It’s the story of an art; an expertise, passion, and vision that impacts tennis from the start: the ultimate string, VS natural gut from BABOLAT.
Its history is inseparable from that of racket sports: tennis, badminton and squash. The prestige of the famous VS letters is eternally linked to the biggest champions of the game who have written its legend over the decades, from victory to victory, and from tears to cries of joy. Since its origins in 1875, practically at the same time as the sport then called Lawn Tennis, the Babolat natural gut string has not aged. From the first production, Babolat has continually improved its flagship product, adapting its expertise in processing natural gut to rise to the challenge of meeting the increasingly demanding needs of champions and to adapt to an ever-evolving sport. Today, it takes four weeks to make a set of natural gut string. It’s meticulous, hands-on work, requiring precision and heart as the natural gut is transformed. “From the raw intestines to a ready-to-sell set, everything happens in-house. It is a real source of pride for the whole team to know that this is where the most prestigious string in the world is made, not only for tennis racquets, but also for badminton,” said Erwan Grimault, director of the Ploërmel production site in Brittany, France.
Myths and Facts
Are the strings made from cat intestines? A cat intestine has never been used to make a Babolat string. This is an old legend “made in England.” In the Middle Ages, certain Welsh Troubadours carried a single-stringed musical instrument that sounded like a cat’s meow when played with a bow. The English called this instrument a “cat.” The string made from intestines translated as “gut,” so their instrument was called “cat-gut” – the cat’s cord. The legend thus spread. However, the first Babolat strings for tennis and badminton were made of natural sheep gut. Since the 1960s the strings have been made from cow gut. It takes two cows to make one set of racquet strings.
What is the story behind the VS label? If there are two letters that have definitively marked the history of tennis, it is indeed the V and the S of the famous Babolat VS natural gut string. Babolat has continually improved the quality of its strings, assigning each series a letter of the alphabet. In the 1920s, tennis developed in the Anglo-Saxon countries and won over the rest of the world. The brand collaborated with the famous Musketeers of tennis (Cochet, Lacoste, Borotra and Brugnon). From their exchanges the VS quality was born: the V series became V Superior. The French victory at the Davis Cup launched the legend of VS, which became the first brand to appear on a racquet stringbed.
Natural gut string has unsurpassed qualities
Placed on a stringbed, the VS string opens the door to an unrivaled touch, elasticity, power and an incomparable resistance to tension. The VS is truly the string of feel. Used by the greatest tennis players in the world from René Lacoste to Björn Borg, to Yannick Noah and Kim Clijsters, along with squash “icons” such as Jahangir Kahn and badminton’s Peter Gade, the VS has stood out at the most prestigious tournaments. Babolat has been able to evolve it over the decades, always suiting many champions on the tour. Stronger today thanks to a specific process, the natural gut string retains all its qualities while having a higher efficiency. This combination is what makes the Babolat VS string the gold standard for the greatest champions on the circuit as well as for club players. In the past, natural gut was the only solution for stringing a racquet. With the evolution of the game, today its qualities are used at the highest level by mixing it with a polyester: hybrid strings.
“Knowing how to string with natural gut string is also an art”
A gut string is a natural product. The binder between the strips is made of collagen that is dried. Due to the composition of natural gut strings, stringing must be done carefully, with a professional stringing machine, paying special attention to avoid kinks and excessive friction between the mains and crosses. The specialists who offer this premium string to their customers possess this expertise.
“The VS string, symbol of the brand’s values”
Product of an exclusive expertise, the VS string has been the object of constant innovation for more than 140 years to stay on top of performance and to adapt to player demands. Eric Babolat likes to recall, “My great-great-grandfather invented the natural gut tennis string in Lyon in 1875. Today, our production site is located in Ploërmel, in Brittany (France), near the region’s slaughterhouses–the source of raw material. This year we are celebrating the 40th anniversary of this site where 25 women and men continually and passionately preserve the profession of “boyaudier” at the origin of our company and our brand, BABOLAT VS.”