Robotic Cameras Take Over Side Courts At The US Open - UBITENNIS
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Robotic Cameras Take Over Side Courts At The US Open

A new technology allows TV coverage of side courts with up to 80% less manpower. A look at how robots are changing tennis on TV

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TV coverage of major tennis tournament has become more and more extensive every year: these days at Grand Slams (or even Masters 1000) every court where main draw matches take place are covered by quality tv images and right-holders can avail of those images to their liking. Some of them have extra TV channels specifically dedicated to outside courts during the specific event (like DirecTV has done for a few years), some others provide extra feeds to their existing subscribers via web or app (like ESPN3 or ESPN Watch), or they can decide to include them in a separate Over-The-Top (OTT) offering (like Eurosport Player in Europe or ESPN+ in the USA).

 

This almost exponential increase of feeds available is made possible by technological advancements in the field of robotic cameras, allowing host broadcasters to cover a higher number of courts with a much smaller number of people than it used to be necessary, shifting the break-even point in the business case and therefore making the entire operation economically feasible.
During the 2018 US Open, ESPN, host broadcaster and exclusive rights-holder for the USA, decided to cover the outside courts at Flushing Meadows using a new technology made possible by the combination of the SimplyLive ViBox System and the Fletcher Tr-ACE robotic camera. This technology was due to be introduced at Wimbledon in July, but tests performed last spring were not satisfactory and it was decided to delay the debut until the US Open after a substantial software upgrade during the summer.

ViBox and Tr-ACE allow a court to be covered with four cameras controlled remotely by only two people sitting in the control room situated somewhere in the broadcast compound near the South Gate. “A more traditional coverage would require 8-9 people per court – says Steph Trudel, who has been the graphics operator on Centre Court at Masters 1000 tournaments for the past 18 years, and has moved to the director position for the first time at this US Open with the ViBox technology – with this new method you just need one camera operator and one director/producer sitting side by side to deliver a professional product”.

Two of the four cameras on court are positioned behind the baseline: Camera 1 is the main camera showing the match and Camera 2 has a different angle and is used mainly for replays. Then you have two extra cameras located on one side of the court and they focus on the players. The Tr-ACE system used a facial recognition software to identify the players and detects all movements on courts: this way it moves Camera 3 and 4 to make sure the identified player is always at the center of the screen. The camera operator is responsible to set which player needs to be followed by which camera depending on the score, who serves, who returns, etc… “Whoever does this job needs to know tennis, so that they can ‘tell the story’ of the match, patching together all the most relevant elements – says Trudel while he leads us through the various desks in the ESPN control room for ViBox courts. There are 12 desks for courts 4 to 15, and each desk has two people working side-by-side (the operator and the director); behind the curtain there are 4-5 people taking care of the “shading” who make sure that all the cameras have the right settings to produce optimal images depending on the time of day, position of the sun, etc… Finally, there is a desk for the supervisor of the entire unit and one for a person receiving all the funny clips of curious episodes happened on the various courts so that the digital team can share them on the website or on social media.

The feeds from the four cameras are all shown on a touch-screen display in front of the director/producer who can select what image is put on the air. They can switch camera directly or via a “fade in” system that uses a dedicated preview window. There is a toggle button allowing the director to rewind the scene and offer a replay from the various angles, a window for the Hawk-eye image (in case a call is being challenged), the graphic for scores and stats coming directly from the chair umpire’s tablet and some “beauty shots” offering outside images of the Flushing Meadow venue.

The unit running ViBox courts has been created independently from the main ESPN Broadcast Center, as it had to be operational a week earlier to air qualifying matches. This technology allows ESPN to offer 130 hour of live TV coverage of this US Open and an extra 1300 hours of streaming coverage through the ESPN app, the streaming channel ESPN3 and the OTT solution ESPN+.
This solution required 2 and a half year of development to be perfected and represent a significant leap forward in the way tennis tournaments can be covered. It’s not unlikely that many other tournaments will adopt the same technology to reduce their cost base and provide quality TV coverage of more and more matches throughout the season.

