Yes, when many are glued to television sets cheering on their Wimbledon favourites, it’s that time of year again. Tennis analytics are more than ever offering the top-ranked players an advantage on their rivals this year.
Tennis was also one of the first sports to adopt technology, though the game remains steeped in tradition. The Australian Open back in the not-too-distant 2007 was the first grand-slam tournament to implement Hawk-Eye in challenges to line calls. The system works through six or seven high-performance cameras, which are usually placed on the underside of the stadium roof, monitoring the ball from various angles.
The video from the cameras is triangulated and combined to create a 3D representation of the ball’s trajectory. Each tennis player is allowed 2 incorrect challenges per set, and if a tiebreaker is played one more challenge. The original system was intricate and cost more than $3,000. And no, it doesn’t get any cheaper now. Actually it costs even more!
Technology has become a considerable part of the game. For example, some players have started using data analysis. Outfits such as Tennis Stat and Golden Set Analytics sell packages which cost an annual subscription up to $80,000. This is definitely not too costly for Djokovic, Federer and a lot of other top players to enjoy. They use these data regularly to help grasp game action and actions of their rivals. Nadal doesn’t and then chooses to focus on his coach Carlos Moya ‘s critical mind.
Yet not all of them will have assistants. Fortunately, other forms of tennis technology have become accessible not only to professional players but to aspiring amateurs and hobbyists too. If you hear people banging about “the internet of things” and you’re not quite sure what it’s about, it’s about the future where everything around us is going to be connected. And games.
The landscape of tennis technology is already bursting with new and exciting technology. That’s our overview of gadgets and wearables that change the game ‘s face.
Data collecting sensors
First and foremost we have devices which collect data. Babolat and its Babolat Pure Drive racket were the first to enter this market. The Sony Tennis Sensor, Zepp Tennis Swing Analyzer, Qlipp Tennis Sensor and others were easy to pursue this.
Although Zepp and Sony are placing their sensors on the racquet bottom, Babolat’s are integrated into the handle. On the other hand, Qlipp sits on your strings and works as a vibration dampener as well. Then there are those like Babolat Pop and their big brother Babolat and PIQ who sit on your wrist and gather information quietly.
All of these gadgets focus on gathering technical information and dishing a plethora of statistics. The accuracy of this data varies, occasionally quite a bit! But, is that really important? Those sensors are aimed at improving your game over time. If you want to be a professional, as long as you always use the same device that you refer to. That ensures that over time, the patterns should show whether or not you are progressing.
Smart Court systems such as Playsight and Mojjo have already been installed across the US and Europe at several hundred venues. These are devices containing a variety of permanently fixed cameras that capture whatever happens during play. Although less accurate than the Hawk-Eye, they are sufficiently precise to check lines and come at a much lower price.
And new developments are ongoing. A Swiss startup named Technis, for example, has perfected a completely tactile surface to make the actual tennis court interactive. The technology is integrated directly into the surface of the synthetic and resin courts. It detects every single movement, from the ball bounces to the players’ position on the court. The details show on a screen at the bottom of the court in real-time. Real-world use of the system is yet to be seen, but we can hopefully expect implementation in the not too distant future.
Another exciting development is a gadget called In / Out which we have actually tried. The $200 GoPro like device can be fastened in less than a minute to any tennis net post to determine which side of the line the ball lands in real-time. It does this thanks to the same algorithms for self-driving cars, which provide line detection. Essentially you are having your own unique ‘Hawkeye’ system. The first units were installed, and the factory line was exited.
Video match analysis is no longer only accessible to professional players. A variety of services have arisen that allow you to upload raw video footage of your match for review, such as Tennis Analytics. You get back a match index video/summary, which helps you to check in the match for some moment. You also get a professional match report (serve percentage, aces, double faults, return percentage, winners, mistakes, the difference for both you and your opponent). While the service is accessible to the recreational player, you ‘d really need to be passionate about your game to subscribe at over $500 for 10 hours of video!
However, it is unavoidable that the price of these services will fall over time. While waiting, why not film your tennis session with your smartphone, and add your metrics on top of the film with the aid of the Sony or Qlipp tennis sensors. Although not as sophisticated as some of the more professional instruments, they still do the job.
Tennis apps and online tools
Finally, we have online tools and tennis apps. A wide variety of software platforms are being created by companies such as Global Tennis Network, Sportlyzer, and Coachanize. Some target the recreational player predominantly and offer a community where you can find opponents, organize ladders, or even book courts. Others are more geared towards clubs/coaches and offer a convenient avenue for customer management.
We ‘re very excited about where that technology will lead us in the years to come. If this is only the launch, then we can’t wait to see what the future has in store.