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Tennis Pushing the Technology Limits

5 Jul, 2016


Industry Research Show Athletes, Coaches, Using New Means to Communicate, Motivate Others

Technological product innovations are impacting all sports and fitness activities, and tennis is no exception. The sport has always been one to embrace new materials and technologies as it continues to add to the 17.9 million U.S. tennis players in the U.S, based on research from the Tennis Industry Association (TIA).

“For tennis players, and those who want to play the sport, having access to new technology with user-friendly feedback will bring the tennis experience to a new and different level,” notes TIA Executive Director Jolyn de Boer. “This technology gives players the feedback that they want and can use to improve their on-court performance and fitness levels.

Tennis has embraced technology for at least a decade through the fitness-based program Cardio Tennis, the fastest growing segment of tennis, up 26% since 2014, to 1.83 million players. From its creation in 2005, Cardio Tennis has promoted the use of heart-rate monitors, so participants can play and train in their ideal heart-rate zone for maximum benefit.

“The popularity of these technologies with tennis consumers looks strong since participation is on the upswing,” adds de Boer. ““Smart Court technology and wearables also offer coaches and facilities an opportunity to capitalize on this growing trend with ‘smart lessons’ and also provide exciting adaptations for near-perfect player matching.”

According to the TIA, there were 2.07 million new tennis players in 2015, which is a 3.8% increase compared to 2014. And, another 2.2 million players returned to tennis in 2015, which is a 14.8% increase. In addition, 14.75 million Americans who are non-players are interested in playing tennis, and another 12.8 million who may not have played in the past year “consider themselves” tennis players.

During the State of the Tennis Industry Forum and Tennis Owners & Managers Conference, both held during the Miami Open and presented by the TIA, a number of new tennis products and accessories were showcased during the inaugural Tennis Tech Fair. Afterward, attendees were encouraged to touch and try out these new high-tech tennis products and to find out more about TIA Tech and SaaS Partners who provide solutions for tennis businesses to manage their operations and engage their members.

Some of the products and technology highlighted in Miami included:

COURT TECH SYSTEMS

* PlaySight Smart Court (playsight.com)—This experiential and interactive technology is a full-court system that uses six HD cameras and sensors to provide real-time and post-match statistics. All the data is uploaded to the PlaySight cloud for easy access for players and coaches. The full PlaySight Smart Court technology will be installed on 32 courts at the new USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla.

RACQUET TECHNOLOGY

* Babolat Play/Pulse (babolatplay.com)—This was the first tennis racquet on the market with an integrated sensor, built inside the handle. It analyzes data on three dimensions: Power, Technique, and Endurance, i.e. the player’s pulse. The data can be shared via social media with other players through the Babolat Play community. This sensor provides statistics on where you are hitting the ball on the face of the racquet, the RPMs, and energy, and even measures serve speed.

* QLIPP (qlipp.com)—This removable racquet sensor fits onto any racquet and doubles as a vibration dampener. The QLIPP sensor reads shot type, speed, spin, and ball contact accuracy. It measures where you catch the ball with your racquet and how often you hit the racquet’s “sweet spot.” If your smart phone is within 50 meters of the sensor on the racquet, your app can even “shout out” information to you, so you don’t have to run to the sidelines to check your phone for shot data.

* Sony (sony.com)—Compatible with Wilson, Head, Prince, and Yonex racquets, this sensor attaches to the end of the racquet handle (the butt cap). A unique feature is the player can synch his or her performance statistics with video taken on an Apple or Android phone.

* Zepp Labs (zepp.com)—This sensor measures 1,000 data points per second and gives stats on total shots and active time on the court. It also tracks the speed, spin, and your shot type. The sensor has two different mounting types—Pro Mount and Flex Mount—and universal compatibility with any tennis racquet.

WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY

* Apple Watch (apple.com)—Like FitBit, the Apple Watch is not specific to tennis, but there are millions of brand-loyal Apple devotees who are concerned with fitness.

* Babolat POP (babolatplay.com)—Worn on the racquet hand, this wristband sensor tracks spin, power, session time, and rally length. It’s compatible with any frame, pairs with Apple or Android phones, and offers entertaining features and connected challenges.

* FitBit (fitbit.com)—While this item is not specific to tennis, it can track the activity levels of the tennis player.

* PIVOT by Turing Sense (turingsense.com)—A series of wearable sensors attach to a player’s wrist, elbow, shoulders, hips, and knees and provide instant feedback, which can be analyzed by a pro.

* Polar Heart Rate Monitor (polar.com)—This is the official heart rate monitor of Cardio Tennis. Data from heart-rate monitors helps keep players in the right zone for getting the best workout. 

BALL MACHINE TECHNOLOGY

* Lobster Phenom (lobstersports.com)—You can use a smart phone as a remote to operate the machine and change settings, saving time for both player and instructor.

* Playmate (playmatetennismachines.com)—This machine tracks minutes played, number of balls hit, and it can be pre-programmed. This machine has two modes: Drill Member Mode and Drill Pro Mode.

During the Tennis Tech Fair showcase, it was revealed that three of the top fitness trends in 2016, according to the American College of Sports Medicine, are wearable technology, smart phone apps, and outcomes. “All those themes apply to tennis and the many new tech products that are ‘game-changers’ for our sport,” adds de Boer. “It’s an exciting time for tennis—its players and businesses—as we expect to see growth through the use of ‘smart-tennis’ technology to help attract, engage and retain current and future players.”

About the TIA: The Tennis Industry Association, the not-for-profit trade association for tennis, is THE unifying force in the tennis industry whose mission is to promote the growth and economic vitality of tennis by working closely with the U.S. Tennis Association and industry partners to develop and implement initiatives to increase tennis participation and improve the health of industry businesses. Core TIA activities include producing more than 70 research reports annually on participation and consumer/trade research, in addition to Grow the Game Initiatives such as PlayTennis.com, Cardio Tennis, 10 and Under Tennis, the GrowingTennis System™, and Careers in Tennis. Visit TennisIndustry.org or call 866-686-3036.

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