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Emma Raducanu Looking For Experience After Splitting With Coach

Emma Raducanu revealed her post-US Open plans as she prepares for life on the main WTA tour.

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Emma Raducanu (@CambridgeAwe - Twitter)

Emma Raducanu is looking for more experience in her team after splitting from her short-term coach Andrew Richardson.

 

The US Open champion revealed the news at the ‘homecoming party’ set up at the National Tennis Centre in London where the Duchess of Cambridge was present.

Speaking at the event Raducanu said that she needed more experience as she will now play on the main tour on a regular basis, “At this stage of my career I really need someone that has had that WTA Tour experience at that high level,” Raducanu was quoted as saying by the BBC website.

“Especially right now as I’m so new to it, I think I really need someone just to guide me who has already been through that themselves. “Never did I even dream of winning the US Open and now I’m ranked 22 in the world, which is pretty crazy to me.”

Richardson was always a short-term arrangement with him now committed to improving his 10 year-old son.

As for Raducanu she is now 22 in the world and faces unfamiliar territory in playing a full-time schedule.

After winning the US Open as a qualifier, Raducanu has received unlimited amount of attention and expectation which is something she will need guidance with.

Now Raducanu will set out a schedule in the next few days with the Brit set to return as early as Indian Wells which starts on the 6th of October, “I got back on court a few days ago, and yesterday I did a full training day,” she explained.

“I was feeling pretty good about myself and my game, and I am very excited to compete again. All the opportunities I am getting have been very fun, but where I really want to be is on the tennis court, as I’m just thriving out there.

“I haven’t decided on my schedule yet – I will decide in the next few days where I am going to go to – but wherever I play next, I’m going to make sure I’m ready. I don’t want to jump into things too early.”

Should the 18 year-old make a strong end to the season then she could make the WTA Finals in Guadalajara.

Although she is 14th in the race, players such as Ash Barty and Naomi Osaka could miss the event and it’s something that is on the back of the mind of Raducanu, “The WTA Finals I would never even dream of before, because it was just so far out of reach and out of sight, but coming reasonably close to it now, I think it would be great if I qualified,” she admitted.

“But if not, it’s a complete bonus, because my priority is just putting in the best possible pre-season that I can, so I can start strong next year and next season.”

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Berrettini pulls off comeback win over Auger Aliassime at Laver Cup

Matteo Berrettini contributed to a 3-1 overall scoreline for Team Europe over Team World after day one of the Laver Cup.

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Matteo Berrettini (@LaverCup - Twitter)

The Italian fought back from a set down to beat the Canadian and give team Europe a commanding lead.

 

In the longest match in Laver Cup history so far Matteo Berrettini needed a match tiebreak to beat the world number 11 and good friend Felix Auger Aliassime 6-7, 7-5, 10-8 in a match that lasted two hours and 52 minutes.

The Italian hit 15 winners and served seven aces while the Montreal native hit 37 unforced errors in the loss.

“I was fighting and I felt the match was really hard and Felix (Auger-Aliassime) was playing well and he didn’t give me anything and he made no mistakes and he was serving really well and I felt a different energy because we are playing for a team, not just myself and they helped me a lot”.

The first set stayed on serve until 2-2 when it was the Italian with the first two breakpoints of the match but the Canadian was able to save both and hold serve.

The next game was a rollercoaster and the Montreal native responded by earning four chances to break and after 13 minutes finally made the breakthrough to take a 4-2 lead.

At 5-3, the world number 11 found himself with two set points but failed to convert and the Italian fought back and got the break back and at 6-5 the Canadian had five more set points but again the Italian saved all five and the set was decided by a tiebreaker.

Auger Aliassime got the early break to take a 2-0 lead and that break was enough for him to finally serve out the first set and take a 1-0 set lead. The world number seven was keen to bounce back and had two early chances to break at 1-1 but the Canadian saved both and held serve once again.

The very next game it was the Montreal native turn to apply the pressure on the Berrettini serve but the Italian managed to save both breakpoints he faced and held serve.

