elbow lasted so long due to the dampened effect of the racquet masking the vibrations. To come to think of it, how Babolat actually managed to mask the vibration was really amazing.
There was definitely some stiffness in the racquet and the vibration, even with the Woofer and Cortex technology must have been dissipated somewhere. It most likely would have gone into the arm and elbow, but the great thing about Babolat’s Woofer and Cortex system was that it managed to absorb the shock without your arm or elbow feeling it until much later. There have been several reports that Babolat generally make stiff frames according to the listed Babolat RDC ratings and some tennis forum listings and tennis reviews sites. Was this one of the reasons why Babolat came up with the Cortex system to reduce the vibrations and stiffness in their racquets?
Another question would be could the Babolat RDC stiffness rating also vary from one tennis racquet manufacturer to another? How much of a variation and significance this would be between the two makes and models we just wouldn’t know. Its just like how the grip sizes vary from tennis racquet models and manufacturers. Although the Babolat’s RDC stiffness measurement is considered to be a universal measurement, how can we, the consumer be exactly sure that it will be exactly the same between one make or one model? Would they also be consistent from racquets coming from different manufacturing plants or batches? See my article on Wilson Racquet differences here. Contrary to what is suggested about the use of a heavier racquet to limit the potential cause of tennis elbow, the Babolat Aero Pro Storm was one of heavier racquets I was using (320g) unstrung. A heavier racquet for me didn’t reduce the risk of tennis elbow it could have in fact aggravated it! Again, I have no way to verify this and what I am saying is based more on my personal experiences as well as what I read on tennis forums and tennis related websites:

"Some references made here stating
Babolat racquets destroying the arm with tennis elbow (not everybody agreed with this guy though... As there were others who didn't have any problems".

"An epinions.com review of a playtester getting a sore elbow after playing with a Babolat racquet".

"Babolat = Elbow Pain (A post on the Tennis warehouse forum)".

"Another post on the Tennis Warehouse Forum on elbow pain caused by Babolat racquets".

It seems from what is suggested, Babolat frames are generally stiffer and MAY cause tennis elbow or wrist related injuries. I for one have experienced this. I have used other racquet makes and models before and hardly had any issues with my elbow or wrist related problems. When I used the Babolat Pure Drive, I was out for a year and a half, when I tried the Babolat Aero Pro Drive, I encountered wrist pain and finally when I played with the Babolat Aero Storm with cortex, my tennis elbow got inflamed again, this time pretty badly as I have to be on pain medication now. Its either just plain coincidence or simply bad luck, I think its neither of these. Somehow it seems that my elbow just cannot tolerate Babolat frames and I don’t actually know the reason why. If it was poor technique or swing style I would have been already injured awhile back while testing various frames but Babolat always seems to give some pain with different severity.

I shall not want to go into details about stiffness and the composite materials that was put into the racquet as I am no scientist and I have no way to calculate the stiffness of the composite materials that was used while manufacturing Babolat racquets. Clearly the Babolat Woofer and Cortex did help me, I felt really comfortable with the racquet, but it was only later on that I realized that I was in pain. So the Cortex system while it helped reduce the feel and impact on the racquet, in the long run this dampened feel caused me to get an inflamed elbow. To me, it worked TOO well, that it defeated its actual purpose that is to project the elbow from harmful vibrations. If you asked me, if I had felt any difference with a Babolat racquet WITH a Cortex system and WITHOUT a Cortex system, I couldn’t really tell the difference. What I could safely say was that with the old Woofer system, that older Babolat models had were sufficient with a very comfortable and dampened feeling. With or without the Cortex system, I still managed to get an inflamed elbow, resulting in tennis elbow. So it really didn’t benefit me.

Conclusion:

My advice is if you play regularly and never had any issues with tennis elbow before and feel some pain after you switch frames, new string type or moved to a higher tension stop playing immediately! Try maybe another session or so, If the pain still persists, you have roughly isolated the cause as being induced or related to the new tennis racquet or strings. Dump it immediately! It’s not worth getting yourself injured due to this. I believe that I went on too long with the Babolat Aero Storm resulting in more inflammation to the tendons in my elbow. To make things worse, I only felt the pain much later on. The dampened effect of the Babolat’s Woofer and Cortex system did work, and in fact, I felt it worked too well disguising the vibration as well as the stiffness of the racquet until it was too late. This is however only my personal opinion. It could also be from different styles or ways we play and also due to different muscle and bone structure.

