Jan 18, 2018

Serving big data at Grand Slam tennis

The Australian Open is currently underway and that means fans are expecting a supercharged atmosphere as their favourite tennis players battle on courts for two weeks, while commentators and critics busy dissecting statistics.

For decades tennis fans have been served with statistics such as first and second serves percentages, forced and unforced errors, winning points and not to forgetting ranking points.

Watching an exciting tennis match, whether you're on court or off court, provides plenty of entertainment and adrenaline-inducing thrill. The overall experience is further enhanced with the inclusion of big data.

Businesses have adopted big data, using it to increase retail sales, boost e-commerce performance and improve supply chain operations. In the sports arena, big data analytics seem like a good fit. For the past several years, it is proving an effective catalyst for transforming the fan experience at major tournaments particularly in the Grand Slams.

With data captured from sensors placed all over the court, fans have the advantage of accessing to real-time statistics during a match. Many avid tennis fans love to study tennis matches by comparing the statistics of their favourite players. Big data play a significant role in helping these fans analyze the game they are following. IBM has been the official technology provider for the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments for many years. The partnership has allowed for unprecedented access to tennis scoring and statistical data that we have been feeding into Watson Analytics to find out what interesting insights we can gain about the matches and players.

Accessing stats through digital devices

The amount of big data being looked at is extremely massive, with more than 50 millions data points being analyzed since 1990. The statistics measure basic information such as the speed of serves and the number of double faults to complicated and advanced data such as winners on the forehand side of the court. The in-depth analysis helps provide insights to the strengths and weaknesses in a player’s game, while also providing a predictive analysis at what may happen during and at the end of a match. Separately, tournament organizers also examine player popularity and volume of social media conversations to predict the data demands from fans viewing a tournament website and engagement on social media platforms.

Must-have tennis apps on my phone

With the incredible analysis offered by this big data platform, it creates a remarkable effect on the overall fan experience. The insights derived from big data can be channelled to fans through data visualization. As a tennis fan, if I'm not able to stream a match or be at a live event, I can always turn to the app on my smartphone to find out the predictive analysis of the matches happening at that moment. Coupled with my engagement with other tennis enthusiasts at real time on Twitter, the experience is out of this world!

Hawkeye data
With the growing demands for processing power to handle large numbers of records with many attributes, the capability in managing digital traffic is essential to create undisrupted access to the user behaviors and their access to the statistical data. In the Australian Open 2015 alone, there were:

  • 14.3 million unique visitors to the
  • 24.3 million views across all official AO video platforms
  • 1.2 million unique visitors on the Australian Open mobile app
  • 23 Terabytes of Internet traffic was handled by the network infrastructure, a 136 percent increase on 2014
  • 10,784 games, 68,345 points and 1,128 sets captured, analysed and distributed via the AO scoring system.

All of that traffic captured requires robust cloud computing technology to ensure the entire infrastructure run smoothly during the course of the tournament. It also requires advances in network security to make sure users are protected from cyber attacks keeping their personal data safe from potentially malicious malware.

While there maybe fans who were unaware of how big data has changed the way we experience tennis, they are very likely taking part in contributing to the data. The next time you use the Australian Open app or browsing through their website, try look at the key statistics in a different perspective. Let the data be the guide to help you understand the game better and perhaps to even predict the outcome of the match before it ends. Although, bookies such as WilliamHill have the odds on current and ongoing matches, they can help you out if you're going to use data analytics for your predictions during this hard court season.

To find out more relevant materials on big data in tennis, visit the following links:

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