Seeing More Than A Stellar Tennis Match, Much More…

Sitting courtside and watching the yellow ball slam back and forth can be a heart racing, adrenaline rushing experience. If you are a diehard tennis fan like me, you’d see why tennis is a game of superlative physical and mental caliber. I’m taking in an exciting match between Andy Murray and Marin Cilic at the Western & Southern Open Finals in Cincinnati, one of the most important hard court tournaments leading up to the US Open. The raw power of the players and fan fervor aside, there is something else enriching my experience here ─ a layer of data and insights into the ongoing match and players. These insights are like tiny stories around every point scored or lost, cumulatively enhancing the understanding of the game and its practitioners that up until now one may have thought one knew well. Let me give you some examples:

  • 98 hours and counting: In 2016 Andy Murray spent 5886 minutes on court in the ATP World Tour, which is 1819 minutes more of competitive tennis this season than Marin Cilic.
  • Back from the brink: In 2015 Roger Federer was able to save all three breakpoints from a score of 0–40 and come back to win a phenomenal 36.8% of the time. Milos Raonic is doing something similar this year. He holds serves 36% of the time. And if I do a comparison for today’s match, from 0–40 down, Marin Cilic comes back a phenomenal 34% of the time and holds serve vs. Murray. Murray is yet to come back from 0–40 all season and has failed to do so in the match vs. Cilic too.
  • Best Server: John Isner with a serve rating of 319.1 and Ivo Karlovic at 314.5 are the best servers in the world now. Much higher than the legends of the game like Federer and Djokovic. But both players don’t feature in the top 10 list. This only goes to show that a player needs much more than a great serve in his game.
  • First Serve win %: In 2016, Marin Cilic’s big serve won him 80% of the first serve points against opponents but the number spirals down to 63% against Murray, pointing to Murray’s return.
  • Aces: 5068 aces have been hit since 2009 at the Cincinnati Open. This shows how the game has become a lot more aggressive over the years.
  • Under Pressure Player: Novak Djokovic is the best under pressure player in the world with an under pressure rating of 248.5. Novak is able to come back and win a return game from a 40–0 score, 30% of the time. Comparing the two, the last time they met this year on grass courts, Murray beat Cilic. Murray saved 83% of break points and Cilic saved 70%. Talk about pressure dynamics.
  • Ball Spin: Rafael Nadal puts maximum spin on his shots, which average 2500rpms. This is more than any other player in the world.

These are just few examples and there are thousands of such insights waiting to be unearthed from millions of data points that are out there.

Last year, Infosys partnered with ATP World Tour as their Global Technology Partner, and started analyzing millions of data points and stats. This created insights, helping fans to build a pulsating, nuanced understanding of matches, tournaments and players. In May 2016, Infosys and ATP launched the ATP Stats Leaderboards that use advanced analytics and takes in 25+ years of data from every point and match played since 1991 to answer prominent questions that tennis fans may have about who is the best server, returner and under pressure player and why? These data points and insights cut across decades, allowing fans to compare the best of today against the legends of the past.

When a fan is connected to the Internet — either courtside or at home in front of the TV set — they see much more than just the action on the court. Aided by stats and insights across tangible and intangible parameters, real-time or otherwise, and data-driven analysis that they have access to, fans are able to peek into the intent, risk, and strategy behind every shot and evaluate moves — or at least they have information to understand these and start enjoying the game much more. 
These are initial steps in unraveling gems in this game using Big Data. The era of analytics and insights in tennis has commenced, and a lot is about to change. Now you will have to excuse me — I’m back to the match!

Navin Rammohan is Associate Vice President, Marketing. For more posts, visit InfyTalk

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