Tuesday, February 4, 2014


Let's call this an opinion piece, a personal opinion, which I imagine most of my ramblings on about basically are.

The WTA has already partnered SAP to provide analytical point-by-point match data that can be used by coaches and players for their own post-match analysis and other purposes, but the technology, based upon or run on the SAP HANA platform is supposedly ready to offer such information real-time. See WTA Considers Allowing Players to Use Data On Court.

I imagine this has been mentioned or proposed and considered as a new offering for 2015.

If one were to look at all facets of this topic deeply, a book or several books could be written - let's not for the sake of sanity.

The collection of statistical data during sporting events has been going on for quite some time, and more so, for what I like to call situational data derivation (catchy, huh?), most recently. It's not just the old school stats - w usually does y under these conditions, but w usually does x under y conditions when z is his or her opponent or vice versa, otherwise, or so on and so forth.

You can create all the formulas and algorhythms you want. This isn't rocket science - it's not even complex computer science. The difficult task is tracking the data to be collected and providing an appropriate and usable presentation format and apparently that has been done. I guess.

But, so what? I get the concept of this for post-match purposes and preparing for an upcoming match, but what are a coach and player going to do with such information during a match, the very information they both should be gaining as the match unfolds in a more intimate and more real, much more real than real-time analytical match data? If one already has a coach available, who should be paying attention to every stroke, every point, what else is needed. Perhaps a ball boy can run in some messages or the coach can text the player some advice and recommendations. How about time-outs during which some monkeys on unicycles would ride around the court. We'll see.

Part of being good at this sport and many others is game awareness, recognizing both one's own and the opponent's weakness and strengths and some good old trial and error. How about some creativity? If the sport is getting too fast for this then let's go back to wooden rackets and sheep skin tennis balls. Now, that would be entertaining. Well, at least for a while.

Many studies of users (more specifically, mobile users) of the Internet and search engines in particular, have found that people actually feel smarter or more intelligent because they have near-instant access to information, although this assumption holds no (NO) weight whatsoever. I believe most of us who have been around long enough to realize this and even those guilty of falsely perceived sudden-intellect would openly admit to such if it meant saving the life of a loved one.

Is a coach and/or its respective player going to take anything from this or is it going to disrupt an already fast-paced sport which not only requires, but promotes focus and utmost attention - there is no alternative. Boxing, or a few other one-on-one sports (I can't name too many others), mandate, by format and dimension, that you must pay attention or you don't stay on the court or in the ring oft too long. The same holds true for doubles tennis play, even more so.

I don't want to see Sharapova consulting her iPhone for some advice or the Bryan Brothers (if this spills over into the ATP), back deep-court, along the stands, huddling with their twin computer tablets. What about a delay from a pro coach having a lengthy conference on the bench with their player via a dual-monitor laptop while their opponent, in normal pace, is ready to serve? The visuals get quite disturbing and the possibilities get even worse for our sport.

As a fan, I sometimes enjoy Hawk-Eye and may glean something from the IBM thing on the ATP Tour tournaments, but I can take or leave it. See Unlocking Hawk-Eye data: What it means for tennis, the ATP, WTA and ITF. I'd rather see better camera coverage and more replays. Give me Mac, Carillo, Baby Mac, Fernandez and some of the other good commentators and some good coverage and I'll probably hang on and enjoy the ride.

Oh, I'm going to be covering the Family Circle Cup in March and I can't wait to see if I'm going to be even more so pissed off by fans who already have an incessant need to text, doing so only more to get info about a match they are already watching live. "Oops. I'm sorry. Did my drink spill on your phone?"

If none of this on-court data assistance works out, HANA and HAL can go play a game of chess and we'll be done with this technology-for-the-sake-of-technology stuff. Heck, this may even be a match made in heaven. Of course, he is much older. Wait, is this the HAL from 1968 when the movie came out or from 2001? It's hard to say. I give up.

This may make for some darn boring tennis, but I'm also not the guy clamoring for more from the Tennis World - I love the sport for what it is. I, although having spent most my life in communications and new technologies, still haven't fallen victim to a minuscule attention span or SBS (Shrinking Brain Syndrome). If a match is not exciting, interesting or entertaining, that's life. I'll either learn from the match or turn it off until the next one. I'll get over it...and...

...Play the Game!

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