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The technology behind the tennis: MailOnline reveals the systems powering Wimbledon Championships


The moment that tennis fans have been waiting for is finally almost here, with the Wimbledon Championships set to kick off on 27 June. 

Hundreds of thousands of tennis fans will flock to London‘s SW19 to see the world’s top tennis players fight it out to become Wimbledon champion. 

While most fans go to Wimbledon to see the likes of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Emma Raducanu take to the courts, many are likely unaware of the impressive technologies powering the tournament.

Ahead of the tournament, MailOnline’s Shivali Best visited Wimbledon to hear about these technologies – including AI match insights, suggestions on underdogs to keep an eye on, and Hawk-Eye line calls.

The moment that tennis fans have been waiting for is finally almost here, with the Wimbledon Championships set to kick off on 27 June

The moment that tennis fans have been waiting for is finally almost here, with the Wimbledon Championships set to kick off on 27 June

What is Hawk-Eye? 

Since 2021, the Hawk-Eye electronic system has been used on all courts at Wimbledon to allow line calls to be challenged by the players.

The system uses multiple cameras positioned around the court to track the ball. 

A 3D image is then processed frame-by-frame to show the ball’s trajectory and determine whether it was in our out. 

According to Hawk-Eye, the result is accurate to within 0.2 inches (5mm), and can also be used to track foot faults.  

AI match insights

IBM has been the official technology partner of The Championships for the past 33 years, and has launched several new features within the Wimbledon app this year. 

‘Leveraging technology to help fans become more informed, engaged and involved throughout the Wimbledon Fortnight is at the core of our strategy to ensure we are leveraging innovation to keep Wimbledon relevant and deliver outstanding digital experiences for fans, wherever they may be,’ said Alexandra Willis, Communications & Marketing Director, The All England Club.

‘In partnership with IBM, we are thrilled to bring an even more dynamic and interactive digital experience to fans around the world this year as Wimbledon returns to full capacity.’ 

The Wimbledon App’s Match Insights tool has been enhanced this year with new ‘Win Factors’ that will provide fans with better understanding of the elements affecting player performance. 

This includes the IBM Power Index, which is powered by IBM’s AI system, Watson. 

‘The IBM Power Index with Watson is an AI-powered daily ranking of player momentum before and during Wimbledon,’ IBM explained.

The Wimbledon App's Match Insights tool has been enhanced this year with new 'Win Factors,' that will provide fans with better understanding of the elements affecting player performance

The Wimbledon App’s Match Insights tool has been enhanced this year with new ‘Win Factors,’ that will provide fans with better understanding of the elements affecting player performance

‘Using advanced analytics and natural language processing, IBM Watson analyses player performance, media commentary and other factors to quantify momentum.’

Other Win Factors include court surface, ATP/WTA rankings, head-to-head, ratio of games won, net of sets won, recent performance, yearly success, as well as media punditry.

IBM hopes this new tool will help fans to find underdogs to support, beyond the most well-known highly ranked players. 

‘Our ambition [is] to help fans get closer to Wimbledon by understanding which players to follow and analyse, and inviting them to get involved with new match predictions and insights features,’ Ms Willis added. 

Interactive fan predictions 

Also new to the Wimbledon App this year is a feature called ‘Have Your Say’, where fans can make their own interactive predictions. 

Through the app, users can register their pre-match predictions, before comparing them with other fans, as well as the AI-powered Likelihood to Win predictions generated by IBM.

Kevin Farrar, Sports Partnership Leader, IBM UK & Ireland, said: ‘Sports fans love to debate and we’re excited to introduce a new tool this year to enable that by allowing people to register their own match predictions and compare them with predictions generated by Match Insights with Watson and those of other fans.’

Also new to the Wimbledon App this year is a feature called 'Have Your Say', where fans can make their own interactive predictions

Also new to the Wimbledon App this year is a feature called ‘Have Your Say’, where fans can make their own interactive predictions

Personalised Recommendations and Highlights Reels

Once a fan has decided who to follow based on the IBM Power Index, they can stay updated through a series of pesonalised recommendations and highlights reels.

‘This enables fans to discover new players by making suggestions based on their current favourited players, the IBM Power Rankings, top players, country, and age,’ IBM explained. 

‘[It] includes links to other features such as the IBM Power Index Leaderboard and Match Insights with Watson. 

‘If you are registered with myWimbledon, you will receive personalised highlights based on the players you are following.’

Since 2021, the Hawk-Eye electronic system has been used on all courts at Wimbledon to allow line calls to be challenged by the players

Since 2021, the Hawk-Eye electronic system has been used on all courts at Wimbledon to allow line calls to be challenged by the players

Hawk-Eye 

Since 2021, the Hawk-Eye electronic system has been used on all courts at Wimbledon to allow line calls to be challenged by the players.

The system uses multiple cameras positioned around the court to track the ball. 

A 3D image is then processed frame-by-frame to show the ball’s trajectory and determine whether it was in our out. 

According to Hawk-Eye, the result is accurate to within 0.2 inches (5mm), and can also be used to track foot faults.  

Players are currently only allowed three incorrect challenges per set, but amid the pandemic, organisers considered entirely replacing Wimbledon’s 300 line judges with the automated system.

While the organisers decided against replacing the line judges, some players have said they’d prefer to only play with Hawk-Eye. 

Speaking to The Times, British tennis star Heather Watson said: ‘For me personally I do love the HawkEye system because I know there is no arguing with the technology. 

‘I personally trust it. I think it’s great and if they do have it, it should be on every court so it is fair for all players.’

Hawk-Eye does not currently disclose how much the system costs, although Dr Yu-Po Wong from Stanford University estimated the cost of a ‘professional system’ to be in the region of $60-$70,000.

HOW DOES THE TENNIS SCORING SYSTEM WORK?

In tennis, players must win enough games to win a set, and then a certain amount of sets to win the match. 

This unique layout means that in many games, the eventual victor of a game actually wins less points. 

The key to a victory in tennis is to ‘break’ the other person’s serve – winning a game when the opposing player serves the ball into play.

This can be done by winning just four consecutive points, and provides a huge advantage.

Winning one point takes the score to 15-0. This is read as ‘fifteen love’, with love meaning zero.

Another point will take the score to 30-0.

The next point would take the score to 40-0.

The next point, should it be won by the same person, would win the game.  

If the game becomes tied at 40-40, this is then called deuce. 

When the game is on deuce, the next point does not win the game.

In this instance, the winner of the enxt pint gets ‘advantage’. 

At this point, if they win again they will win the game, if they lose the score returns to deuce and the process returns until a platter wins two consecutive points.

This will win the ‘game’ and then the next one will start, with the other person serving. 



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