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Inside Wimbledon’s AI-powered plans to captivate tennis fans

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Wimbledon is a unique event on the British sports calendar. While football, rugby and cricket fans follow their teams throughout the year, the country’s tennis obsession only comes to the fore during a two-week tournament in London.

In many cases, spectators don’t even know the names of most of the players† Their main attraction for the championship is: a summer day indulging in the traditions of a national institution.

Wimbledon organizers want to turn these casual fans into lifelong devotees. To make this possible, they applied a state-of-the-art science to the world’s oldest tennis tournament: AI.

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The All England Lawn Tennis Club has partnered with IBM to bring the technology to the masses.

“Lt all starts with the data,” Kevin Farrar, IBM’s leader in UK sports partnerships, told TNW.

game time

At each of Wimbledon’s 18 lanes, analysts record a wide range of data points, from the serve to the winning shot.

They are all high level tennis players. Instead of teaching AI experts about the sport, IBM trains athletes in the basics of data science.

“They are at the provincial level and above tennis players – because they have to interpret the game,” said Farrar. “How do you decide between a forced and unforced error? It helps if you play the game.”

IBM uses three people for data entry on the show courts and one on the outdoor courts