There is also some talk in general that Babolat racquets causes tennis elbow and wrist pains (some examples in the links above). In my case, this happens to be true but I am sure there are many individuals out there who don’t have of these issues or pain from playing with Babolat tennis racquets and continue to play without any pain or discomfort. I know some of my friends who play with the exact same racquets not having any issues, they also string their racquets at a higher tension compared to me.

Personally, I have given up on Babolat tennis racquets, as it seems apparent that my elbow is just not meant to play with a Babolat. If you also have any prior issues with tennis elbow or have just come back with any tennis elbow injury just be more cautious and listen to what you body is trying to tell you. Stop immediately if you feel any pain or slight strain. This might be an indication warning you of potential problems later on. This advice concerns whatever racquet or strings you’re using. It does not have to be a certain make or model with a stiffer Babolat RDC rating. What I would suggest if possible, is to play test or demo the racquet for a few sessions. We do not have the luxury to demo tennis racquets here in Singapore for a considerable period of time. I had to buy the Babolat Aero Storm and play test it after some months.

If you never had any tennis elbow problems or wrist pain before, check out the Babolat line of tennis racquets. In my opinion, they make some exceptional frames with their fantastic technological breakthrough in their woofer and cortex systems. If I had no issues with my elbow, I would definitely play with a Babolat no questions asked. If you have had some pain or discomfort in your shoulders, elbow or wrist and want to try out a Babolat get an extended demo session if possible, stop immediately if you feel any pain or discomfort. If you’re ok after a few sessions, go get the Babolat, its really one of the best tennis racquets I’ve played with!

Are Babolat Tennis Racquets more prone to causing Tennis Elbow?

So we again come back to the "million dollar question", are Babolat tennis racquets more prone to causing tennis elbow? I believe this may be true ONLY for certain individuals and NOT everybody. Certainly for me, Babolat seems to be NOT a good match for my elbow and wrists. I have had no problems with other brands. Some of my friends also had problems with tennis elbow from the use of Babolat tennis racquets. While others didn’t, and loved it. I think the question in general about which racquet causes tennis elbow or which ones are more prone to cause tennis elbow is very subjective and varies from person to person. I believe there are also people getting or are more prone to getting tennis elbow with some other racquet models as well and after they switched to Babolat they had no issues.

So it’s all very subjective. The racquet plays a part in tennis elbow, but the swing technique, string tension and string type also plays a huge part. I have been playing tennis for sometime and have been using the same strings and low tension generally for all my racquets so in my case I have eliminated most of the variables that leaves me to think it has something to do with my racquet rather than all the other factors. I will have to give up on Babolats as they are just no good on my elbow and wrist.

Tennis Elbow Survey:

To settle this question once and for all I have decided to set up a Tennis Elbow Survey. This Tennis Elbow Survey is to determine one's general knowledge about tennis elbow, their causes and treatment. There is also a section to find out if the participants of the tennis elbow survey had any issues with Babolat racquets and also add in their personal insights they have about Tennis Elbow and Babolat tennis racquets.

Once I have collected enough information I will publish the results of my survey here to determine one's basic knowledge about Tennis Elbow as well as if people in general had experienced tennis elbow after the use of any Babolat tennis racquets. I would greatly appreciate if you could take some time to participate in the Regentville Tennis Elbow Survey here to gather information about the global knowledge on tennis elbow in general.

Hey, what u write is very deepened... but... have u ever heard about the Pro Kennex Kinetic Technology? Tennis WareHouse tells Pro Kennex Kinetic Pro 7G is the best choice for tennis elbowers! I'd like to demo it, 'cause I've been using the Pure Drive since 2005, with no problems on my arm, but I used a damned Dunlop Aerogel 300 for just two times the last year and I got tennis elbow. Fuck off! Now I've turned back to the Pure Drive, with a soft string (Gut like) but the tennis elbow still remains, though with much less pain, and only the day after I play. Now I want to try the Pro Kennex 'cause the testers of Tennis WareHouse are definitively enthusiastic about this gizmo... Bye-bye.

