Analytics At The Australian Open

Can fan engagement be increased by tools such as IBM’s ‘Crowdtracker’?


The Australian Open is the first Grand Slam of the year and often produces some of the season’s most exciting matches. With 640,000 fans passing through Melbourne’s Olympic Park throughout the two weeks of the tournament, and millions watching around the world, fan engagement is extensive, with followers eager to share their experiences and opinions about the tournament’s talking points.

The Australian Open’s website attracted somewhere in the region of 17 million unique visitors over the fortnight and generated around 10 million tweets. For the first time this year, IBM analyzed this data through ‘CrowdTracker’, a platform which displays information such as the most popular places around Melbourne Park, latest scores, stats and player details. CrowdTracker also allowed organisers to better understand where people were in the arena, essential when handling crowd control.

CrowdTracker also provided fans with the opportunity to see what was trending on social media. They could monitor popular hashtags, which weren’t always tennis related For example, there was considerable coverage around gender equality throughout the tournament with Eugenie Bourchard asked to do a ‘twirl’ by a male interviewer causing a backlash and Andy Murray’s semifinal victory speech, where he questioned many of the sceptics who doubted his partnership with Amelie Mauresmo. Having information on trending topics allowed more people to enter the conversation and created an absorbing debate around a subject which isn’t necessarily intrinsically linked with tennis.

For more ardent tennis fans, merely having information on what’s trending on social media is not enough, they want to use real-time data to delve deeper into tactics and player form. IBM’s SlamTracker, a data tool that provides fans with statistics for matches across the four Grand Slams, had a new look to it for this year’s Australian Open, with data visualizations key to IBM’s method for communicating data. With over 8 years of Grand Slam data and 41 million points to analyze, IBM identifies patterns through historical datasets and states what the ‘keys to the match’ are going to be and the tactics that should be incorporated by a player to win a match. The number of metrics is quite astounding, making SlamTracker’s insights accurate and essential for those who want to make their Australian Open experience more interesting.

A good example of SlamTracker was seen in an infographic under the hashtag ‘gamechangersIBM’, which surmised that the key to Andy Murray and Tomas Berdych’s semifinal would be both players ability to serve under pressure. IBM also has a ‘keys to the match’ feature that lists 3 metrics that a player will probably need to meet in order to win the match. This isn’t an exact science, in the previously mentioned semifinal between Andy Murray and Tomas Berdych, the Briton only achieved one of the three, despite winning his match against the Czech relatively easily. The feature does however provide an added tactical edge and allows onlookers to delve deeper into player performance.

Not only do these metrics provide insightful information for players, it also gives spectators an avenue to get more involved with the match they are watching. Many will argue that Novak Djokovic’s mental strength was what got him through Sunday’s final against Andy Murray, an aspect of the game which remains difficult to quantify - although some will point to Murray’s poor five-set win record against ‘The Big Four’ as representative of his inability to hold his emotions together when pushed by the toughest opponents. Murray’s poor mental approach was compounded even further by the fact that he won a mere 34% of points off his second serve compared to Djokovic’s 62%.

Data and analytics have been transforming the fan experience at the Grand Slam level for some time now, but this new redesigned version for the Australian Open is even more impressive. Tennis and data are a match made in heaven and the future of these platforms should make the tennis calendar even more interesting.


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