When you watch a game of tennis today, it is shocking how little it has changed since the first time you ever watched a game. There is a lot of old-world tradition baked into the game. It is a sport for the well-bread children of old money aristocracy. Well-kept tennis courts are frequently found inside tall, locked fencing, or exclusive, gated communities. In low-income neighborhoods, you are more likely to find basketball courts rather than tennis courts. In such places, tennis is much less accessible.
But this is a new age of tennis where the Williams sisters have inspired a whole new generation of players. Tennis has been slow to adopt new technology. But a few companies are out to change that. They are connecting with people who are already familiar with tech, and are just now discovering tennis. With some of the new advances, the game may never be the same.
Imagine a tennis court that can see you, and analyze your play. Now stop imagining, and have a look at the SmartCourt system by PlaySight. USA Today describes it this way:
Like a slimmed down version of the service-line monitor Hawkeye, PlaySight uses high-definition cameras to digitally record and analyze many aspects of a tennis match or training session. And then some.
With five cameras (compared to Hawkeye's eight to 10) strategically placed around a court and no sensors attached to players, PlaySight's technology captures player and ball movement.
It can calculate game statistics, differentiate strokes automatically and process data via an auto-tagging technology with roots from the Israeli military. It even calls lines, blurting out "in" or “out."
This system is already being implemented by tennis clubs, trainers, and enthusiasts around the world. Breaking down one’s own game and tendencies is an exciting prospect. But the idea of getting that kind of analytics on top competitors in the tennis world could turn the game on its luddite ear.
While you can pick up new tennis racquets in various sizes, materials, colors, and prices at any number of online stores and retail shops, you would think that there isn’t very much technology can do for the tennis racquet. But besides fashion, not much about them has changed. Look a little deeper, though, and you will find that technology and tennis are combining to make things considerably more interesting than you first imagined. Two products stand out:
Babolat Pure Drive Play Tennis Racquet — This is a tennis racquet with sensors built into the handle. Through bluetooth, it sends information to a smartphone app including the type and number of strokes (forehand, backhand, serve, smash) spin level, ball impact, location, total and effective play time, power, endurance, technique, consistency, energy and rallies.
Zepp Tennis Swing Analyzer — This is a sensor that attaches to any racquet and can:
- Track shot type, power, spin and total court time and active time
- Compare and share your swing data with others
- Track your progress over time
Ball machines have been around for a long time. They are common fixtures at tennis clubs and practice facilities. The problem with these machines is the downtime required for hunting down all the balls and reloading the machine. The PickupWall takes a stab a solving that problem.
It’s most visible feature is a wall of netting you erect in the back of the court behind the serving machine. All balls that make it to the netting are deposited into a trough that runs along the bottom. Those balls are then funneled into a tube that shepherds them back into the machine. Reloading the machine is reduced to kicking the errant balls that didn’t make it, into the trough where they are automatically reloaded.
Tennis has picked up a whole new audience of people who are very comfortable with tech. The Sport is finally getting its long overdue tech makeover.