Tennis tech could be a game changer

Andy Murray

The tennis season is upon us, with the French Open already under way and Wimbledon right around the corner. Viewers can expect to see some of the useful decision aiding technology that has been around for years, but behind the scenes there is other new technology emerging that could be about to change the game.

Over the years, tennis has evolved massively in terms of the way it is played. Newer designs of balls, rackets, and courts, along with a higher level of fitness among players have made the game we know now a lot faster paced than the games of the past. For example, Rafael Nadal’s average serve speed in 2014 was 185 kilometres per hour, whereas players in the 80s like John McEnroe served around 20 kilometres per hour slower. McEnroe has stated, though, that using the rackets of today he can hit at much higher speeds than he used to in his playing days.

Technology has also improved decision making in tennis. Hawk-Eye is an accurate slow motion video that pin points exactly where the ball landed, so there can no longer be any disputes over whether the ball was in or out. It could be argued, however, that tennis was more entertaining before this, as it sparked huge rows such as the famous occasion on which McEnroe called the umpire a jerk (see video below) during his outburst.

Along with technology to improve the viewing experience on the court, there is now technology in production that should enhance the players’ performance even further. A lot of sports have already embraced new technology to try to improve fitness levels and strategy, but tennis looks as though it’s about to take things a step further. The PlaySight smart tennis court uses a combination of cameras that cover every inch of the court surface. These cameras are used to track all the player’s movements and racket strokes. This information is linked to computers that are situated next to the court, so players and coaches can look back and analyse the footage instantly. This footage can also be sent to smartphones, so the player can examine it later, or send it to other experts to analyse and gather opinions. The technology has been backed by some of the biggest names in tennis including Novak Djokovic and Pete Sampras.

With Andy Murray being the only British male to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936, tennis in the UK needs to embrace improvements in tech like this to try to raise the standard of its players. Murray, who is 3/1 to win in the Wimbledon betting odds as of late May, will have a tough time following up his 2013 title against an in-form Djokovic this year, but he will give it a good shot, as he is also playing well. If British tennis academies start using new software to train their players, there could be a crop of young talent set to take Murray’s place in the coming years.