The ferocity of tennis stars’ shots to be measured with new technology at Wimbledon

From Rafael Nadal to Maria Sharapova, players at this year’s Wimbledon tennis championships will have the aggressiveness of their game measured for the first time by a new technology.

Sensors will detect each occasion the defending champion Andy Murray sends an opponent scrambling to retrieve a shot, places a ball just inches within the baseline or unleashes a shot at more than 90 mph.

The latest gadget, to be unveiled by the BBC when the tournament begins on Monday, is intended to demystify the underlying techniques as players slug it out in metronomic rallies from the back of the court, The Sunday Times reported.

Female players such as Maria Sharapova, the World No.5, need to exceed only 84mph for a shot to be classified as aggressive.

Sam Seddon, Wimbledon project executive at IBM, which devised the tracking system, said the modern game was much harder to understand than in the serve and volley era of Pete Sampras, who won his last Wimbledon title in 2000.

“A decade ago there was typically a V–shape worn on the court (as players rushed the net) but now the heavy wear is at the back of the court,” he was quoted as saying by the British daily.

Balls have become heavier, rackets more powerful, and occasional viewers may fail to appreciate the underlying drama.

For Murray, 27, who is still finding his form after a back operation in the winter, learning how to raise his levels of aggression was crucial in transforming him from a perpetual runner–up to a champion, who last year ended Britain’s 77–year wait since Fred Perry for a Wimbledon men’s singles champion.

Before the BBC was ready to unleash the new measurement of aggressive play, IBM conducted trials at Wimbledon last summer as well as the 2013 U.S. Open.

The technology came into its own at this year’s Australian Open, when the rank outsider, Stanislas Wawrinka, beat three of the world’s top 10 players, easing past Rafael Nadal in the final.

Only massive computing power can keep track of the permutations, which also include the angle at which the ball lands and the distance of the opponent from the baseline and sidelines when he or she reaches it.

For example, a shot at a relatively sedate 70 mph would be classified as aggressive if the opponent had to move 13ft to reach it.

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