WTA Ranking: Big Data’s three keys to beat Serena Williams

For years, IBM has been showcasing the prowess of its ‘technological beasts’ to the world through different applications in the world of sports. In one of the most famous instances of this approach, Deeper Blue, Deep Blue’s successor, managed to defeat Gary Kasparov himself, although the outcome was somewhat controversial. Now, both the men’s (ATP) and women’s (WTA) circuits in the world of tennis have been added to the company’s scope of action.

The US Giant has developed Slam Tracker, a tool that the Roland Garros, Wimbledon, US Open and Australian Open tournaments have already adopted. “SlamTracker has been designed to provide fans with a much broader picture of what’s happening. After the matches, players and coaches can review historic data, statistics and videos in order to learn from the things they did right and wrong for the next match”, explains Javier González, head of Analytics for IBM Spain.

But the technology does much more than just that: After uploading historic data of all players taking part in almost all tournaments across the world and keeping it updated with data from each new match played to reduce error margins, Slam Tracker “is able to determine the three key points that Player X needs to put into practice to beat Player Y”, said Patrice Poiraud, head of Big Data in IBM, to AFP agency.

Slam Tracker determines the three key points that Player X needs to put into practice to beat Player Y

Once aware of the three keys, it is up to the player whether to put them into practice or not. Evidently, players can also beat their opponents without focusing on these three keys. After all, each player’s creativity and intuition plays a decisive role. However, as Poiraud unveiled, 98% of male players that have focused on the three conditions to victory determined by the program have won. Furthermore, among female players, this figure is perfect: 100% of victories.

So, with data analytics it is easy to find out the key points that a player must focus on to beat, say, Serena Williams, or any other player, and take a shot to the top of the WTA ranking. The hard part is that Serena, and the other players, are likely to put up a good fight They also have their own weapons.

The Match Charting Project: An altruistic collaboration initiative

The humble-but-wonderful project launched by Jeff Sackman in 2013 has already attracted hundreds of volunteers filling out spreadsheets with match stats. “Tennis needs betters stats. Now you can help”, was the motto that led to the creation of The Match Charting Project and that is keeping many racquet sports enthusiasts busy.

Available at tennisabstract.com, a powerful stats page, collaborators can download an MS Excel template to “quickly, with a bit of practice” start turning matches into comprehensive data series: serve direction, return direction and depth… and many more details that go far beyond what audiences have access to during big tournaments.

Although the charted data collection process will be slow compared to what the solutions from companies such as IBM can offer, it is nonetheless an endearing project.  cross-sliced backhands cross-court slice backhands Sackmann’s goal is to make these data available for everyone. In short: to share knowledge.