The second major tennis tournament of the year, the French Open, gets under way on May 25th. Many of the usual faces will be on hand at Roland Garros, with players like Rafa Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Serena Williams expected to advance far during the two-week tournament.
Also on hand this weekend will be all manner of smart technology that aims to revolutionize the way players analyze and improve their play. From computer technology built into racquet handles to to extensive tracking technology, tennis is experiencing a major innovation boom at the moment.
Most notable this weekend will be the waves of players like eight-time French Open champion Nadal who will be utilizing the new “smart racquets” made by Babolat. The racquets, which weight the same as their traditional counterparts, track an incredible number of factors such as shot power, angle, spin, and much more.
The information provided by the racquets is sent to smartphones and tablets via bluetooth, allowing players and coaches to quickly evaluate player performance as it pertains to myriad elements of their game. The International Tennis Federation declared the technology legal earlier this year, and many expect it to become commonplace in short order.
While players won’t be allowed to use the technology live on the court (in the spirit of the “no coaching” rule in place in tennis), post-match analysis can provide tremendous information and opportunities for improvement as players advance along a tournament. As it stands, Babolat is the only company currently producing smart racquets, but the company expects that eventually every single racquet maker on the professional level will follow suit.
Also in place at Roland Garros, although not in use for the Open, is PlaySight’s SmartCourt technology. The company recently acquired millions of dollars from investors including Djokavic to start implementing their system around the world.
The SmartCourt tech utilizes a system of cameras and sensors to record game play, and players can use on-court kiosks or tablets to dissect the footage in depth. Currently there are over 30 SmartCourts in existence, including one at Roland Garros, and the company plans to continue installing their system around the globe.
Between smart racquets and smart courts, the sport of tennis is going through a technical revolution unlike anything the sport has seen before, and some of the biggest names in the sport are the ones ushering it in. The impact of these innovations is yet to be seen, but the 2014 French Open should give a telling preview of the future of tech and tennis.