Data is not new to the world of tennis. With 2020 season underway, it’s a time to see new and returning players, updates to Grand Slam tournaments but also advancements in the stats and data analysis.
Tennis has always been full of numbers and stats – unforced errors, first serve percentage, second serve percentage, aces, among others – but the advancement of “big data” has continued to flourish in this age-old sport in recent years.
Data and insights really made a huge splash in 2015 when IBM Watson partnered with USA Tennis and launched an advertising campaign featuring top-ranked player, Serena Williams.
For example, Watson analyzed in a normal tournament during that year, Serena served more than 65 aces and wins more than 85 percent of the games she serves, according to Wired magazine.
As of late, tournaments and tennis organizations are diving into analyzing data, while players have begun to hire their own analysts.
Tennis organizations have opted to work with InfoSys to showcase live stats throughout the match for fans in the stadium and watching on TV.
In a Wharton article, InfoSys COO Pravin Rao said, “We are committed to helping tennis further expand its global following in the physical and the virtual world powered by digital innovation.”
In partnership with the ATP and Tennis Australia among others, InfoSys developed the “ATP Stats Leaderboard,” which analyzes players’ historical performance over the past 25 years while also measuring modern-day performance. Along similar lines, the company developed a “second screen” experience for fans to be able to follow stats and play-by-play action as well as the social media conversation.
Not only are companies using data to provide historical context and enhance fan engagement, but more and more players are hiring their own analysts to help improve their game. Among the top men’s players, Novak Djokovic had a data analyst on his staff since 2017 to help enhance his game.
In fact, the analyst, Craig O’Shannessy, works for tennis organizations as a consultant and helping provide insights on data that can be studied and observed in matches.
Many players are still hesitant to go this far, with some believing it takes away from the spot; however, O’Shannessy believes that it doesn’t harm it either as many players still have their own style, strengths and weaknesses, he said in a Forbes article.
As an avid tennis fan, I see the beauty of data analytics, especially when it can provide insight into who can win short or long rallies or whether the average speed off is increasing or decreasing.
Further, it could help in the officiating of the sport, with more umpires learning their patterns and getting insight into data.
Data analytics isn’t unique in sports, especially tennis, but as more tools and advancements are made, it can become an even bigger part of the game.