The data that is served at Wimbledon

Serve locations, break points on video and in-depth coverage is being provided at Wimbledon from the courtside.

    Data capture is done on courtside with one person calling the game and the other entering stats [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]
    Data capture is done on courtside with one person calling the game and the other entering stats [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]

    Wimbledon, UK - Twenty minutes after Garbine Muguruza walked off the Centre Court on Saturday, she was handed a USB drive detailing her performance in the final against Serena Williams.

    She was left ruing a brilliant start to her maiden Grand Slam final where she broke Serena in the opening game of the match.

    As she tried to assert her authority on proceedings, using powerful returns that often landed on the far side of the baseline, the challenge started fading.

    Serena hit 12 aces to Muguruza's three. But as it ended, Serena won her 21st Grand Slam.

    The USB was full of numbers and statistics from the match – the player report – as well as video detailing her show in front of a capacity crowd.

    The player report is an essential collection of information comprising not only text but also selected video footage – break points, for example – that helps a player identify their strong and weak points.

    “Take last year’s men’s final between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic for example, the report was 17 pages long,” IBM Wimbledon Client Executive Sam Seddon told Al Jazeera at the Championships.

    Wimbledon's website attracted around 63 million hits during the 2014 tournament [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]

    “This is now used as a coaching tool that can be used to analyse the game right after its completion.”

    It is not just the players benefitting from the pool of data that is mostly collected courtside. Wimbledon’s new-look website allows visitors to go from checking live scores to viewing status of the queues and also dig deep into the stats.

    Number of aces, retirements, break points, double faults and serve percentage is just some of the information captured and shared.

    “We have over 150 staff on the premises and we capture over 3.2 million data points throughout the course of the Championships.

    “The data entry team is made up of around 48 people – all of them tennis players - and most of them are courtside. They capture the speed, serve location and rally count.

    "On bigger courts, one person calls the match like a radio commentary and the other person in inputting the data into the systems.

    “The collected data is not only distributed onto the web but also on our information systems and 200 displays on the premises and goes out on your tv screen as well.”

    Data available to the players, officials and the media [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]

    A second person working in front of a TV screen enters a separate set for verification purpose.

    Entering data – or statting as they call it – is not a simple task.

    The recruitment drive starts in September and a successful applicant would have sat through an application process, CV submission, online test and training sessions before sitting courtside with a laptop.

    “They need to interpret data as its happening and that’s why we need people who are tennis players. They need to know what is going on.”

    With a new website, Wimbledon organisers are hoping to exceed the 64 million visits mark set last year.

    The site often carries live stream from the courts – including fluttering flowers and ground staff watering the courts – bringing the visitors as close to the Wimbledon experience as possible, according to Seddon.

    “The website updates about 100,000 times a day. A lot of that is photos and videos. We had half a million visitors who came to the Championships last year but at 64 million online visitors, that’s a big chunk of our audience that we need to cater to.”

    Fans throng to get a spot on the grass at Henman Hill but the "Social Hill" on the website not only live scores but also number of tweets sent out daily, fan photos and polls and mapping the Wimbledon related tweets around the world.

    The tweet count for the tournament stood at over 7.2 million on the eve of the men’s final.

    “The information is quite useful for the TV commentators as well. The set of data allows them to see historical figures and useful information. So if they sound really clever with some stat, you know where that came from,” Seddon chuckles.

    The 2015 Championships will end on Sunday but the use of data won’t.

    The Slam Tracker – that uses eight years’ worth of data amounting to 41 million data points – is used to analyses players’ performance and identify three key things an individual needs to do in order to overpower his or her opponent.

    “That is an ongoing process. From next year, we hope to have Watson in our midst. That is a virtual system we’re currently training. The planning has already started for next year and we could see things like virtual ticketing system and an online solution to any question that a fan may have.”

    IBM's staff increase from 10 retainers to over 150 during the Championships [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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