At 5-5, the Canadian kept pushing earning two more break points but couldn’t get the breakthrough, and the very next game the Rome native pounced and managed to get the crucial break to win the second set and force a match tiebreak.

The breaker was extremely tight until 3-3 when the Canadian managed to get the break and jumped out to a 5-3 lead before losing two straight points and the breaker was even at five.

Once again the world number 11 got the break again and was up 7-5 but again lost two straight points and we were even at seven and then at 9-8 Berrettini with the rally of the match sealed the win with a great passing shot.

After the match in his post-match interview, the Italian was asked about being selected to play doubles in the night session.

“I am going to be honest when they told me I would be playing singles and doubles I didn’t expect to play a match that long so I spoke with the captain and we will see but I am still young”.

Day 1 results

Casper Ruud got the ball rolling for Team Europe as he beat the American Rielly Opelka in the first match of the day in straight sets 6-3, 7-6 to give his team the first point of the tournament.

In the first match of the night session Andrey Rublev gave Team Europe a convincing 3-0 lead as he came back to beat the Argentine Diego Schwartzman 4-6, 6-3, 11-9 in the match tiebreaker.

Finally in the last match of the day Team World got their first point as the duo of John Isner and Denis Shapovalov came back from a set down to beat the doubles pairing of Matteo Berrettini and Alexander Zverev 4-6, 7-6, 10-1.

Day 2 preview:

Day 2 features some amazing matchups in both the day and night session with Stefanos Tsitsipas starting the day against the Aussie Nick Krygios before John Isner takes on Alexander Zverev.

In the night session Denis Shapovalov takes on the US Open champion from Russia Danil Medvedev with another doubles match wrapping things up as the team of Andrey Rublev and Tsitispas will take on John Isner and Nick Kyrgios.

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ATP Moves Closer To Staging Five More 12-Day Masters 1000 Events After Board Approval

Changes are coming to the men’s Tour which includes a brand new ‘profit-sharing formular’ for players.

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Masters tournaments in North America, Europe and Asia are set to be expanded over the coming months after the ATP Board recently approved some ‘key aspects’ of their strategic plan.

 

In a letter issued to players, ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said an agreement has been reached concerning a variety of topics, which include the expansion of various Masters 1000 events. It is understood that the plan is for Rome, Madrid, Canada, Cincinnati and Shanghai to be increased to 12-day events instead of just one week. Putting them more in line with Indian Wells and Miami. Tennis.com reports that under the new structure, ATP 250 events will also take place during the second week of those tournaments and they could receive a subsidy from the ATP Tour, provided by extra fees paid by the Masters tournaments.

Masters 1000 events are the third highest-ranked category events in men’s tennis after Grand Slams and the ATP Finals in terms of prize money and ranking points on offer. The series was first introduced back in 1990 but it wasn’t until 2009 that the name ‘Masters 1000’ was born. The number represents how many ranking points the winner receives.

Besides the proposed changes to the Masters series, the Board has also given a green light to “a new Profit-Sharing formula” and “long-term prize money levels.” The prize money increase is reportedly said to be 2.5 percent of a base level, plus a bonus pool with a 50 percent share of the collective profit of the Masters events.

“This represents significant progress for our sport and the way our player and tournament members operate under the equal partnership of the ATP Tour. It is only through the spirit of this partnership, transparency, and alignment of interests that we can truly maximise your potential and switch our focus to the competition we face in the border sports and entertainment landscape,” Gaudenzi wrote in his letter to players.

Part of the plan also include making changes to ATP Media, who are in charge of broadcasting the events. At present it is currently jointly owned by the Tour and each of the Masters 1000 events. However, in the future it has been proposed that those tournaments trade in their ownership rights for shares in ATP media. Exact details about this process have not been publicly disclosed and it is unclear if all of the tournaments would agree to such a move.

The ATP also wants to create a ‘Tennis Data Innovations’ which will be an independent entity.

All of these proposed changes are still subject to further agreement around additional matters. The ATP have been working on details of their strategic plan for the past 18 months.

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