The Technology of Tennis

Data Driven Tennis

As the world becomes more data driven so too has the world of sports. Technology has evolved in ways that have helped improve the pro game. With the introduction of the challenge system, which uses cameras placed around the court to detect the precise location of the ball, I’ve noticed a significant reduction in the number of arguments that occur with the chair umpire, because it’s hard to argue with the precision and accuracy of the software. Every grand slam now has teams of experts from IBM analyzing match data. They use large sets of data to distill what they term, “keys to the match”, which is a small set of criteria, that if executed to or above the calculated targets, should result in a victory for that player. These are just some of the ways technology has impacted the professional game, but there are now ways technology can help anyone become, more informed player. I’ve divided these technologies into three major categories: Smart Rackets, Smart Accessories, and Video Analysis Software.

Smart Rackets

Babolat Play

The Babolat Play is the world’s first smart racket. The racket gathers a lot of information about the type of shot hit, pace, form, and displays the data on your mobile device. I like the data collection aspect and the visualization platform, but have a major problem with the fact that because Babolat is the only company that makes a product of this type. I don’t personally like to play with Babolat rackets so this product does not appeal to me. I would still be interested in trying out the racket to see if the information is helpful to me.

Smart Accessories

Shot Stats

Shot Stats was a project funded on Kickstarter to create a vibration dampener that collects data very similar to that of the Babolat Play. Unlike the Babolat Play, Shot Stats provides audible feedback along with it’s visualization platform, to give players more instant feedback about their shot selection. I’m more partial to this idea because I use a vibration dampener however, more advanced players who break strings often  tend to see their vibration dampeners fly off of the string bed onto the court. Currently I pay about 2 dollars for a set of rubber dampeners so when mine lands on the ground, I’m not too concerned about its well being. If my dampener was an electronic device that costs of 100 dollars, I may start playing with steel strings to make sure that dampener never flies off.

Zepp Swing Analyzer

The Zepp Swing Analyzer is a device that attaches to the butt of the racket and captures data similar to the Babolat Play and the Shot Stats dampener. One of the key differences with the Zepp Swing Analyzer is the ability to get a visual, 3d rendering of your swing with their app. I have yet to use this device, but I think this is very powerful for coaches and players alike. Being able to see your swing without someone having to video tape your game eliminates some of the need for video analysis to help break bad habits and to improve mechanics.

Video Analysis Software

Coaches eye

Coaches eye is a free app available in the google play store and the itunes store. I’m a huge huge fan of this app. Previously, expensive video analysis software was required to break down points or strokes for analysis. With coaches eye all of that work can now be done on your smart phone. Many coaches I know now use their smartphones to take video, edit directly on the phone with arrows or slow motion to break down a player’s mechanics, and add additional audio commentary to the analysis. The downside to video analysis technology is that you always need someone with you to video tape you(unless you travel with a cell phone tripod). However, since this software is so cost effective, I recommend it to anyone who wants to add a little extra something to their game.

My Side of the Net

There are a lot of exciting advancements with the introduction of more data and technology in the tennis world. As an athlete and an engineer, I love hearing about new gear available to help people become smarter, better, more informed players. This is not to say that technology should replace hard work and dedication, but I do believe in training smarter. This will help push the game to the next level, in every echelon of the sport.

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