Big data is a match for professional tennis

By Folake Dosu  |  November 28, 2018

big-data-tennis

Big data is serving big hits on the tennis court, according to Verdict. The outlet reports that the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and IT consulting firm Infosys have teamed up since 2015 to apply big data to enhance the game for players, coaches and fans alike.

“Data has become a fundamental bedrock of this partnership…,” Ajay Vij, senior vice-president at Infosys, explained to Verdict. “[NIA, the AI cloud hosted platform] ingests volumes of data across the match, across the previous years, and look at the coloration, the trend points, how each game is getting impacted, how players are getting impacted with the sort of game they are playing.”

As the outlet notes, other tennis organizations are embracing technology with Wimbledon’s use of IBM’s Watson to create highlight reels as a notable example. Unlike other major sports, tennis has somewhat lagged in its adoption of technological innovation, but has shown a recent commitment to get up to speed.

“Historically we’ve been very proactive, we were one of the first to have live scoring, have this kind of data collected. But then there was a period of time where we fell behind most other professional sports. They started having a lot more data points and statistics available to the public than us. And we’ve been trying to fill that gap.”

“Historically we’ve been very proactive, we were one of the first to have live scoring, have this kind of data collected. But then there was a period of time where we fell behind most other professional sports,” Iranian-American umpire Ali Nili told Verdict. “They started having a lot more data points and statistics available to the public than us. And we’ve been trying to fill that gap.”

So far NIA has been used to analyze players ranked #1 since 1991 to understand what it takes to win at a level of specificity otherwise unattainable.

“A new data point in our sport is rally length,” said Craig O’Shannessy, longtime coach and strategy analyst for the the ATP World Tour, to Verdict. “We’ve looked at all of these primitive datapoints in the past, like unforced errors, but rally length is a big deal. The longer rallies are the ones fan remember but they have little to no impact on who wins.”

The trend also influences coaching, using this information to guide a player’s style of play and gain insights on opponents.

“How you match up against an opponent is everything. So a lot of the data is to figure out what you do well but also the other side of the court,” said O’Shannessy. “I think that’s been a huge paradigm shift globally with coaching as we’ve spent too much time focused on ourselves, and we see the data now is helping us to understand the opponent, to understand how to put that strategy together.”

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