Need some help, I been using a Wilson Ncode Npro 98, last year experimented with adding weight and my elbow started to get sore. After one hit with the weight I took it off but it was to late. A year and 4 month later, 3 injections have past and I'am still having lots of trouble. Decided to change raquets, ask around and tenniscompany and tenniswarehouse recommended me the aero pro drive cortex. After reading what you said about the babolat I'am really scared of using it. Please can you recommend me any raquet. I have been playing for 20 years, clasical strokes with one handed backhand. Please feedback.

Manuel / Puerto Rico

Hi Manuel,

Thanks for writing. My experience with Babolat tennis racquets are pretty personal and like I said in my article I have had two very bad cases of tennis elbow which lasted me over a year and a half for the first incident with the Babolat Pure Drive and one up till the time I am writing this comment today! with the Babolat Aero Storm Tour with Cortex (320g unstrung) version. It might not be the case for you, and for all you know, you might have actually no issues with then. You might want to try a friend's Babolat Aero Pro Drive (cortex) racquet or have a quick demo session with your local tennis store. As for me, I will stay away from Babolat Tennis racquets from now onwards although I think that they make one of the best and coolest tennis racquets around :)

With regards to recommending you a tennis racquet to choose from, its kind of difficult, as I would need to access your playing style, what weight of tennis racquet suits you and if you prefer a head heavy, head light or even balanced racquet. I would suggest you go with less stiff frames some where between or around the RDC 55 to 62 region, the lower the better. I have had some success in the past with the Head Flexpoint Radical OS which has a very flexible frame and you can actually literally feel this on impact. Some people might not like that, but perhaps you can have a try at that. The Head Flexpoint Radical OS helped me a bit.

For me, I have switched to a much lower string tension between 48 to 52 pounds for my racquets and have been using my Wilson K-61 95s (Asian specs) and my Wilson K-Blades 93 tour. The K-Blades are fine but the Wilson K-61 95 has to be strung at a lower tension as I could feel some strain with that but not as bad as the Babolats. My advice is also to go the gym and do some weights to strengthen your elbow, I unfortunately have never had the time to do that now days with my hectic work commitments. I still try to play a bit with the pain but not that much now.

Hope this helps and good luck in your search. If you have any further questions please feel free to email me or post them here.

Thanks,

Nawin

I resolve all my problem of tennis elbow with the right string.
I try signum pro poly plasma (1,18) and all the racquet i have don't create me any problem.
A friend of mine has a tennis elbow problem and shoulder pain that he think to stop tennis. With another kind of strings he resolve all his problem.
Racquet is very ininfluence in tennis elbow. Now I use Babolat pure drive (a very stiff racquet) and I have no elbow problem. Try this strings!!!
Thanks

Hi i am 14 years old , i experienced tennis elbow a couple of years ago with the Wilson Npro - 100" and 300g. I then changed to a lighter racket ( Drive Z-lite - 255g) but i now feel the racket is restricting and would like to change to a heavier racket. I tried the K Blade 98 and it felt great but i don't know if it will return my tennis elbow again. Any Help???

hello nawin,

i am looking forward to buy an babolat racquet in singapore...
but i have been looking around in singapore and i could not find any racquets and i also have one problem , i have got a budget of 230 or less but maybe a little higher, could you tell me where i can find low priced babolat racquets ?? i am urgent so can you give me a quik feed back??
thanks

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  • I'm Nawin from regentville
  • Residing in Hougang Singapore
  • Racquets: X2 Prince EXO3 Graphite 100 (Main) X3 Wilson K Blade Tour 93 (Backup) Strings: Toalson Ultimate 115 Strung @ 48-50 pounds. Plays: Right Handed (Single Backhand). Shoes: mi Adidas Barricade V Apparel: Lacoste & Adidas Favourite Players: Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic

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