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Last month I was invited to attend an SAP media event focusing on a few of their new partnerships during the Sony Open.  My day started with attending a panel discussion & concluded with getting into technology details.

The panel included the following individuals:

  • Mary Joe Fernandez, Former world number 4 and Olympic gold medallist, now Fed Cup captain and ESPN broadcaster
  • Alexis Glick, CEO, GENYOUth Foundation
  • Steve Peck, SVP SAP Global Strategic Initiatives
  • Jenni Lewis, SAP technology expert, who will give technology demos of SAP tennis solutions
  • Student Ambassadors from Fuel Up to Play 60 

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From Left to Right:  Steve Peck, Alexis Glick, Mary Joe Fernandez, Jenni Lewis

Steve Peck started out the panel discussion talking about the partnership with the WTA and how SAP Analytics will change the sport of tennis for the players, coaches, fans and media like never before.  SAP’s tennis strategy, has 3 parts, Tournaments (i.e Sony Open), the WTA as well as SAP Ambassadors such as Milos Raonic.  He also talked about the other sports partnerships like the NBA.  He told us that they verify with the players union on what statistical information can be shared as it could affect contract negotiations. 

Jenni Lewis (the main innovator behind the mobile app and analytics solution) discussed how the technology is used and gave a demo of the mobile app (much more on this later on in the blog).  Jenni spoke about how SAP Analytics provides a way to drill deeper into the patterns of play such as server direction and where the player is standing.  The coaches can now drill down on a “ball” and find out all the stats like which point, ball speed, did she win this point, etc.  She mentioned that they have worked with focus groups with players and coaches to ensure they are covering all of the touch points.  They will soon be doing the same thing with fan’s to see what they want included in the mobile app.  The players and coaches are already using this technology. 

For example, Serena Williams coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, stopped by to chat with Jenni.

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Mary Joe Fernandez discussed how this technology is used from a broadcasters as well as coach and player point of view.  She talked about how broadcasters can use this technology and used a heat map example to describe a match. 

Mary Joe had this to say:

“As a tennis broadcaster, SAP’s Analytics and insights allow me to tell a more informed story, helping viewers understand what is happening on court and why.”

“As a past player and current Fed Cup Captain, the level of detail SAP Analytics provide will make a huge difference to how coaches analyze a player’s game.”

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Above are Mary Joe and Jenni discussing the information that can be gained from the ball placement statistics.

Technology

I was lucky to get some of Jenni Lewis’s time to discuss the technology in more detail.  Prior to this new technology, the statistics were not often tracked on how a player is performing during a tournament and coaches had to manually track this information.  It is now available for them in near real-time.

  • “Athlete is now the data” – SAP has partnered with Hawk-Eye and they are now able to track the ball and players contact points.  They get data from 2 sources:

               1)  The Umpire’s tablet

               2)  The 10 Hawk-Eye cameras positioned around the stadium

Here is how it works:

  • The data from the Umpire’s tablet is a Base64 file that comes in real-time.  To process that file & information, SAP developed a Java app.  The data from the Hawk-Eye cameras is in an xml file (actually multiple xml files), where SAP Data Services is used to process and cleanse the data.  All of this gets written to SAP HANA in the Cloud – which is then accessible in near real-time.  There is a deliberate 15-20 second delay in case the player challenges the call of the umpire overrides the call.

    PLAYERS:  use the heat map to study ball placement.  This uses SAP Predictive Analytics to show where the player is most successful.

     BROADCASTERS: such as Mary Joe Fernandez, use the heat map to describe a match.

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Slide Courtesy of Jenni Lewis, SAP

  • Player Analytics:  this tool gives the end users (fans) the information they want to consume, it gives them the “second screen” (watching a match live or on TV to get more data).

  • Sony Mobile App features:
    • The Home Screen:lists all of the latest news in a complete list.  You can get the scores from completed matches or follow the score of live matches.  You can find out the schedule for the day.  You can check out the draws for the men’s singles, women’s singles, doubles, etc.  There is information listed for the players in the tournament such as their ranking, birthplace, and career stats.  The Fan Zone is like it says – for the fans.  It contains videos, photo gallery (a fan can get one of their own photos shown if uploaded to Instagram and tagged appropriately).  Event Info contains information about the location such as a site map, opening times and event history.
    • Virtual Replay:  this is new functionality just added.  This is really cool.  I used it when watching the Women’s Final Match.
      • It works for both phone and tablet.  There is additional information available on the tablet which makes sense since there is more space.  This information is shown in near real-time (the deliberate 15-20 second delay) and shows data visualization such as:

Live Virtual Replay of every point

Play-by-Play Commentary

Analyze each player’s Server Direction

Return Strike Point

Serve and Return Speeds

Shot Placement

It was amazing to have this information at my fingertips!  It truly enhanced my experience watching the match.

Home Screen Shot

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Virtual Replay Screen Shot

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Virtual Replay Screen Shot

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Fan Zone Screen Shot

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Slides Courtesy of Jenni Lewis, SAP

I am very excited to see what features will be enhanced/developed by SAP … especially for the WTA Championship Tournament at the end of the year in Singapore!  It was amazing to learn about how technology is used to process the statistics.  Oh, and I was also very fortunate to see some great tennis!

Previous blogs on this topic are:

Blog by me:  Tennis Anyone (Part 1)

Blog by Jonathan Becher:  WTA – Latest sport to become a best run business

Blog by Tammy Powlas:  Transforming women’s tennis with innovative technology webcast summary changing the game

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4 Comments

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    1. Karin Tillotson Post author

      Thanks Tammy – it is very interesting that this was all done with standard SAP Solutions (with the exception of the Java app needed to process the data from the umpire’s tablet).

      Best Regards,

      Karin

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