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Monday, January 21, 2013
Updated: January 22, 6:48 AM ET
Technology serves up winning tennis

By Elizabeth O'Brien
IBM

Will Novak Djokovic repeat his 2012 Australian Open Grand Slam title? Or will Andy Murray use the momentum from winning the U.S. Open to win in Melbourne? On the women's draw, will No. 1 Victoria Azarenka repeat her year-earlier Australian Open win or post back-to-back loses to Serena Williams, the U.S. Open winner?

The first week featured some great matches with some players cruising through the early rounds, and some unexpected defeats.

On the mens' side, Novak Djokovic has carried his 2012 momentum into Melbourne. In his first three matches, Djokovic won an amazing 85 percent of his first serve points while keeping his opponents on their heels; they were only able to win 19 percent of of all points when Djokovic is serving. On the flip side, Djokovic is viewed as the best returner of serve on the tour, and in his five-hour match against Stanislas Warwrinka, one the keys to his success was a strong return of serve. According to IBM SlamTracker, in order to do well in this match Djokovic had to win 23 percent of the points on Wawrinka's first serves. In sets 2, 3 and 5 when Djokovic exceeded this goal he won the sets. His overall match average was 32 percent, contributing to a five-set win for the world's No. 1 player.

On the women's side, Australians were disappointed by the early exit of Samantha Stosur in her home Grand Slam. One key part of her second-round loss to Zheng Jie was medium-length rallies (4-9 shot points). The data suggested that Stosur had to win more than 56 percent of medium length rallies in order to maximize her chances of success. In this match, out of 205 total points, 73 were medium length rallies of which Stosur only won 41percent -- and lost the match in a tough three-set battle.

Technology has rapidly evolved at the Australian Open over the past 20 years. Data has become a game changer and this year innovative cloud computing and big data analytics solutions are bringing tennis fans closer to the action and providing deep insights to players, coaches and the tournament's organizers.

More than 41 million data points from eight years of Grand Slam tournament matches have been analyzed within SlamTracker analytics to help fans understand what players need to do to succeed in a particular match, known as "Keys to the Match." As a match unfolds, each player's performance is measured against their keys and updated in real time by providing a deeper level of insight -- whether it's returning a high percentage of second serves or if longer points favor one opponent over the other.

There will be many more epic matches and storylines as the tournament unfolds. Looking at the data and statistics gives casual and dedicated fans alike the opportunity to see what the driving factors are behind the emotion of any match.