A few weeks ago a member dropped off a racket to be strung. The frame was a Babolat Aero Drive, a very popular racket. Upon mounting the frame on the stringing machine I noticed something unusual. The grommet system [the rubber bumper and tubing that the strings run through] was of poor quality. It was slightly different in color from other grommets I’ve seen in other Babolat rackets. I began to examine the racket more closely, and noticed other differences in workmanship. I called my customer and left a message that I had some questions about his racket. When he returned my call he acknowledged that he thought the racket might have been counterfeit. He had purchased it on-line from China, [ Babolat is a French company ] at a price well below suggested retail. Yes my client had been taken.
In the pictures provided you can see how hard it is to tell the genuine item from the counterfeit. Notice that all rackets will have a manufacturer’s barcode sticker in the throat of the racket. The counterfeit racket has a cheap looking gold sticker in the throat.
I was curious to see how the counterfeit racket compared in play characteristics to the real Babolat. I called a fellow stringer to take some measurements using the RDC machine. He was happy to help. We found the counterfeit to be much softer in flex, which means less powerful than the real Babolat. We also found it to be much more head heavy in balance, which means less maneuverable in quick exchanges. Finally, we noticed that it weighed much less in overall weight compared to the original. This makes me wonder about the durability of the counterfeit.
According to Jolyn de Boer, executive director of Tennis Industry Association, estimates that worldwide, legitimate racket manufacturers are losing $30 million a year to counterfeits. Steve Vorhaus of Rocky Mountain Racquet Specialists in Boulder Colorado says, “The vast majority of counterfeit racquets are purchased through internet auction sites”.
My recommendation: Only Purchase From Authorized Dealers and Avoid Online Auction Sites
Tennis Industry Association has set up a website where anyone can report counterfeit frames and websites that appear to be selling fake products. [At tennisindustry.org. click “Racquet Alert” at the top of the page.}