High Tech Tennis For The Sports Techie Community Blog
Sports Techie was asked by iQ by Intel to take a look at the way tech is changing how tennis is played via connected racquets, smart courts and technology being used at this year’s 2014 grand slams, however, since I am no longer a contributor and was sent this story I researched back, I will publish it on my own for our community readers and followers benefit. It was my pleasure to investigate and learn how technologies by Babolat, smartcourts by PlaySight, and the grand slams such as Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, are together pushing tennis forward creating a worldwide renaissance for the sport America used to dominate but not anymore.
Since 1875, the history of tennis has been driven by Babolat. We live in a time where you can serve up an ace using their patented data-collecting tennis racquets. This pioneering tennis company in France invented racket strings and the “Play & Connect” racket that collects in-match big data via sensors integrated into the handle, informing players with analytics about their performance.
The Babolat group has grown to employ 350 and is available to purchase in over 160 countries, at 20,000 sporting goods stores and 20,000 partner clubs globally. Babolat’s “Double line” logo helps identify them as the racket sports leader and a sport company staying at the forefront because of innovative technology. The fact is they have supplied equipment to generations of champions, many who have used their equipment during Grand Slam tournament championship runs. Rafa Nadal, Li Na and Ryan Harrison are their latest diversified company endorsers.
Rafa Nadal talks about Babolat Play #connectedtennis
“Play connected” is a tagline used for the Babolat Play connected racket allowing tennis player’s access to match and practice information unlike any other racket manufacturer. Data such as power, impact locator and the type and number of strokes (forehand, backhand, serve, overhead smash), help players of all ages and abilities improve their game exponentially. The Babolat Play Pure Drive racket has built-in sensors integrated into the handle allowing players to have access to all this never before captured information.
The rackets are intelligently designed with 2 buttons and a USB port inside the end cap without changing the look and feel of their sports tech-centric products. Their Industry leading battery charges the racket batteries with 6 hours of power and comes with a memory capacity for 150 hours of truly connected play.
With Babolat rackets players and coaches can analyze play, while following and tracking a user’s evolution over time. Improve your skills by analyzing key metrics and unlocking new “Skills” and levels. Checking your “Pulse” via the patented interface that adjusts with your game power, technique and endurance offering motivation at the right times. The impact locator analyzes each ball impact, calculating the location of the ball on the string bed. Tags Session provides the ability to divide your game session into sequences. By pressing the tag button on your racket’s butt cap, you can review your match set by set. It is easy to use, split up a playing session (1st set, 2nd set…), by pressing the Tag/Bluetooth button quickly (less than 1 second), and a red light turns on for 1.5 seconds. Finally, compare each performance with the Babolat play community.
Discover the Babolat Play App
Download the BABOLAT Play app at either the App store or Google play.
The game of tennis will never be the same because of PlaySight Interactive. This innovative sports technology Company are the creators of an affordable, tennis analytic system based in the clouds, known as the ‘SmartCourt’ which is sure to excite club owners, and all levels of tennis coaches and players. High-profile private investors including 2014 Wimbledon men’s champion, Novak Djokovic, legendary women’s player Billie-Jean King, and investment pioneers such as Bill Ackman, Mark Ein and Dr. Jim Loehr, who gave a total of $3.5 million to help fund this game-changing sports technology. The PlaySight SmartCourt is free.
The graphic interface is user-friendly, uses touchscreen technology and displays a Match Mode that details time played, fastest serve and distance covered. “Expand” the event list, use different camera angles and view where ball contact on the racket occurs. Every match can record a player’s speed of serve, ground strokes and calories burned. The telestrator tools have drawing tools like lines and angles that makes for better coaching communication with youth who live in a digital world or beginners who learn best from the visual references. It has no sensors and is easy to set up.
Press “Debrief” and more serve, stroke and rally stats are available for diagnosis. If you want to improve on unforced errors, you can do it in just a few training sessions. Video replay is synched with data points for easy understanding. The line-calling system alone is worth the price of the solution.
“We are very proud to have such a powerful group of investors who share our vision of bringing elite player technology to the grassroots and club level,” said Chen Shachar, PlaySight CEO. “When we developed this technology we saw an opportunity to create an affordable, easy-to-install, cloud-based system for athletes of all levels to improve their game. In the same way that wearable tech devices and micro-cameras are transforming running and extreme sports, we are certain that SmartCourts will make tennis more engaging and fun. PlaySight combines advanced player analytics technology (PAT) with video-replay and social media to deliver an exceptional experience to the world’s 100 million tennis players. It will change the way we play ball-sports forever.”
About PlaySight’s SmartCourt technology
Based on concepts originally designed to train fighter pilots, PlaySight‘s SmartCourt is an affordable, proprietary technology that is easily installed at tennis facilities and private courts. The SmartCourt provides players with professional real time (and post session) match statistics, analytics, line-calling and video. SmartCourt’s combined capabilities dramatically enhance the tennis-playing experience and greatly improve training and coaching efficiency.
Using five HD cameras, PlaySight’s SmartCourt automatically classifies and tags all the events that take place during a session without the need for court-side operators or wearable sensors. Players can watch selected events (e.g. every backhand down the line that went long), with no need to watch the whole video or manually tag it. PlaySight is also able to record 3D tactical game management information including the height of balls over the net, speed of every shot and the depth of balls hit within the court. The SmartCourt is easily operated by the players through a courtside kiosk and all video and data can be shared within seconds with coaches, friends and family at remote locations. Players can also track distance covered and calories burned during a match or practice session.
