Tennis player while drinking a paper cone of water after a practice session: “Wow, that felt good. My backhand was on fire. All of them in. All of them deep. Nailed it.”
Tennis coach after same practice session: “Actually, you only hit 78 percent of them in and only 53 percent of those were as deep as we’d like. Here, check the video.”
That’s the future of tennis if the company PlaySight has anything to say about it, and with high-octane backers such as Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Pete Sampras and Novak Djokovic, it might.
Oh, did I mention the player was in Indian Wells and the coach was in Miami?
PlaySight hooks up a SmartCourt, which they’ve done at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on practice courts 7 and 8 as well as courts at all four Slams, with multiple cameras and multiple data-reading devices. At the side of each court is a video terminal that looks like an ATM machine. As the player practices, the cameras are capturing everything he or she does. Then, at any point during the practice session, immediately after it, or later on a smart phone, a player can analyze the data, see video of every shot, and see if what they are working on is paying off. It’s all run through social media, too, so the player, coach or anyone whom the player has invited to their cloud, can see the data and video on their phone from anywhere.
Other similar technologies exist, but it’s the immediacy of this one that separates it, and you don’t need to have a human being working the cameras or culling the data. And as tennis quickly joins the rest of the sports world in looking at deeper metrics and data, such technology is becoming more and more useful.
Legendary tennis coach and current Tennis Channel Paul Annacone, who coached Pete Sampras and Roger Federer, recently joined on as a special advisor with PlaySight and he is a believer.
“That’s what’s really exciting for a coach is to be able to say ‘Here’s what’s going on. Here’s what I’m seeing let me show you,'” Annacone said. “In the 90 seconds while they’re drinking some water, a coach and player can sit down and put some visual behind some numbers, which is really impactful.
“I’m a big believer that there’s always a ‘why’ behind the numbers. And this is one of the first pieces of software I’ve seen that can help anybody whether club player or tour player with the explanation of the ‘why’ behind the number.”
Players seem to be finding the data valuable, as well.
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