We told you about who uses data to win and what that data actually is – from the raw to the finest, the Hawkeye data. Today we will talk about how they are collected. The latest episode in our recurring series on tennis and statistics is dedicated to data generators for tennis courts and generally to the understanding of the so-called “constellation” of tools dedicated to the collection of tennis data.
The analysis focuses on data generators installed on tennis courts which can be easily divided into three categories:
– Devices dedicated to refereeing during competitions that offer the following services: supervision of balls landing close to the lines, match statistics, video replays, data analysis for fan engagement and transmission of streaming services;
– Devices specialized in tutoring and training services that offer on-court monitoring of athletes, video analysis, retro analysis (feedback) as well as playful dynamics (gamification);
– Portable devices, flexible enough to perform both refereeing functions as well as the collection of match statistics, while also serving as training tools by means of their application functionalities.
A tennis court is considered a “smartcourt” when a technological component is permanently or semi-permanently installed on the court and it is positioned and secured/protected in order not to interfere with the movements of the athletes or hinder them during a game. This analysis is based on an article published on the Sports Technology blog, which can be found at this link. The most common hardware technology used by these devices is a combination of computer vision cameras. Moreover, there are also radars, sound sensors, lasers, and pressure sensors.
While data collected through the sensors installed in the racquets and the so-called “wearables” are, so to speak, one-dimensional (they are calibrated on the tennis player who uses the tool or wears the sensor itself), those collected through smartcourts possess a two-dimensional component, recording rallies between players involved in official tournaments or training sessions. Therefore, while the first will in the future be used to prevent injuries by being tailored to the person, the second shows an ever-increasing usefulness in the strategic analysis of matches, monitoring the effectiveness of shots against a rival.
Let’s move on to the analysis of the first category of devices, those dedicated to refereeing.
1. Smart referees
Three products may be assigned to this category: FlightScope Tennis, Hawkeye Innovations and Foxtenn, all of which have been approved by the International Tennis Federation (ITF), boasting the status of PAT (Player Analysis Technologies). All ITF-approved products that have PAT status are available at the following link. Therefore, they are used in international tournaments such as the Grand Slams and the WTA and ATP circuits.
Estimated cost: 35-40 thousand euros per court on a weekly basis
This one has probably the longest history of merging technologies and systems developed over the years, having done so since 1984. Flightscope was founded in South Africa in 1989 and it merged with the Polish company Jagro in 2008 to form Flightscope Tennis at a later date. Today, the main products offered by the company are the live scoring system and the line call system which also include ball and player monitoring.
The live scoring system mainly uses cameras, radars and the Proscorer, which is a tablet for the chair umpire. Therefore, all the collected data are used during a match through visualizations and the distribution to the television media.
The line call system mainly consists of video cameras mounted on each court, with 4 high speed cameras and 8 other specific cameras for line calls. When there is a line call, the data is processed and provides an update to the referee via the official review application. Additional ball tracking data, such as flight parameters and trajectories, plus player tracking data such as motion patterns and heat maps, provide additional interpretations and analysis available to the various stakeholders of the sport in question.
Operation scheme of line calls
Estimated cost: 60-70 thousand euros per court on a weekly basis
The Hawk-Eye system was created in the UK in 1999 and it was used for the first time in cricket (in 2001) in a test match between Pakistan and England. It was then used in the Davis Cup in 2002, then at the Australian Open in 2003, and it became an official tennis refereeing system in 2005. In 2010, Hawk-Eye was acquired by Sony. In competitions it is mainly used for electronic calls during matches, but the system also provides statistics about each player on every shot, service and rally.
Layout and arrangement of cameras
Essentially, the tracking system is based on the principles of triangulation, using visual images and timing data captured by high-speed cameras installed around the stadium, cameras that are calibrated and synchronized before each event. These are usually positioned high above the courts in such a way that they can capture the trajectory of the balls with minimal obstructions.
Although there has been some controversy regarding the accuracy of the line call, which is able to guarantee a margin of error up to 3.6 mm, the system is generally considered to be reliable and accurate except for a few borderline cases. With regards the heated debates concerning the availability of the data generated by Hawk-Eye for fans, media and third parties external to the ATP and the IT companies appointed by the Slams, we plan to deal extensively with the subject in the next article.
Estimated cost: less than 50 thousand euros per court on a weekly basis
The latest addition to the industry is FoxTenn, a company founded in 2012 and based in Barcelona, which has developed a technological system to compete with the status quo of line call accuracy.
The system is made up of 40 (ultra) high-speed cameras and 10 high-speed lasers positioned around the court. Each high-speed camera can capture images at 2500 frames per second (FPS), which is over ten times faster than any other system. Another difference compared to Hawk-Eye is the placement, as they are positioned at the far end of the court, and at ground level, rather than above it.
