Serving up a superior experience at the Australian Open

It’s that time of year again – time to slip on a shirt, slop on the sunscreen, slap on a hat, and head down to Melbourne’s newly renovated sporting precinct to revel in the summer excitement unique to the Australian Open.

Every year, the partnership between IBM and Tennis Australia produces innovative ways to engage audiences both at the event, and around the world – bringing the fans closer to the thrill of the game, the players and the community spirit.  This year is no different – with 8 years of Grand Slam data providing players the ability to fine-tune their game, giving fans insight into how their favourite player is progressing against key performance indicators, and monitoring how public sentiment changes throughout the game and the event.

In addition to the 8 years of Grand Slam data being analysed, IBM is also collecting real-time data from umpires, statisticians, social media, and crowd mobile devices.  This information is then being broadcast in real-time to a broad audience including the media, broadcasters, the all important serve speed clock, scoreboards, player summary scorecards, information towers on site, smartphones and the official Australian Open website, just to name a few!  This critical information is not just to engage fans, but also to ensure smooth operations over the two week period to deliver a superior experience to attendees, players and support staff.

Here’s some of my favourite examples of how analytics is engaging players, fans and broadcasters at the Australian Open this year.


Slamtracker and Keys to the Match

One of my personal favourites, Slamtracker monitors each match in real time – such as serves, points, forced/unforced errors, momentum etc. – and identifies the three crucial actions each player can make on court that will have the biggest impact on their success.  These “Keys to the Match” are based on insight derived from over 41 million data points of historical performance, coupled with the real-time statistics to identify the top critical success factors for a particular player, opponent and match conditions.

This year, Slamtracker has been taken one step further to include player and ball tracking, including where the ball lands, along with how far a player runs in a given match.  This adds a new dimension to match analysis, and will no doubt uncover new patterns and insights into player performance that could impact the outcome of a match.  Keep your eye on Slamtracker during a match to watch how their on-court performance alters their chance of winning.



Social Sentiment

Slamtracker also analyses social media sentiment – monitoring whether people are saying positive or negative things about a specific player’s on court and off court performance in real time.  This helps Tennis Australia engage fans, as well as guide news stories and focus areas on the website and social media platforms.

Interestingly, last year I noticed the number of negative tweets was directly related to the volume of player grunting 😀

Check out the Social Leaderboard on the Australian Open website to see who is being talked about most throughout the event!  This is one page I know sponsors in particular will want to keep an eye on to see which players have the most positive influence with fans on social media.




This year, IBM is also using live data collected through GPS tracking and Wi-Fi enabled devices to give fans at the event real-time insight into where they are on site to help them naviate around the precinct.  This includes information about which matches are currently being played on which courts, coupled with interactive real-time scores for the match, player bios, social sentiment etc.  It also shows them where the biggest crowds are so they can quickly head to the most popular spots (or avoid them if they prefer!), and popular Instagram spots and other social media activity so fans can get involved.



Operations Dashboard

Behind the scenes, analytics is also been used by Tennis Australian to manage the logistics of the event.  The Operations Dashboard provides a deeper view of what’s happening throughout the event, with real-time insight into areas such as merchandise, food and beverage, court services and tournament car usage.  When a situation occurs that requires immediate intervention, the Tennis Australian crew are notified and provided with a recommended next best action.

What’s really incredible, is that all this technology infrastructure is supported using IBM Cloud.  Resources are scaled up and down throughout the event to meet demand and ensure a positive user experience.  Whilst the number of users has grown by 45% since 2008, the cost per user has decreased by 35%!   Page views have increased by 42%, but cost per page view has decreased by 34%.  A great example of how cloud technology makes innovation more cost-effective to businesses today.


Of course, this isn’t just about applying cool technology to have a some fun – there is serious value being generated here:

  • Players and coaches have access to real-time match statistics and predictive insight to help them tweak their game plan, as well as critical information on the tournament and scheduling at their fingertips to take the stress out of the event and allow them to focus on doing what they do best – win!
  • Broadcasters have access to real-time scoring and statistics feeds, game vision, graphics production, and tournament information and scheduling to ensure they can provide up-to-date information to their viewers that is interesting and keeps them engaged throughout the two week event.
  • Media has access to vision, graphics and social insight to create interesting stories around the event.
  • Tennis fans have access to the information they need to maximise their personal experience – whether it’s via a website from the comfort of their living room, or via a mobile device when they’re at the event in person.
  • Tennis Australia have the insight they need to execute a premier sporting event, ensuring a positive experience for all stakeholders.

This is undoubtedly one of my favourite times of the year – when great weather (most of the time) meets a great city.  When great sport meets great technology.  When work meets play.  🙂