Wimbledon Grand Slam Tech
Tennis fans all over England and the world will remember this year’s Wimbledon for the traditional grass courts, increasingly athletic play and abundant sports tech. Wimbledon has become a sports leader with using digital assets. The explosion of smartphones and tablet use by people at home or on the go has been met head on by Wimbledon, the Australian Open, French Open and the U.S. Open.
Fans were once again able to download Wimbledon 2014 for the iPhone and watch @LiveatWimbledon on the iPhone, iPad, tablet & laptop. People virtually connected to the matches and content by tuning in to the LIVE broadcast via Radio and Video. A popular activation by the English Grand Slam were the fun photos taken at the HSBC Fan Zone, by the practice courts, see hashtag #ClosertoWimbledon. Another social media driven program @Wimbledon were the thousands of pictures posted by fans using #MyWimbledon on Google+ where they have a fan base of over a million subscribers.
The Twitter Mirror campaign daily selfie competition and the Instagram ‘InstaBooth’ inside the player’s lounge offering player insight enjoyed consistent fan interaction. According to Alexandra Willis. Content and Communications Manager at the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) in an interview by the UK Sports Network, the new IBM Social Media Command Centre, is a custom platform developed as a behind-the-scenes component to Wimbledon’s IT.
Willis said, “It’s a great tool for IBM to use to monitor social buzz, enabling them to be able to balance their hosting requirements. So they know when to ramp it up when there is a rush of traffic and also scale down when things are a little quieter. For us it’s about being able to see what the main topics people are talking about are and adjusting editorially.”
The solution tracks where people tweet from, it identifies influencers, compiles the tournaments trending topics, while gauging how fans are responding with positive and negative posts. IBM designed the tool to be able to insert screens into broadcast feeds as needed while adding a daily digital buzz digest.
The UK Sports Network also reported about the Wimbledon partnership with real-time video sharing platform Grabyo. Since the US Open and Australian Open pioneered the sport business model via SnappyTV, acquired by Twitter, Wimbledon followed suit with their own option thanks to Grabyo.
New Technology to Measure Ferocity of Tennis Shots at Wimbledon
New IBM sports tech was invented to measure the sports analytics of shots for Wimbledon tennis players in terms of “aggressiveness” according to Yahoo.
Sensors detected every time defending champion Andy Murray served up a blazing shot at 90mph (144kph) or more, causing opponents to move 12 feet or more to rally back, or when the ball was close to the baseline. Female players such as Venus Williams have to serve or volley a shot of 84mph or faster to meet the new classification of aggressive.
IBM computers tracked complex data sets of each shot, such as ball striking angles and distances opponents covered to reach aggressive shots. The tool was used during the BBC’s Wimbledon coverage. TV and mobile device video were streamed loaded with key tennis metrics covering the speed of serves, singles and doubles return percentages, and other data based factors most experts feel help the fan experience and offer a better understand of the nuances of the game.
The sports tech inventors said it will help viewers better understand the fast-changing modern game, forever transformed by the high-velocity shots of the top players.
Yahoo reported that Sam Seddon, Wimbledon Project at IBM, said, “A decade ago there was typically a V-shape worn on the court [as players rushed the net] but now the heavy wear is at the back of the court,” as told to the Sunday Times.
Pat Cash, 1987 Wimbledon Champion, forecasted the future of tennis where players are allowed to compete with “smart racquets” (such as the Babolat connected play), equipped with sensors and chips to give access to more detailed information. According to Yahoo and Cash, “The technology is endless and with technology improving all the time, with special computerised racquets and the like, it’s just going to grow and grow.”
Sports Techie, As I drove across the country with my 79-year old Uncle Bill last month from Seattle to Atlanta, I asked the former 27-year Michigan high school physical education instructor why tennis was not as popular as it once was in the United States. His answer to me was the sport was, “Elitist”. He mentioned how tennis is too expensive, just like golf. The court fees, tennis gear and apparel are overpriced. He also said the social event that other sports such as basketball and football provide for inner city kids is missing for tennis youth.
I have watched as schools are cutting physical education classes where American kids are often first introduced to the sport of tennis. This trend needs to be reversed for tennis to make a serious comeback with our youth. One way this is happening on a global scale and here in America is via the integration of sports technology into tennis on many levels.
During an interview with legendary tennis icon, John McEnroe, I asked him about his non-use of social media, in particular Twitter, where the Millenials generation, including his kids, love to engage with tweets while using their smartphones and tablets to send text messages and watch vine videos. His brother, leading TV analysts, Patrick McEnroe, happens to be a user of social media and leverages the power it has to influence the sports growth.
The Sports Techie community blog about the John McEnroe Tennis Academy, discusses Mac’s response and the “Johnny Mac” program dream of helping to nurture the next great American tennis players, perhaps straight out of the Bronx.
So when Warren Pretorius, Founder and CEO of Tennis Analytics, said on Facebook, “Congrats to Noah Rubin, coach Lawrence Kleger and John McEnroe Tennis Academy – 2014 Wimbledon Boys Singles Champion @TennisAnalytics @Dartfish,” it was like music to his, Johnny Mac’s and my ears.
Look for the 2014 U.S. Open to push sports tech development and tennis enhancement for the next generation of tennis players, coaches and fans alike. Here is to hoping the U.S. Tennis Association uncovers their next superstars on the men’s and women’s USPTA Pro or Juniors circuits because of the new sports technology push by the USTA that is resulting in a new 100+ court facility at Lake Nona, Florida near Orlando, by late 2016.
I will see ya when I see ya, THE Sports Techie @THESportsTechie – http://twitter.com/THESportsTechie
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