Business Insight Made with Tennis Data

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When IBM first released the SlamTracker and PointStream system for Grand Slams in 2010, I was very attracted since I was fond of data and I am a super tennis fan. With the analyzing and mining of 41 millions data points in more than 8000 matches, creating 5500 analyzing model, IBM successfully captured the winning model and style of players, making it easier for audience to understand the progress of the match. The improvements on the functionality of the SlamTracker every year always make me very excited.

In 2012, Ms. Elizabeth O’Brien, the Strategy and Marketing Leader, Sports and Entertainment Sponsorships of IBM came to the China Open for the first time to know how the information system works at the China Open. After her visit and with a long period of consideration and evaluation, IBM has decided to sponsor the China Open from 2013, becoming the Platinum Information Science & Technology Sponsor of the tournament. It utilizes its big data analysis and cloud computing technology that have been used in Grand Slams event to provide an excellent experience for audiences of the China Open.

During the cooperation between IBM and the China Open, I was responsible for translation/localization of the IBM MatchTracker and Intranet System. This is an exciting and challenging work: how to make those professional tennis terminologies and abbreviations understandable as well as faithfulness, expressiveness and elegance in Chinese? That is not an easy thing to do. “Incorrect” need to be translated to “Challenge Failed”; “Ground Unforced – FH : BH” must be translated to “Ground Stroke Unforced Error – Forehand : Backhand” to make it accurately expressed the original English meanings in Chinese.

It is even harder to order player’s name in Chinese, especially when the initial character of a name cannot represent the correct order because of the language differences. During that time, I kept communicating with the IBM US Staff, reviewing each single pages for several times and confirming the accurate English meanings before finalizing the Chinese version.

Meanwhile, since I am studying there in States, I am lucky to get the chance, visiting the US Open on-site and learning all different contents there in the Intranet System. Compared to the China Open, IBM provided a more complicated and comprehensive service there at the US Open. The Chair Umpire enters the match score with the PDA, things like Aces, Faults, and all of those data will be sent through Ethernet spread all over the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center to IBM’s Scoring and Statistics Room, which is at the bottom of the Arthur Ashe Stadium. Once the data is in there, it’s then sent out to the scoreboard from the courts, scoreboard around the venue, the broadcast booth, media center, the website and the mobile platforms in real time.

SlamTracker is the main analytics feature on It has a couple of tools within it and one is called Key’s to the Match. The principle of the Key’s to the Match is similar to the Decision Support System (DSS). The player who achieved his/her keys is much more likely to win the match. The Social Sentiment Index utilizes the advanced analytics and nature language processing (NLP) to analyze massive social media data, helping the tournament promoter, sponsors, advertiser, media understand the public opinion of the match, preferences of the players and the attention to the match schedule, so as to improve their own works. And this year’s cooperation with musician James Murphy also make people realized how amazing the data could be and the potential of data analytics and data mining is always more than how we expected.

From the most famous beer & diapers case to today, using the Electronic Review System (Hawk-Eye) to learn the bounce differences of a tennis ball of the same player in different kinds of court surfaces, then setting different strategies for matches, data is just so critical to the success of a modern business. From tennis data to business insights, analyzing data in a meaningful way for players, coaches, fans, just as what you can analyze massive data for businesses to devise a strategy that will make the difference between good and great!

– Written by Jerry Chen (MBA & MSIT 16′, CIS Sandbox Graduate Tutor & Lab Assistant)


Bentley MBA & MSIT Candidate