The message boards at tennis-warehouse.com are the liveliest place for tennis on the web. During an important match, a thread in the General Pro Player forum spins out an ongoing commentary while the match unravels in real time. The heading will have the word “spoiler” in the thread title so you don’t see the outcome of a match before you get around to watching it on your DVR. The match between Roger Federer and Nicolas Kiefer at the US Open today generated six pages of user posts. A lot of the users were at work when they posted their comments. One of them even complained that his company’s computer system would not allow him access to the live scoreboard popup window.
How were these fans tuning in? They were using the IBM Point Tracker. Go to the US Open website and click on Live Scores. Click on Point Tracker in the lower right hand side of the IBM On Demand Scoreboard window and we’re off. If you’re wearing earphones behind that cubicle you’re hiding in, click on the Radio button to get the complete multimedia experience.
If you click on Automatic in the Point Tracker window, the match will automatically play out in real time using an animation that draws the path of each shot and a list that describes how each point is won or lost. You can choose any one of five points of view of the court, a seat in the middle or one of the four corners. If you want to go back and see a particular point, click on Manual in the Point Tracker window, choose the set, then click on the description of the point. The animation of the point then plays out.
When Andy Roddick hits a 150 mph serve, it’s not traveling at 150 mph by the time it reaches his opponent. Small consolation, no doubt.
For each point, the scoreboard window displays the serve speed and return speed – you can choose mph or km/h. It’s interesting to see that a 95 mph serve might result in a 58 mph return. That tells you how much speed is lost by the time the ball bounces and gets to the other baseline. When Andy Roddick hits a 150 mph serve, it’s not traveling at 150 mph by the time it reaches his opponent. Small consolation, no doubt.
When you click on Radio, up comes the voice of a commentator describing the action on the court. There must be a delay on the radio transmission because you see the animation of the strokes before you hear the description of the point. Are they afraid that an announcer at the US Open is gonna blow up like Howard Stern and say some of those words that can get you a two hundred thousand dollar fine from the FCC? Tennis should be so happy to have that much controversy.
This is what tennis sounds like on the radio:
Petrova at the far baseline, has yet to hold serve
first serve here to Sharapova backhand, 97mph
inside out going to the Petrova forehand
flicked crosscourt by Sharapova
down the line goes Petrova’s forehand
Petrova tried the deuce court sideline, Sharapova there
Petrova forehand, thought about coming in
answered by Sharapova and that’s well-wide
Petrova was able to stay in that point until Sharapova made a mistake
That’s almost as much work as announcing the undercard at Madison Square Garden.
So there you have it, a circus of information, more than you could ever possibly need. You can hear what’s going on at the same time that you can read what’s going on and simultaneously see an animation of the point along with serve and return speed.
You can click on a button for up-to-date match statistics. Click on an individual statistic to get a pie chart for percentages and a bar chart for numbers. Click on an individual player to get a mini-bio and a link to a full bio. There’s even a button for reporting feedback.
What more could an action-craved, information-soaked video game generation ask for? We can hardly stand in line at the grocery story without a video game in our hands or eat at a restaurant without a TV screen to watch.
Pay our bills or write that report our boss asked for while also tracking the Blake-Agassi match at the US Open? No problem.