The Technology Behind The Tennis At Wimbledon

What is behind the graphics and stats at the tennis tournament?


Wimbledon is the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world. One billion people around the world tuned in over the course of the two-week tournament this year, but the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) doesn’t rest in its quest to drive engagement and promote its product around the world. They look to provide broadcasters, players and coaches with as many stats as possible to enhance the Wimbledon brand.

IBM has been a partner of Wimbledon for over 25 years. IBM looks at the 3.2 million data points that are captured during the tournament to provide detailed information for every point of the Championships. They then feed all of the data into systems running IBM Watson and InfoSphere Streams, which can then be compared with the tens of millions of previous data points gathered from previous tournaments.

Watson Cognitive Analytics has been programmed with the last 10 Wimbledon tennis annuals to analyze. When you ask it a question regarding stats at the tournament, Wimbledon data analysis brings together Watson cognitive computing power with this database to determine if it should search within the existing database, which contains all Wimbledon history back to 1870′s. If not, it looks at Watson’s data based upon the context of the search query and what data is relevant for the question asked. Watson shows the % accuracy when answering and updates how many tweets per minute are on Twitter (as it’s plugged directly into Twitter data pops up randomly with this information.

IBM use tennis professionals to analyze the data, reasoning that it is easier to teach them about data than it is to teach a data scientist about tennis.

For the 2015 tournament, IBM used a new early warning system to provide fans media ready updates that were usually released within 120 seconds of the breaking news event. The intent seems to be to have everyone share in real time, even for those not in attendance or watching on television. So for example, a serve is discovered to have broken the speed record almost immediately, and a tweet posted with an image and graphic within minutes.

Social media analytics is another way that data is being utilized at Wimbledon. Again, IBM analyzes tweets to establish how many are coming in, the context players and the tournament are being mentioned in, and who the real influencers are that are discussing Wimbledon on the social media platform. This last one is the most important, as it requires a degree of subtlety. It is not simply a case of engaging with people who have a large number of followers, their real influence also needs to be measured, and looking for problems that they can solve.

All of this information is not just available to viewers, it is also made available to coaches within 20 minutes of the game finishing. The value of immediacy should not be underestimated, not only for driving engagement with fans but ensuring that players and coaches can leverage the data so that they can optimize the insights and maintain peak physical condition, and work on issues in style and any deficiencies in their game as quickly as possible.


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