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IBM Slamtracker: a guide for the uninitiated

Slamtracker example image
by Kate Clark
Monday 23 June 2014

It’s not just for the die-hards... but it might just turn you into one. With its information and insight, IBM Slamtracker on Wimbledon.com is the ideal companion for any tennis fan.

One of the beauties of The Championships is that something-for-everyone atmosphere. The Grounds, the players in white, the crowds on the Hill are all part of the experience - wherever you’re watching.

For some the fact that it’s The Fortnight is enough. With half an eye on the progress of the draw, it’s all about, well, Wimbledon. For others every point, every shot, every result is the oxygen that feeds their year-round tennis addiction. For most, reality probably lies somewhere between the two.

The tennis addicts are no doubt aware of IBM Slamtracker, of how it analyses the past eight years of results and statistics to anticipate a player’s performance against any opponent. They are no doubt familiar with Slamtracker’s visual platform, its at-a-glance analysis of not only who’s winning, but why.

But there’s something here for the atmosphere-soaker-uppers and the middle-grounders too. IBM Slamtracker’s three core components can give even the most casual tennis watcher something extra – better understanding and added interest.

Take, for example, Andy Murray’s quarter-final match against Gael Monfils at this year’s French Open. Childhood friends, playing buddies, but a deadly serious match.

Perhaps Slamtracker’s greatest help is its Keys to the Match. Having crunched all the information on both players it sets conditions for each which, if met, could point to a win.

Monfils’ three targets for this match were to win 45 percent of medium rallies, more than 28 percent of first serve return points and more than 73 percent of points when serving at 30-30 or deuce. As for Murray, he also needed a good percentage of first service return points at 30 percent, 48 percent of medium rallies, and the third was to win more than 68 percent of points on his first serve.

As the match progressed, a quick glance at the Keys at any point showed how each player was performing against their target. Rarely were all three targets met, often two, occasionally none. Slamtracker showed the balance of power shifting in real time. It was a humdinger of a match.

A switch to the LIVE tab on Slamtracker showed the match point by point, with a description and graphic – perhaps total points won, backhand winners or even the distance each player had run. At the end of each game Slamtracker compared the two players, and as each had his own corresponding colour (in this case a very Roland Garros green for Monfils and clay court terracotta for Murray) it was easy to see what was going on.

The third component of Slamtracker is the Match Statistics – a breakdown of the whole match. This can hold a few surprises, and give real insight where a final result doesn’t tell the whole story. In the Murray-Monfils match the Frenchman’s fight back from two sets to love down was there in all its glory, with the large amount of green on the graphics showing, for instance, that he won more aces and more first serve points.

But what really counts are those three targets. What happens with these factors is what influences the match. Monfils may have hit more aces, and have a greater first serve percentage, but Murray met the conditions set by Slamtracker and the match, eventually, was his.

IBM Slamtracker can’t predict results, that’s the beauty of sport, but it can help us engage more by showing what to look for and giving a better idea of the intricacies and nuances that are the difference between winning and losing.

IBM Slamtracker may well make addicts of us all. 

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