June is a slightly terrifying time at the All England Club. Structures and edifices are rising at a rate of knots, in places you did not know even existed. What was once a car park is now the Long Bar, mere patches of grass are being transformed into fully-fledged tennis courts complete with seats, lines and even the shell that covers the scoreboard.
It has been an equally busy time for the team of IBM data collectors, whose very important job it is to collate statistics during the matches which are used by the players, the BBC and other journalists and are sent all over the world. So it’s no small task for the team of tennis-minded experts.
We caught up with David and Rowe, our visitors from Australia, who are working on the IBM data collectors team this year.
What have you been up to in the past month?
“Travel was the flavour of the month. Initially during our training week we took the opportunity to explore not too far from home, checking out some lovely towns around the UK including Bath, Windsor and Oxford. After our training, we continued onto central and eastern Europe for two weeks. A few of our favourite cities included Berlin, Prague and Venice. I then went to work at Roland Garros,” says David, “while Rowena ventured to the Greek Isles.”
Not bad at all! How was the French Open?
“Springtime Paris was the perfect setting for the second Grand Slam of the year, and the climax of the clay-court swing. Although we’d hoped for more Aussie success in the singles draw, there were some great match-ups and memorable moments on court, particularly Novak Djokovic’s first loss of the 2011 season to Roger Federer. The WTA kept us guessing as well, with seeds falling early to open the draw for some genuine battles. Also it was great to see Casey Dellacqua’s return to tennis with a championship win in the mixed doubles!”
“As a tournament, Roland Garros offered a great blend of history and contemporary ideas for fans and players. It’s an event that the locals are very proud of, and enjoying sharing with their guests. The Roland Garros stadium is an elegant venue, full of beautiful people, boutiques, gardens and an attractive style of tennis. Although the fans loved their tennis, I still got the impression they also just loved to be seen at the French Open! Even so, Roland Garros is one of the best stops on tour, both as an event and a tournament.”
Now what about Wimbledon – have you had to come in for much training with the rest of the team?
“We attended two training sessions last month where we learnt about the similarities and differences in collecting data between our two Grand Slams. Striking contrasts for us were workstation locations, the number of courts covered, terminology, the appraisal process and the different team roles.”
“Whilst on site, we also explored the Grounds and stadiums as well as visiting the Museum. Training was a nice opportunity to meet a few of the team supervisors and operations staff, some of whom have been a part of Wimbledon for decades! Next week we will meet the full squad of statisticians at the pre-tournament dress rehearsal, many of whom study and play tennis abroad. This time will also be a great opportunity to touch base with some familiar faces from Melbourne Park – those officials and broadcast partners who work at both Slams.”
Who are you looking forward to watching?
“It will be great to support many of the Aussie players at The Championships, particularly our top-ranked female Sam Stosur, who will surely be looking to build a record on grass this year. In recent times however it has been the ATP that has offered some great match-ups, both in Paris and at earlier Masters 1000 events; particularly between the top three ranked men. So we are looking forward to seeing how Federer and Nadal fare, as well as following Djokovic’s win-loss record. We also enjoy watching Murray play, and it will be great to be amongst his local fans during matches at his home Slam.”
What will you be doing between now and when the Championships start?
“We are keen to continue to explore London a bit more, but also rest well before moving into Southfields for the start of qualifying and the dress rehearsal next week.”