Anyone for tennis tech? It’s about Wimbledon – what else?

I have only vague memories of the McEnroe / Borg final of 1980. By the following year, I was more tuned in. The year after that was when that tournament really started to capture my attention. I started appreciating the statistics as well as the tennis.

The problem was there were very little statistics to be had. There was no Internet. The commentators didn’t have many. Childhood pocket-money didn’t always stretch to expensive hard-back fact books. Newspaper reports were my main source of info.

Move on 25 years and the extent to which things have changed is astounding.

  • A team of tennis experts log every stroke played on every court. These are translated into stats and updated real-time as matches progress. So when you’re sitting in your living room asking yourself how many aces has Andy Roddick’ hit and up pops the stat on the screen.  While you’re wondering how many forehand winners Roger Federer has hit in a match, the stat appears on your screen.
  • It’s not mere presentation of stats. There is analysis too. This comes in the form of Jason Goodall. Every now and again, Jason appears and takes us through an analysis of e.g. a player’s serving choices.  A graphic of where a players first and second serves hit the court is given, the spin and angle achieved and what these mean for an opponent.
  • If you’re not in front of your tv to watch the tennis, not to worry. Watch on-line on the Wimbledon website. Even if you don’t fancy paying the required fee for this, you can still keep up with the real time score-board on the website which displays each point result as it is scored.
  • Mobile seems to be where it’s at for this years Wimbledon. For iPhone owners (unfortunately, a category that does not include me) can avail of an app that gives them real-time scores updates and snatches of video of key points in a match.  The info goes to the users as opposed to having to go to the trouble of visiting the (albeit very informative) site.
  • For those lucky enough to attend the championships, there is the G1 Android mobile facility that allows text messaging on such necessities as where the nearest strawberry vendor is, or the fastest route from Court 2 to Henman Hill.  The technology uses GPS and digital compass technology to pinpoint the users exact position and the direction that user is pointing the camera on their handset.
  • Many of the players have their own websites and blogs. Here’s Anna Ivanovics. There really is nothing like getting the info straight from the source.
  • There was a time when Hawkeye was non-existent in any form. I can remember the more colourful characters of the game having fun with the first manifestation of Hawkeye when it beeped if they hit a serve long. Hawkeye now has moved on to much more sophisticated things. It provides an electronic re-construction of any required shot, its direction and where it lands on the course. Impressive!
  • HD tv allows very impressive visuals – apparently. I can only take someone else’s word for this one.

It’s all hugely impressive and light years away from my early viewing days back in the 1980s. But it is not perfect. There are subjective judgements still involved in some regards. For example, experts can disagree on whether a particular error is forced or unforced. It is a matter of opinion.

The implications all this technology has for training are truly extensive. Amateurs and professionals alike can benefit from watching Andy Roddick’s serve is HD. Professionals can obtain videos of their next-round opponents previous Wimbledon matches complete with a collection of stats, from the percentage of points won on first serve down to how far behind the baseline the opponent like to stand when receiving serve.  Non-players get to study the best the game has to offer (Roger Federer, perhaps) and study what it is about their game that makes them great.

Yes, Wimbledon and technology have come a long way. Yet, it cannot predict this years finalists. Having said that I wonder if someone somewhere has entered copious amounts of data into some type of decision support system to try to make such a prediction. Perhaps, I’m running ahead of myself with this suggestion. Even if I’m not, surely it’s just a matter of time? Whichever, I’m backing Federer this year.

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Update – someone who has an aversion to comments (you know who you are!) tells me that all is atwitter at Wimbledon this year. It’s not only the fans who are tweeting, the players and organisers are happy twits too.

On the subject of Twitter, guess what’s the top tool for learning this year?

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Posted on June 28, 2009, in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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