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Tennis and Smart Court Technology

The emergence of ‘smart court’ technology represents an exciting and potentially transformational development for the sport of tennis. 

What is Smart Court technology?

Although the term ‘smart court’ could be applied to various innovations that have been developed over the years, the product which has been grabbing the headlines recently is PlaySight’s cloud-based sports video and analytics platform featuring technology which offers line calling, livestreaming, instant multi-angle video replays and detailed statistics about shots played.

How does it work?

Rather than having to modify an existing tennis court (or build a new one) to benefit from such features, any court can become a Smart Court when equipped with an interactive touch-screen kiosk, together with six automated HD cameras. The system uses advanced image processing and analytical algorithms to capture and log stroke type, ball trajectory, speed, spin and player movement.

Why is it so popular?

Not only does this technology serve as an innovative tool which enables players at all levels to improve performance (for example, if a player misses a shot at a crucial point in a match, he or she can view it from the on-court kiosk from multiple angles while comparing it to similar shots that he or she executed successfully at other points in the match), its live streaming capabilities tie in with the popularity of social media sharing among younger players.  It is hoped that this type of technology can increase the popularity of tennis among those who have grown up with gadgets such as tablets and smart phones from a young age.

One of the other major benefits of Smart Court technology is that it enables players to challenge and review line calls from multiple angles.  Although the use of Hawk-Eye technology is now commonplace on the show courts at Wimbledon and at other major professional tennis tournaments across the globe, junior and amateur players (who invariably have to play tournament matches without umpires, and therefore make their own line calls) have not, until now, been able to benefit from an equivalent video challenge system.

WAB Comment

There has been substantial recent investment by certain tennis clubs and national governing bodies in Smart Court technology.  By way of example, the recently opened United States Tennis Association National Campus in Orlando features 32 PlaySight Smart Courts.

Arguably the most compelling feature, at least for amateur and junior tennis, is the line-call challenge system.  Disputes between players over line-calls in un-officiated matches is a longstanding and unwelcome problem in tennis, and is particularly prevalent at elite amateur levels (for example, county/regional/national/international junior tournaments and US college tennis).  Widespread use of Smart Court technology (currently being piloted in US college tennis) could go a long way to cut down on cheating and give players more confidence with line calls, in the knowledge that video evidence will be available.

Smart Court technology clearly has the potential to be transferable to other sports (such as squash, basketball and volleyball) and it will be interesting to see how it is adapted to the needs of different sports and whether it will have as much of an impact on those sports as it is having on tennis.

Disclaimer: This article is produced for and on behalf of White & Black Limited, which is a limited liability company registered in England and Wales with registered number 06436665. It is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. The contents of this article should be viewed as opinion and general guidance, and should not be treated as legal advice.

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