This past football season marked the first that the NFL put Microsoft Surface tablets in the hands of players and coaches on the sidelines. Now women’s pro tennis is following suit.
A Wall Street Journal report says that Apple iPads (sorry, Microsoft) will be given to tennis coaches for use during matches (coaches have a quick minute and a half per set to consult with players). The tablets come equipped with SAP software that displays detailed in-match data; screens optimized for sun and shade visibility; and cases to protect from overheating. (SAP has been the official global technology partner of the Women’s Tennis Association since 2013.)
It’s all part of the drive for data—one that is happening, in some form or another, in every major professional sport.
Among this trend, tennis writer Tom Perrotta of the WSJ notes, “Tennis has largely remained in the data dark ages.” No longer. The data-stuffed, weather-ready tablets make their debut at the Bank of the West Classic tournament in California this weekend, and can be used by coaches at six more tournaments this year. WTA chief Stacey Allaster told the WSJ that the organization’s goal is to “improve our athletes’ performance and provide richer data and storytelling for media.”
Data, data, data. While NFL players and coaches are examining tablets on the sidelines (sometimes in rain or snow), baseball players and fans can now see precise pitch velocities and power measurements for each hit, and basketball stat-heads can now review every shot of every game. Even good old-fashioned golf, long accused of not doing enough to woo young players and fans, has been friendly to new tech offerings and this year hired the tech team at MLB Advanced Media to power its new digital offering, PGA Tour Live.
After each tennis match, players and coaches will be able to access a database with additional insights.
Sure, all of this will help the athletes perform better, but in the long run, the move is undoubtedly about improving the fan experience and catering to the sudden, fast-growing hunger for sports analytics.