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World's oldest tennis firm still got its swing

imageWimbledon may be one of the oldest names associated with tennis, but it is not the longest established.

Babolat, the French racquet manufacturer, began making strings for players in 1875, two years before the covers first came off at the All England Club in south west London.

Its move into tennis came after one of the pioneers of the modern game, Walter Clopton Wingfield, salomon speedcross 3 ireland approached Babolat to make natural gut strings for a new sport he called "sphairistrike" (Greek for ball game).

Family tragedy Today Babolat remains a family run business, and is led by 44 year old Eric Babolat, the great great grandson of founder Pierre.

Under Armour Verge Amphibian Eric's leadership, ASICS cushioning stable Babolat has been transformed from a company which until 1994 only made strings, Salomon Outdoor to one of the biggest names in tennis racquets, clothing and footwear.

The decision to diversify the business away from just making strings was taken by Eric's father Pierre, who introduced the company's first tennis racquet in 1994.

But tragedy struck in 1998 when Pierre was killed when Swissair Flight 111 crashed off the coast of Canada while flying from New York to Geneva.

Eric, who was 28 at the time, was thrown abruptly into running the family business.

He had been working for the company for four years by then, and while he admits that he did not feel ready, he had no hesitations about taking up the top job.

"I had no pressure except from myself," he says. "I had people around me to help me, and I wanted to continue the story."

With the main aim being to increase sales of Babolat racquets, yet with little or no money to sign up established players to start using them, Eric instead decided to continue his father's policy of giving the racquets to players on the junior circuit.

And so unknown names such as Rafael Nadal, Andy Roddick and Asics gelquantum 367 CM Kim Clijsters were given free Babolat racquets.

As those "unknowns" went on to win Grand Slam after Grand Slam using Babolat racquets, the company's sales skyrocketed.

1875: Starts making tennis strings from animal intestines. It still sells these natural gut strings to this day1925: Rene Lacoste wins the French Open, becoming the first player to do so using a racquet strung with Babolat strings1955: Introduces its first synthetic string

1994: Launches its first tennis racquet. Today's users include Rafael Nadal (pictured), Li Na and Eugenie Bouchard

2003: Starts selling tennis clothing, Salomon Outdoor footwear and accessories

2012: Introduces the first of a range of hi tech racquets which transmit data to a user's computer

And to maintain close ties with the professional players that use Babolat products, they are all individually invited to its headquarters in Lyon, where Eric gives them a guided tour, and introduces them to all the workers.

It is not just players who will be using Babolat products at this year's Wimbledon, though all the ballboys and girls have been kitted out with Babolat shoes.

Eric says it is "fantastic" to attend the Grand Slam events and watch all the players using his company's products, adding that the faith they have in Babolat "is pressure, but it is a good pressure".