Layout and arrangement of video cameras and lasers on the ground
Foxtenn thinks its ground-level approach avoids many potential errors found in other existing systems. First of all, with the cameras installed above the stands, there is the possibility that the view of the ball can be obstructed by the players or by objects moving between the cameras and the court; ground cameras are so close to the action that there is little or no possibility that this might occur.
Moreover, cameras mounted above the stands can be more sensitive to wind vibrations and even to the movement of fans walking in the stands. Tracking can also be affected if the ball hits the net or if it has a high trajectory – this could lead to a less accurate estimate of where the ball landed.
Foxtenn’s system captures real footage of the bounce and tracking is not affected by the aforementioned situations. Having been approved by all the major tennis federations, FoxTenn could potentially become the most used “Line Calling” technology in major tennis.
‘Super happy’ Holger Rune Reacts To Winning First Match Since Wimbledon In Beijing
Holger Rune says he is pain-free and has gained confidence since reuniting with his former coach after ending his seven-match losing streak at the China Open.
Rune, who is the third seed in Beijing this week, beat former top 10 player Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-4, 6-4, in his opening match on Friday. The Dane fired 15 winners compared to only three unforced errors during the 85-minute encounter. It is the first time he has won a match on the Tour since Wimbledon in July.
“It feels very good. I had a tough period both with my body and with matches,” said Rune. “I’m happy to be back feeling good and feeling mentally well off the court. I’m super happy with my level today.”
The 20-year-old is experiencing a roller-coaster season where he reached the final of two Masters 1000 events and won a title in Germany during the first six months. However, recently he has struggled for wins on the Tour and ended his collaboration with Patrick Mouratoglou.
On top of that, Rune has also been hampered by a back injury which he recently underwent treatment on before coming to China. He previously told Danish TV that he had a pinched nerve in the fifth lumbar vertebra in his spine since the clay-court season. As a result, he has had to make adjustments to his service motion to overcome this problem.
“I didn’t feel any pain in my body,” he stated following his latest match.
“I’m feeling healthy and taking care of my body. Mostly I’m happy to play without pain and enjoy myself.”
Guiding the world No.4 now is Lars Christensen who he has previously worked with since childhood.
“It has helped my confidence. After some tough periods, he knows me so well,” Rune commented. “He knows when I’m back at my best level so it is easy for us to communicate and find the best version of Holger. That we did today.”
Rune will next play Grigor Dimitrov who staged an epic comeback to defeat Mackenzie McDonald. The Bulgarian was a set and 5-2 down before fighting back to prevail 2-6, 7-6(4), 6-1, over the American who was experiencing problems with his shoulder.
Medvedev, Sinner though in contrasting matchesEmbed from Getty Images
In other matches at the tournament, second seed Daniil Medvedev stormed to a 6-2, 6-1, win over Tommy Paul. He has now recorded 39 hardcourt wins on the Tour so far this season which is more than any other player.
“It’s not easy for both of us. Both of us a little jet lagged. Him maybe more, coming from Vancouver,” Medvedev said afterward. “Maybe that made the difference, but if I think only about myself, I’m happy with my level.
“I played great. The start of the match was not easy, but it’s never easy first round, especially in another part of the world. Then I was playing better and better during the match, so I’m happy about my level.”
This week is the first time Medvedev has played since losing to Novak Djokovic in the US Open final. He is seeking to win his fifth title of 2023.
Also through to the next round is Italy’s Jannik Sinner who struggled at times with his fitness during his troublesome 6-4, 6-7(2), 6-3, win over Dan Evans. The world No.7 served for the match at 5-4 in the second set but failed to capitalize on the opportunity, lost a 3-0 lead in the decider and then started limping on the court. During the closing stages, he also fell when trying to return a ball and appeared to hurt himself. Despite all the drama, Sinner still managed to seal the win.
Sinner is now 16-1 in opening matches this season. He is bidding to reach his 12th tournament quarter-final in Beijing.
Roger Federer Targets Djokovic And Alcaraz For Laver Cup 2024 After Team World Thrashes Europe
Roger Federer says he would love to see the two highest-ranked players on the men’s Tour play in the next Laver Cup after this year’s tie ended in a crushing defeat for Europe.
Team World, which is captained by John McEnroe, dominated the clash in Vancouver after surging to a 10-2 lead heading into the final day of competition. On Sunday they were required to win only one match to claim the overall title which they did in the opening doubles match. Ben Shelton and Frances Tiafoe ousted the European duo of Andrey Rublev and Hubert hurkacz 7-6(4), 7-6(5).
“I am proud of these guys. We brought together a great group of some youth and experience, guys that have been here before. Everybody played well,” McEnroe said of his team’s 13-2 victory.
“It was an awesome week. We kicked some ass.”
“Winning is a whole lot better than losing. We struggled the first couple of years, and now we have tasted winning and it feels good.”
