For diehard tennis fans, it may come as a surprise that those that love watching at home may actually know more about the game underway than the players and coaches.
This is because unlike viewers, who sometimes have access to detailed statistics, such as aces, outs and more through either the internet or their sportscaster, this information is unavailable to those on the court, at least, during a match.
SAP set out to change this.
Since last October, the German software company has been testing a tablet-based app that it developed in partnership with the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) to provide players and coaches live granular play data.
“As a coach, they have never been given access to that info in real time,” said Jenni Lewis, global sponsorships technology lead at SAP. “If there are two aces in the first set, and two aces the second set, at what point of the game is the player serving those aces? We take it all the way down to the granularity that they need.”
The data itself comes from numerous sources.
According to Lewis, the most important, of course, is from the umpire’s own scoreboard. In addition, there are line and hawk-eye cameras that are able to capture the ball’s speed and trajectory, as well as player positions, sending raw feed to SAP’s HANA Cloud platform and SAP UI 5.
That data is then cleaned up, analysed, and pushed back out in real time to WTA-approved tablets to be reviewed by coaches.
According to Lewis, due to the sheer volume of data coming in and in order to be able to scale, SAP automated the app as much as possible.
“In a standard tennis match, there are some 60,000 to 70,000 transactions that we are able to consume and push out in real time,” she said. “There are very few humans involved in the process.”
While the app is cross-platform, it is not publicly available. In fact, its use is limited at this time to the WTA, as it is the first league to amend rules to allow for on-court coaching.
According to Lewis, SAP has worked with about 25 coaches, as well as all top 10 players in the world using this technology. While it is currently focusing on professionals, the company is exploring iterations of the app for fans and the media.
“We continue to have conversations with other associations regarding allowing on-court coaching,” Lewis said. “We’re sure that this can help players improve their game.”