By Samir Mahir
For two weeks in late January, the eyes of tennis fans, media, players and coaches around the world focused on Melbourne and the first Grand Slam of the season – the Australian Open 2013. In addition to generating a lot of great tennis and good will, the tournament created, analyzed and shared a tremendous amount of data – Big Data.
To give you an idea of the numbers: 684,457 fans attended the tournament live; 14.1 million unique visitors came to the Australian Open website; and the Australian Open Social Leaderboard tracked over 9 million Twitter references for players. In addition, about 60TB of data and video assets were captured and stored by Tennis Australia during the event, which saw 764 sets of tennis played in 127 matches in the men’s draw.
As a CIO, an ongoing and important aim of our technology solutions for the Australian Open is to deepen our fans’ engagement and enjoyment of the event. And increasingly, data is becoming a game-changer for how Grand Slam tennis is viewed and played.
For example, a real-time tool available on the Australian Open website is IBM SlamTracker which analyzes more than 41 million data points from eight years of Grand Slam tournament matches. Among other things, the tool helps fans understand what players need to do to succeed in a particular match, with a feature called, “Keys to the Match.” As a match unfolds, each player’s performance is measured against their keys and updated in real time providing a deeper level of insight – whether it’s returning a high percentage of second serves, or, if net approaches favour one opponent over the other.
For players and coaches, top performances and winning is what matters. For the first time this year, we also provided match and video analysis securely online to the players and coaches after each match. A suite of IBM analytics software crunches the match data and synchronizes it with point by point video of the entire match to deliver a detailed view of what went well and what needs to improve. Previously this analysis was only available on DVDs or USB Keys and over IPTV. Not only do we host the Australian Open event, but we are also in the high-performance business of developing professional tennis players and supporting the next generation of rising stars. Throughout the year we also use match and video analysis to refine and improve our Australian tennis players’ game and performance.
Consistent with the worldwide trend, we have also seen a huge increase in the volume of fan conversation via social media. The two weeks of the Australian Open 2013 generated more than one million tweets with the #ausopen hash-tag alone and Australian Open Facebook page grew to 887,158 likes. But tweets and status updates mean more when they are translated and visualized as trends which are directly relevant to both tennis fans and business leaders alike. Social media insights have an increasingly important role in how Tennis Australia and other organizations make decisions and engage consumers. During the tournament, advanced IBM analytics software and natural language processing was used to gauge positive and negative sentiment shared across hundreds of thousands of social media posts on Twitter, Facebook, news sites, blogs and videos.
On the court, matches are won and lost based on game plans and tactics, as well as quick reactions and decisions during rallies on the court. Players are constantly evaluating and analyzing information from the ball’s velocity and trajectory to their opponent’s body language after each point in an attempt to gain the winning edge to secure victory.
Off the court, it is true to say that data, and more importantly the analysis of this data will continue to transform the way we consume, watch and interact with tennis and other sports. Organizations that embrace and leverage this technology to inform their business decisions and connect with their consumers will gain that same winning edge over their competitors.
For more social stats on the Open check out: Australian Open 2013 Social Media Champions