Artificial intelligence ‘blow-up’ tennis sports to the point that every major team employs one.
Bridie Lynch has spent the majority of her life playing and coaching tennis. She was immersed in tennis from the age of 14 because her parents ran a local tennis club in Wales. One thing she’s noticed is that Artificial Intelligence is being used at all levels of tennis. Tennis is an extremely technical sport. Anyone playing or coaching these days is into AI, whether video analysis or longest rally numbers.
For her matches and coaching, she employs a variety of apps and approaches, including SwingVision, a smartphone-based video system that analyses her performance and provides details like forehand errors and backhand winners. She enjoys having Artificial Intelligence to help improve her game. It provides a clearer picture of what needs to work on, from my swing to my game patterns.
In sports, data analytics has been around for a long time. The best-known example of its application is from 2002 when the Oakland Athletics baseball team chose their roster based on Artificial Intelligence rather than the expertise of coaches and scouts and their preferred criteria. Michael Lewis’s best-selling book Moneyball, which was eventually made into a film starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, was inspired by the encounter.
Tennis has also seen a transformation. Tennis strategist and Data blew apart sport. The 2015 Australian Open was a watershed event for him. As Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray battled it out on the court, powerful computers crunched the numbers and divided the rallies into three categories: short, medium, and long. We noticed that each player only smacked the ball into the court a maximum of twice for 70% of all points.
Mr. O’Shannessy, who worked with Novak Djokovic from 2017 to 2019, believes that understanding convinced him that players’ practices were flawed. He notes that ninety percent of practice is concentrated on consistency but only ten percent of the match court is in rallies of more than nine points. This data forever changed our sport.
Data manipulation has been elevated to a new level.
Artificial intelligence is now available to coaches, in which sophisticated software is supplied, or educated, with unimaginable amounts of data. The resulting AI is capable of detecting patterns that a human would never notice. Artificial Intelligence can detect significant areas. Humans are terrible at stacking data, whereas AI can accomplish so in a matter of seconds Mr. O’Shannessy agrees.
If Novak Djokovic hits 50 winners with his forehand, for example, those shots could be broken down in multiple ways or layers. Around 40 of them appeared as he was serving, and another 35 appeared on the first shot following the serve. Mr. O’Shannessy, finding a pattern of play where Novak hits 35 out of 50 victories, in the same way, is a first.
We’ve been stumbling around for decades attempting to tie everything together. To train and construct accurate algorithms, Artificial Intelligence requires a large amount of data. Raghavan Subramanian, the head of the Infosys Tennis Platform, has worked with the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) since 2015 and The French Open (commonly known as Roland Garros) for over three years.
Every year, he has access to footage and statistics from roughly 700 matches. Mr. Subramanian describes valuable data as the raw material for all of our AI and machine learning technology.
He claims that over the last four years, accuracy has improved as more training data has become available. From the player’s perspective, this means they can more precisely analyze a match. They may monitor the exact positioning of critical shots, such as winners, errors, and serves, using the Roland Garros Players App.
Compared to the previous year, Mr. Subramanian saw a 51 percent increase in the use of the RG Players App in 2021, with 1,100 players and coaches using AI-powered videos. The AI is also accelerating the tournament’s media coverage. AI is slicing and dicing data in seconds to generate video material, a task that would normally take the multimedia team hours to complete. Almost quickly after a match, fans can view and analyze match highlights and other smart playlists.
Although AI is becoming a more powerful tool, Jérôme Meltz, Chief Information and Data Officer, Fédération Française de Tennis, believes it will always be that (FFT). Human and emotional issues continue to be a focus and the primary source of drama. The FFT acknowledges that AI favors top-tier athletes first and foremost and that the benefits will take time to extend to the general public.
Artificial Intelligence for performance enhancement is primarily for the elite, with very little for the ordinary public. If you could connect a camera to Federer’s chest and view his serve from a different position, now that would be wonderful.