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Rick Singer, Vice President, Sports Marketing, IBM

Rick Singer, Vice President, Sports Marketing, IBM

By Rick Singer

This year’s US Open at the US Tennis Association’s Billie Jean King National Tennis Center once again featured two of the most exciting Men’s and Women’s Finals ever. And while Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal lifted the championship trophies, there was another big winner at the end of final Grand Slam of the year – the fan.  

Fans around the world immersed themselves in volumes of new and available information about players, matches, conditions, and even the weather – all made possible through Big Data analytics and made available across a variety of computing devices. In a sense, fans used this information and insight to become their own tennis analysts, seeking out information they personally wanted to understand, digest and share.

For example, no matter where they were watching from, fans embraced the “second screen” mode of viewing – the act of searching for live video and stats on a second device, while watching the match in person in Queens, N.Y., sitting on their couch at home, or tuning in from the office.

For even more insight, we collected information from 41 million data points over eight years of Grand Slam tournaments. Using Big Data predictive analytics, we came up with Keys to the Match, which tells fans what one player needs to do to succeed against another player. Keys to the Match may not tell you which player will win, but it’s very accurate in predicting the top three factors each player needs in order to do well.

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Above: IBM Game Changers – What Big Data Insights Reveal About the Players.

In the Men’s Final, for example, Nadal achieved two of his three Keys, which were “win more than 48 percent of four- to eight-shot rallies,” and “win more than 63 percent of points on first serve.” In losing, Novak Djokovic met only one of his Keys, “win between 63 to 73 percent of winners on the forehand side.”

In fact, not only does this smarter technology analyze what’s needed to succeed in individual matches, it identifies data analysis trends to help players transform from good players to great ones, or, return to greatness.

In addition to wanting more information on this year’s matches, fans wanted to join the conversation on whatever device they were using. While more than 700,000 people visited the TennisCenter in Queens, all US digital platforms were accessed at record rates. Highlights include: 

  • 53.7 million – visits to US; highest total ever, and an 18% increase over 2012.
  • 419 million – page views; highest total ever, and a 29% increase over 2012.
  • Going Mobile – access via mobile devices jumped 64% over 2012.
  • 16.9 million – page views via Official US Open iPad app; a 118% increase from 2012.
  • 41.7 million – page views from tablets; a 54% percent increase.
  • More than 2.9 million – hours spent online; US Open Live streaming via PCs, tablet or mobile devices. 

The 2013 US Open also gave us the opportunity to dynamically scale up the resources of the tournament’s private cloud based on predictive analysis of the demands for the different platforms. Factors analyzed included the popularity of the players, the day’s schedule and the number of tweets before and during the match. And to be sure, the same cloud and predictive analytics solutions we used with the USTA can be used by industries around the world. For example, retailers can analyze large amounts of data to help them plan promotions targeted at specific consumers. Doctors can analyze the data about premature infants to predict and prevent a health crisis.

Though the 2013 US Open has ended, our work on the tournament is a year-round endeavor. The USTA has become one of the most technologically savvy of our global clients. In fact, we’re already jointly exploring ways to develop new ways to bring tennis fans even closer to the game at next year’s US Open.


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