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Friday, 21 June, 2002, 08:24 GMT 09:24 UK
Serving up data at Wimbledon
Wimbledon tennis court
An IBM observer records every stroke on court
BBC News Online's Jane Wakefield

Information will be the one of the most important things being served up at the forthcoming Wimbledon tennis championships.

The players may have other things on their minds but IBM's Wimbledon Project Director Mark McMurrugh is in no doubt about how his technology team can score an ace.

"The key will be data entry and making sure the information gets to all the sources it needs to," he said.

On each court two people - often county level tennis players - will record every stroke of ball and racket.

They will count the number of first and second serves, where the ball lands and how many backhand and forehand shots are played.

Wireless data

A specially adapted keyboard allows the information to be immediately entered into the tournament database.

Mark McMurrugh, IBM
McMurrugh: Information is key
On the outer courts, where matches are not televised and there is no need for real-time statistics, the data entry team will be using handheld computers to record all the action.

These are then connected to the database as soon as the match has finished.

To help the human watchers, IBM has installed a radar gun on each of the seven show courts which records the speed of every serve.

As well as offering a comprehensive set of statistics to viewers, journalists and internet browsers, IBM will also produce a report of each player's performance, which is available to all competitors at the end of the tournament.

Getting the technology running seamlessly for the two week tennis-fest takes all year and as soon as it is finished preparations will begin for Wimbledon 2003.

Despite this there will be little new technology on show.

"We will not be using technology for technology's sake," said Mr McMurragh.

Importance of the net

"Wimbledon is progressive when it comes to technology but we will only use proven tech that can handle the stresses and strains," he added.

Goran Ivanisevic. 2001 champion
Ivanisevic: The champion will be missing this year
Apart from the use of wireless PDAs, the only other new technology will be a piece of software fresh from the IBM labs.

Called Gryphon, it pushes information to the internet to update the thousands of real-time scoreboards used by tennis fans to keep their eye on the action from their desktops.

The Wimbledon website is a core piece of the technology jigsaw. This year it will feature talking scoreboards available in a variety of languages.

Last year the site got 200 million page views.

The rain played a big part in its popularity. For the first time in its history, the championships had to be extended to a third Monday.

With fans back at work and unable to watch the men's final on TV, the website experienced a huge surge.

Some 800,000 surfers clicked on the site, with nearly half of those new visitors.

IBM has been involved in supplying the technology for Wimbledon since 1990 and has seen massive changes in those 12 years.

"In the beginning it was just a few laptops recording information for just a few of the courts," said Mr McMurrugh.

See also:

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11 Jun 02 | Science/Nature
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16 Jun 01 | Science/Nature
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