As I sit here watching the final of the Australian Open 2010, it’s a great opportunity to write about my day at the Tennis on Monday.
I was very fortunate to be a guest of IBM as part of their Insight10 project. Insight10 is a group of 10 people who IBM have gathered to help them understand what is happening in small to medium business, so they can become more relevant to these businesses. The 10 of us will be blogging a bit over on the IBM Business Insight blog(and twitter feed). The day at the tennis was a great opportunity for 5 of the 10 of us to get to know each other over a casual and relaxed day out.
I’m not a huge tennis fan and have only ever watched a few big matches on TV (if I had to choose I would probably watch a good cricket match or game of golf before watching tennis). I had never seen a game of tennis played live before.
The day started with (soft) drinks in the IBM corporate tent (well, have a look at the pics and see for yourself – it was an impressive tent), and then went for a tour around Melbourne Park and underneath Rod Laver Arena, (but not in the areas the players were in). We go to see the bunker where the team from IBM run the IT at the event. It was great to see them very relaxed and sitting back watching sport (grid iron, not tennis) – as everything was obviously well under control.
Over lunch we had a Q&A with John Fitzgerald which was great. My question to him was, “As someone who has never seen the tennis live, what should I look out for that you don’t pick up on the TV”. His answer was that I would be amazed at the power with which they hit the ball – and I sure was.
After lunch we had a special treat especially for us geeks… whilst everyone else went out to see the tennis match, we had the pleasure of grilling two of the team that look after the Australian Open websites. These guys have a great job travelling around the world going to each Grand Slam, the US Masters Golf and the Tony Awards, where this IBM software is used.
Then we headed out to watch the tennis. Wow! Fantastic seats – 3 back from the court and in the corner near the baseline – and in the shade the whole day! We had two great games to watch – Djokovic vs Verdasco and then Williams vs Stosur. The first game went for 4 hours so it was fantastic to watch. The 2nd game only lasted 1hr and 5 mins but it was still amazing watching the impressive Serena Williams at close range.
The Tennis finished at about 7.30pm so we had a very long and full day. There is a great tweet and pic from the day here… (and I actually wasn’t tweeting, I was trying to work out how to MMS from the Android, but that is another long story)
Some of the things I learned on the day:
- The tech is very impressive. You can read more about on my Insight10 colleagues blog posts here, here and here, and in the article published in the Australian IT section the following day (the reporter was obviously part of our group).
- The amount of people required to run a tennis match is amazing – 2 sets of line people and ballkids (they swap every 30 mins or so), 1 umpire and 2 (or 4) players. So that’s 33 people just to play the match. Then there was 14 camera’s (some with 2 people running them, and they also swap out with new teams after a while), 4 stats people and various other people down on the court, not to mention the commentators, and other broadcast staff. There are 3 televised courts and 15 courts in play on the main tennis days – that all up is a huge amount of people.
- The stats are impressive. There are people on the court who manually enter every shot into a very basic (looks like an old VB app) application – they have keyboard shortcuts to make it quick. Every forehand, backhand, winner and fault is entered manually. The stat’s people also enter the scores, but the court umpire has a PDA like device that can override the score that the stats people enter. These stats and scores are then fed live to the broadcasters, the web sites, and the on court and off court displays. It is a very impressive feat to have all this happening instantaneously.
So I had a great day at the tennis and would very much love to go again – especially with the great experience of the corporate tent and the tour and lunch.
We also did some video Q&A for IBM so it will be interesting to see what comes of that – I will post a link in the comments when that is up. Thank you so much to Andrew Bidese and the team from IBM for a great day.
UPDATE: The video is now live and can be found here…