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November 14, 2016

Tennis and Technology: The Winning Duo

Posted by Rajesh K. Murthy (View Profile | View All Posts) at 5:52 AM

Tennis and Technology: The Winning Duo

The year: 1982. The place: Wimbledon's famed Centre Court. The match: the men's finals that pitted two former champions of the grass-court tournament against each other - John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors. After the match, which McEnroe won with a serve and volley delivered with almost surgical precision, a sportscaster asked Connors why he thought he had lost. 'Usually by the time the ball gets to me, it's the size of a basketball,' explained Connors, one of the game's best returner of serves, but this time, 'McEnroe's serves were so fast and precise that by the time the ball got to me, it was the size of a pea.'

What made McEnroe play what some fans think is his best match ever and one of the best in the history of tennis? And what made the tenacious Connors lose so decisively? In the 1980s, those questions were up to tennis analysts and fellow ATP professionals to discuss from their respective perspectives. A generation later, the players have changed but the grass court remains. So do matches that are filled with non-stop action.

Technology is omnipresent

What makes a Grand Slam tournament different today is the technology - everywhere. And we're not talking only about carbon-fiber composite racquets. The century-old facility with its forest-green walls conceals the advanced analytics that are enhancing the entire experience for fans - not only for those who are fortunate enough to be there but also for those who can put on a virtual reality headset and soak in the action.

A live example of this can be seen at this years' ATP World Tour Finals which are being completely powered by the Infosys Information platform (IIP) and automation. We've leveraged technology to crunch 25 years of data from the ATP World Tour so that wherever you are or whatever your relation to the game, your experience as a fan is nothing like what you have accessed before.

Technology can be a funny thing. Sometimes it's a 'push' mechanism, not unlike a gust of wind, where service providers (or other retailers) inundate end-users with relevant and irrelevant data with little understanding of context vis-à-vis the end-user. Other times, however, technology can act more as a 'pull' mechanism.

Watch this YouTube video to better understand how this phenomenon works. The video is a demonstration that we are at cultural crossroads. It shows how technology is pulling us, whether we know it or not, or like it or not, to transform ourselves and our outlook on sporting events. For example, people above a certain age relish the opportunity to be in the stadium and soak in the action and energy. But, people below a certain age are unable to remove themselves from their smartphones. The news I have for you: The people who cannot put down their smartphones are the new consumers of sporting events. It's a cultural phenomenon which every savvy enterprise should capitalize on.

So you would best not fight the technological pull that is going on right now. Technology such as the IIP is amplifying the in-stadium experience for fans who still want to watch the action on the court or field. And it's also geared to those who are unable to detach themselves from their digital devices.

Insights are transforming the game - for fans and players

In the case of our partnership with the Association of Tennis Professionals, the IIP takes in data as it happens on the court, maps it on easy-to-use screens for fans sitting anywhere - courtside or at home - and offers real-time insights that up until recently you could receive only if you happened to be sitting next to Rod Laver! Tennis is a game of finesse, an art form in some ways. But it is also a game that is governed by a vast array of statistics. Analyzed by a platform like the IIP, fans can unravel interesting insights. If the score is deuce and Andy Murray has had more success at this tie-breaking game point this year versus last year when playing Novak Djokovic, chances are he's going to go all in. Or perhaps you're a fan of Rafael Nadal and want to know in what parts of the match he will exhibit his best moves. The answers can be found with just a couple of clicks on the ATP Leaderboard.

True, there are many technology partnerships in professional sports. However, the Infosys-ATP partnership stands out for leveraging the capabilities of our powerful analytics platform IIP, to gather from and analyse data for different stakeholders involved - fans, players, sponsors, broadcasters, and organizers.

Since the widespread use of the IIP, the website of the ATP World Tour has experienced a 27 percent spike in traffic to its 'Stats' section. Be it traditional fans, millennial tech junkies, or professional players - the seamless nature of the IIP proves that it is not just the data at your disposal so much as, how you can harness technology to utilize what you have that gives you a competitive advantage.

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