Open to Tech: 5 Ways Tennis is Winning With Technology

The US Open is upon us. The two-week event in Queens, New York is the largest annually attended event in the world. Fans anticipate seeing athletes at the top of their game and in peak physical shape. But the athletes aren’t the only big draw at the US Open these days. Technology has become a huge presence in tennis, and especially in the Grand Slams. From developments in rackets to real-time match analytics, tennis continues to get smarter each year. Here are five innovations that prove it:

 

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1.) The ever-evolving racket

 

In the 70s, wooden rackets were replaced with shiny, composite ones that increased spin, power, and increased a player’s margin of error. Today, they have reached a whole new level of science.

 

Possibly the biggest step has been in materials. Many top players, including #1-ranked Novak Djokovic, are using rackets that incorporate graphene technology, a two-dimensional material that optimizes weight distribution to maximize swing speed. Think about that for a moment- a material composed of an unimaginably thin sheet of carbon atoms that has no third dimension. Graphene is also said to be the strongest material in existence, up to 200 times stronger than steel.

 

It’s not just materials that have evolved; even string patterns have been analyzed and optimized. Roger Federer’s racket, utilizing fewer cross-strings, gives him two inches of added clearance over the net and causes the ball to drop in 12 inches shorter.

 

And you knew this would happen (or did you?). We now have the world’s first “smart racket.” The Babolat Play seamlessly integrates sensors, a gyroscope, accelerometer and microprocessors to capture data about a player’s shots for training or fun. And it’s all accessible via an app for mobile devices.

 

2) The beloved Hawk-Eye

 

Though it’s been around since 2006, Hawk-Eye is still having a tremendous impact on the game. The complex computer system uses triangulated high-speed cameras (1000 frames per second) to visually track the trajectory of the ball and predict its path. Incredibly, it has corrected and overturned about 30% of line-judge calls since its introduction. And many have been crucial ones.

 

Like any good player, is always improving, getting more and more accurate and learning new tricks. With 10 cameras in the system, Hawk-Eye is continually being refined to account for unique conditions, including wind, sunlight at different times of the day, stadium lighting, shadows and dark or overcast conditions.

 

What the casual observer might not realize is that Hawk-Eye is also a treasure trove of tennis data. The tracking system is combined with a backend database and archive that can be tapped to analyze all kinds of statistics and trends about individual players and matches.

 

3.) SlamTrackerTM

 

Introduced in 2008, SlamTracker is a revolutionary analytics tracking system that finds and collects real-time and historical data for players—everything from match-ups against common opponents to current tournament stats, scores and results. Whether watching from home or the stands, SlamTracker is a great way for super-fans, tennis newbies, coaches and players (yes, they use it too) to access easy to understand, yet highly detailed patterns and data.

 

4.) Winning digital experiences

 

Whether accessing USOpen.org or US Open apps on their mobile devices while watching tennis on their TVs or even on the tournament grounds, US Open fans are insatiable. They want to see more.

 

To accommodate these “second-screen” fans, an interactive app was created to offer enhanced social features and instant access to live video. Apps have also been improved with a scrolling timeline of trending social topics, match photos and more. Introduced in 2013, Social Sentiment indicator shows the volume of tweets and whether fans are liking or disliking players in key matches. And if that wasn’t enough, the tournament also features three fifty-foot screens, or “social walls,” at different locations on the tournament grounds that aggregates and displays content from social platforms.

 

5) Smarter clothes

 

We all know ball boys and girls work hard to keep the matches moving. With new wearable-tech nylon shirts, they’ll end the day with some stats of their own. The shirts are equipped with biometric sensors that wirelessly tracks heart rate, distance, calories burned, intensity of movement and more.

 

So there you have it. Whether you’re taking the 7 train out to the grounds or watching the action from your couch, it’s sure to be another exciting 2 weeks of tennis and yes, technology.

 

Have these new technologies made watching tennis more enjoyable for you? What other technology would you like to see used in tennis?

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