In contrast, Europe didn’t have much joy at the event with their only victory being from Casper Ruud who defeated Tommy Paul on the second day of the tie. Since the start of the competition in 2017, Europe won four consecutive titles but 2023 is the second year in a row that they have been defeated.
Hoping that this losing streak will come to an end next year when the event is held in Berlin, Federer says he wishes Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz will play. Djokovic has played in the Laver Cup twice before but Alcaraz is yet to make his debut.
“They destroyed Team Europe. Team World played fantastic, they really brought the energy. Everybody brought a point, they were stronger in the doubles. In the singles too, they were moving fast, they were ready to go. They thoroughly deserved victory,” said Federer.
“I would like to see Novak again, Alcaraz and Novak on the same team. Sascha Zverev would be great for the German market. Someone like [Holger] Rune, that really hurt Team Europe. Rune and [Stefanos] Tsitsipas pulling out. [Daniil] Medvedev would be great. I like watching [Andrey] Rublev, and maybe someone will come through,” he added.
Federer is a co-founder of the Laver Cup with his management company Team 8 partnering up with Tennis Australia and Jorge Paulo Lemann to create the event. In 2019 the team competition was awarded ATP Tour status with a spot on the official calendar and access to marketing facilities under an agreement. However, ranking points are not awarded to players.
Due to the nature of the format, only one match was played on Sunday with fans not getting the chance of watching any singles. Something two-time French Open champion Ruud admits is a problem.
“Two of the times that I have played was maybe in a way a little bit unfortunate with only one deciding doubles (match) on Sunday,” Ruud commented.
“The crowd didn’t get to see a singles (match) after or whatever. That’s not in my hands to decide what the format looks like.’
“But last year in London was great in many ways because you had so many great players and it came down to almost the last match. When I watched on TV the first series, it was so exciting because Roger played a couple of times, the final match of the Sunday and clutched it for Team Europe. It’s been a couple of years without playing that last singles match. But it’s a great initiative. Me, as a golf fan, watching the Ryder Cup all my life in my childhood, it’s great for tennis to have this event.”
The 2024 Laver Cup will be held at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin between September 20-22.
India’s Sumit Nagal Receives Sponsorship Boost After Revelling Financial Struggles
A leading food and drink company has pledged to support India’s highest-ranked men’s player who was unable to train at his usual facility in Germany earlier this year due to a lack of money.
Earlier this week world No.159 Sumit Nagal made a public plea for financial support to help him continue his career as a tennis player. In recent years he has been based at the Nansel Tennis Academy in Germany but was unable to train there during the first three months of the 2023 season due to a lack of funds. During this period he relied on his friends, including former player Somdev Devvarman, to help maintain his fitness.
“If I look at my bank balance, I have what I had at the beginning of the year. It is 900 euros. I did get a bit of help. Mr Prashant Sutar is helping me with MAHA Tennis Foundation and I also get monthly (salary) from IOCL but I don’t have any big sponsor,” Nagal told the Press Trust of India.
“I am investing whatever I am making. The yearly cost where I travel with one coach is costing me around Rs 8 million to Rs 10 million (90,000-113,000 euros) and that is just with one travelling coach (no physio). Whatever I have made I have already invested,” he added.
Nagal, who is 26 years old, has reached the semi-finals of better at five tournaments on the lower-level Challenger Tour so far this season. His only Grand Slam result was at the US Open where he lost in the first round of qualifying to Taro Daniel. It was at the US Open where he took a set off Roger Federer before losing in 2019.
Despite being the only player from his country to be ranked in the top 400, Nagal is currently not part of the Target Olympics Podium Scheme. An initiative set up by the Indian government to provide support to their top athletes.
After learning about Nagal’s ongoing struggles on the Tour, a leading company has decided to support the tennis player by signing a three-year deal with him. Gatorade specializes in sports drinks and is manufactured by PepsiCo. Under the deal, Nagal will receive support with his recovery and nutrition from experts at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI).
“I am deeply moved and grateful to join hands with Gatorade. This association comes to me at a pivotal time, and I am thankful my hard work and passion is getting recognized and appreciated. With Gatorade by my side, I am sure I will reach new heights and give it my all both on and off the court,” the Indo-Asian News Service quoted Nagal as saying on Thursday.
Speaking about the new partnership, Ankit Agarwal from PepsiCo India has hailed the collaboration. Agarwal is the company’s Associate Director of Energy & Hydration.
“Sumit is a role model for the new-gen athletes of India with his career being a true example of hard work and sweat that makes talent shine,” he said.
“As a brand that is dedicated to supporting athletes in removing barriers to sporting success, we are delighted to welcome Sumit to the Gatorade squad.”
Nagal has been ranked as high as No.122 in the world. So far in his career, he has won four Challenger titles with two of those occurring this year in Italy and Finland.
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