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Tennis: Working to Bring Itself Up to Speed

24 Aug, 2016

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Despite Faltering with a Less than Optimal Twitter Platform at Wimbledon, the Sport Came on Strong with a New Social Media Game Plan at the Australian Open

Wimbledon won’t be serving up Mountain Dew or mac & cheese balls instead of strawberries and cream any time soon, but it’s clear the tournament is trolling for a new, younger and hipper demographic – and one that is dialed into social media.

When Twitter began streaming Wimbledon in early July, it was a paradigm shift for the venerable tournament. (Wimbledon tweeting? Seriously?) But early reports suggest the event’s venture into the platform needs a lot of work. Wimbledon Twitter coverage didn’t begin until day 9, with the men’s quarterfinals.

And unfortunately, there wasn’t a huge announcement to accompany the debut. Tennis fans who also happened to be Twitter users were left in the dark about the new feature. There were no messages about it while logging into the social network, and typing the hashtag #wimbledon only resulted in a plethora of enthusiastic tweets about Roger Federer’s comeback against Marin Cilic.

By Wednesday, Wimbledon’s official account tweeted a link to the live coverage of the Grand Slam tournament. The tweet was pinned for a while and then was apparently removed.

Pundits were guessing the program wasn’t quite ready for prime time – and they might have been right. A lot was left undone. The best way to find information on the tournament was to search on “Twitter” and “Wimbledon” and then select “Live @ Wimbledon Day 9.” Tennis fans could access the Twitter coverage here, even without a Twitter account.

The Twitter product is very basic. On laptops, viewers could see the video coverage on the left of their screens and a Twitter timeline on the right. On mobile, the video appeared on top of the screen, while the feed was displayed at the bottom.

The coverage of Wimbledon was provided by ESPN, which broadcasts Wimbledon on its website at no additional cost for selected television and broadband providers.

But if Wimbledon’s coverage has stumbled, other aspects of tennis technology were flying high. Earlier in the year, the ATP crafted an agreement with InfoSys, a company that provides business technology solutions – and it used those systems to help engage viewers at home.  The company recently provided its services for the Apia International competition in Sydney, which served as a warm-up before the Grand Slam in Melbourne. The system used for the tennis is an open-source data analytics and visualization platform, known as the Infosys Information Platform.

This particular platform analyzed historical player data to identify trends and insights about matches, which the company was banking on to engage both casual and experienced fans. The platform also provided key information and statistics to commentators and provided athletes access to in-depth data on both themselves and their competitors. The ATP World Tour website published articles summarizing interesting data findings that Infosys uncovered throughout the event.

To help propel its name into the spotlight, the company encouraged ATP commentators, as well as viewers, to use the hashtag, #MoreATPwithInfosys along with the #ATP hashtag.

The company recently provided its services for the Apia International competition in Sydney, which serves the athletes as a warm up before the Grand Slam in Melbourne. The system that will be used for the tennis is an open-source data analytics and visualization platform, known as the Infosys Information Platform.

According to ARN, Andrew Groth, Infosys vice president and regional head of Australia and New Zealand said Australian tennis fans are among the most passionate and knowledgeable in the world, and that is what drove the decision to go ahead with Infosys and introduce their platform.

“We are using our powerful analytics engine to deliver exciting new digital features and match analyses to fans and media. This will create a great digital experience for spectators and players.”

And technology continues to drill down through tennis. Playsight, the company behind the trademarked Smart Court and other video and analytics technology in tennis, announced their alliance with the United States Tennis Association to equip all 102 tennis courts at the USTA National Campus, the new home of American tennis in Orlando, Florida. Under the agreement, PlaySight will provide USTA with PlaySight’s Live Court high-definition live streaming technology, including 32 Smart Courts with analytics and multi-angle video analysis.

The Tennis Industry Association recently studied the use of technology in tennis, including that found in line-calling systems, racquets, wearables and more.

“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.”

Some relatively affordable and novel technological developments include an app that helps athletes track their progress in the sport, and an unmanned aerial system called the Drone-ovic, named after number one-ranked men’s tennis player, Novak Djokovic. The purpose of the Drone-ovic is to teach players to serve like Djokovic. (Perhaps it was invented for the sole purpose of its name, but the great Serbian player, whose sense of humor has earned him the nickname of The Djoker, just might be amused by that.)

With the Olympics coming up soon and the U.S. Open at the tail-end of the summer, it’s clear that tennis has a clear path to continue its foray into the future. Obviously, promoters are hoping it serves up an ace.

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