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Arthur Ashe Stadium, Queens, N.Y.

By Noah Syken

It’s that time of year again: the US Open begins today in Queens, and tennis fans — and New York City — may be buzzing even more than in years past.

This year is Serena Williams’ year to write history. She’s going for a calendar year Grand Slam and her 22nd Grand Slam title, which would tie her with Steffi Graf for most wins in the Open era.

IBM, the long-time technology partner of the U.S. Tennis Association, and other Grand Slams, has been there to help fans watch and enjoy “Serena Slam,” in which Williams has won the past four Majors, starting with the 2014 US Open. Along with ESPN, another USTA partner, we’ll be part of action over the next two weeks, using our technology to enrich tennis fans’ knowledge and appreciation — no matter where they are in the world.

The world of live sports is undergoing rapid transformation. We have a long history in sports and in running live events — and we work with companies across all industries, including sports organizations, to ensure they are harnessing the new opportunities driven by analytics, the cloud, social and mobile.

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We recognize that sports events produce rich streams of data that can be analyzed to provide new insights to fans. We’re working with organizations, such as the USTA, and new venues like the new football stadium in Atlanta, to demonstrate the power of that data.

Moving forward, we are tapping into the rich capabilities in IBM Research to harness new methods of engagement and to make the on-site experience of attending a sports event in person a far richer experience than in years past.

This year, by analyzing the streams of data, we can point out “moments of achievement,” in real-time, such as the player’s fastest serve during the tournament. Most fans might not realize it happened without our technology making note of it. That information gives the USTA an opportunity to engage fans and stoke interest in the tournament. The highlight can be shared not only by the broadcasters calling the event on TV, but also by the social content teams at the US Open and around the world. We’ve seen how social media discussions about the US Open can drive even more interest in the event itself when fans are communicating with their own followers about a player’s good play or a really close  match.

More than 700,000 fans streamed through the grounds of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens in 2014, making the US Open the most widely attended multi-day sports event in the world. Millions more log onto USOpen.org to follow the action from their smartphones, iPads or PCs as a “second screen” in addition to tuning into the live action on television.

Tennis fans can’t seem to get enough data. IBM’s SlamTracker has collected 41 million data points from eight years of Grand Slam tennis and identifies three “Keys to the Match,” or indicators that are most likely to affect a player’s ability to succeed. During each match, fans can follow along on their second screens. SlamTracker tracks players’ performance against their “Keys” as well as their overall stats, which allows fans to gain real-time insights as they follow a matches, along with the television commentators.

Noah Syken, Vice President, Global Sponsorships, IBM

Noah Syken, Vice President, Global Sponsorships, IBM

SlamTracker features real-time scores and statistic that highlights relevant visualizations for every point in a match, allowing the fans to not only see an ace being served, but deeper insights into how that ace fits in context of a player’s overall serve during the match. While IBM provides statistical graphics to TV broadcasters, SlamTracker provides point-by-point graphics to tennis fans on US Open.org. We also provide detailed analysis to coaches and players so that they can study their match performance to make improvements.

Most importantly, the lessons learned at major sporting events through data analytics have been transferred to other industries where organizations want to analyze data to transform their businesses.

Think about it: Night-time tennis in New York City. Nothing can beat the celebrity — or the celebrities — who will come out in force over the next two weeks. Enjoy some of the best tennis in the world. I know I will.

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