Monday, July 2, 2012
Wimbledon analyzed like never before
By Zach McCann
Not a tennis expert? That’s OK. With the technology being utilized at Wimbledon, anyone can feel like a tennis expert -- even someone who still calls Anna Kournikova his favorite tennis player. Wimbledon has partnered with IBM to bring predictive and analytic technologies -- and an array of useful and relevant information -- to online users, TV watchers and in-person spectators.
Roger Federer had to win at least 30 percent of his first-serve return points against Xavier Malisse.
Here’s how the matches at Wimbledon can be examined and understood like never before.
Keys to the Match provides three specific goals for each player in each match. These precise statistics are taken from seven years of Grand Slam data with more than 39 million data points. For example, Roger Federer needed to win at least 52 percent of three-to-eight-shot rallies against Xavier Malisse in a fourth-round match on Monday morning. Adversely, Malisse had to win more than 18 percent of his first-serve points with an ace for a shot at a win. As the match goes on, the IBM SlamTracker constantly updates users on if players are achieving those goals. Through two sets, Federer had achieved all three of outlined goals and Malisse had failed to reach 2-of-3; not surprisingly, Federer won the first two sets.
IBM SlamTracker makes it easy to closely follow a match online. With most Wimbledon matches taking place in the morning and afternoon in the U.S., these matches are on while most of the country is at work. So if you can’t watch the match through ESPN3, there’s no better way to follow along than SlamTracker. You can take in as much information as you would like. Maybe you just want to follow the score -- that’s cool. But you can also analyze a match’s momentum through an easy-to-digest line graph, complete with turning points such as aces, winners and double faults. There’s almost every stat imaginable, providing perspective to the result of every match. If you’re a hard-core tennis fan, you could spend a lot of time getting lost in the numbers.
IBM SecondSight was introduced last year on a single court, and this year it’s available on Centre Court. SecondSight uses player tracking to measure how fast players are moving and how that changes from set to set and match to match. The system adds new data previously unavailable to the mainstream, and the IBM folks hope the information is useful enough to change everyone’s understanding of the science of tennis.
Numbers without context can’t tell a whole story, so IBM and ESPN have agreed to TV integration at Wimbledon for the first time. “Keys to the Match” and “IBM Insights” are now part of the ESPN TV presentation, so the analysts can digest the information and provide their take on how relevant the numbers really are on-air.
The IBM SlamTracker provides more information about Wimbledon matches than ever before.
It’s interesting how technologies used for hospitals, police forces and financial services -- the usual clients for a corporation such as IBM -- are being used by sports entities looking for ways to improve coverage and to better understand the sport.
“There’s an acknowledgment here that sports aren’t just fun and games,” said Elizabeth O'Brien, manager of IBM's global sponsorships. “These are serious enterprises, and the leaders of these sports want to get them energized.”
You can view this content on ESPN’s CourtCast and at the Wimbledon website. Here’s a reminder: Wimbledon is being broadcast on ESPN and ESPN2 through July 8.