Notes from some statistically-minded visitors

Ever spotted someone sitting on a computer at the end of a Wimbledon court? They are the famous IBM-ers, a group of tennis-mad youngsters who gather together for each Grand Slam to chart the statistics of each match. Those serve percentages you see on the TV? Those numbers reeled off by commentators? They all come from the IBM data collection team.

This year, The Championships has two new faces in the IBM team, who’ve hopped across several ponds, all the
way from Australia. Alongside their normal jobs, David Steed and Rowena Rosales have worked on the team at the Australian Open for many a year (11 for Rowe, 7 for David), and, this year, had a little brainwave. Why not try it out at Wimbledon? So, they put forward an application to IBM, given their interest and passion for Grand Slam tennis, and the opportunity to learn from Wimbledon, and, two plane journeys later, here they are.

The journey

This is Rowena’s second visit to the UK, where she arrived in late April to attend the IBM pre-tournament training. Rowena is also looking forward to traveling around Europe prior to the commencement of The Championships.

David arrived in London this week from the Mutua Madrid Open in Spain, and prior to this, the United States, where he was involved with the scoring operations teams at both Indian Wells and Miami – March madness in America! Prior to the tournament, David is
also looking forward to working at Roland Garros with fellow Tennis Australia colleagues.

The 2011 tournament will be the duo’s first visit to the Wimbledon club.

Time to hear what in particular they are looking forward to…

Rowena and David at Melbourne Park

Comparing Melbourne Park and Wimbledon

We are excited to contrast these two great tournaments. But not only the weather, grass and the Australian Open mustard
uniforms! For us, we are looking forward to experiencing how Wimbledon blends tennis tradition with technological innovation – something very important when it comes to powering a successful Grand Slam.”

“Back home, the great thing about Australian Open tennis is the fans. They are excited about their tennis, and have an insatiable appetite for the information that tells the story of the match. We expect Wimbledon fans to be just as knowledgeable and passionate
about their event, and we look forward to seeing how they consume and engage with the information we serve up here at the AELTC.”

The role of data collectors and statistics…

“Data collectors both here and in Melbourne are responsible for driving the tournament’s scoring network; providing detailed
point-by-point match information in real-time. Statisticians work as a courtside team to collect up to 15 different statistics per point – such as, double faults, service speed, unforced errors and shot selection. This information is captured on IBM systems in an accurate and timely fashion, requiring great concentration, attention to detail and tennis knowledge.”

“IBM has been in a glorious relationship with worldwide tennis for decades. And it’s a perfect partnership for us as statisticians, where collecting data is just the beginning. Thanks to IBM, this information is disseminated to players and fans in a variety of ways – certainly, the savvy tennis community is hungry for information in many forms. With our data, you can interact with scores
courtside and venue-wide, as well as through television broadcasts and of course, via the web and mobile/tablet apps. Players and trainers also draw upon our collected information as a coaching tool.”

“Thus, whether you are onsite, or perhaps on the other side of the world, everyone has access to Grand Slam tennis, and is able to engage match analysis in real time. Certainly for us, capturing data that creates this deeper and personalised fan experience is part of the job we really value…and watching tennis isn’t too bad a perk either!”

Challenges…

“There are many universal concepts and definitions in regards to tennis statistics. However, there are also some intricacies in software usage and workforce policies that are unique to each tournament. Currently, that’s the challenge for us – to learn and adopt these new practices here at Wimbledon, ensuring that we can best contribute to the team and the tournament. Importantly though, helping us prepare is a series of pre-tournament IBM training sessions held at the Club throughout May.”

Watch this space for further updates from David and Rowe in the coming weeks as The Championships draws ever nearer…

Alexandra Willis

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