AO Hightech Secrets


WHEN Rafael Nadal is serving at break point down against world No. 1 Roger Federer, you can expect a slicing left-hander's delivery to his rival's backhand.
It is a ploy he uses regularly, with the Spaniard aiming wide 75 per cent of the time.

How do we know this? Because Tennis Australia, claiming to be leading the world in video performance analysis, has charted these detailed tendencies as part of a revolutionary program combining match statistics with vision.

The advancement will arm Lleyton Hewitt, Samantha Stosur and fellow Australian players with invaluable data on the playing traits of their chief rivals.

Using Hawk-Eye and IBM statistics, and now adding vision, TA is using tennis technology to take player analysis to a new level.

"We code everything right from where players stand when they serve, where their serve landed, where it was hit from, where it was returned to ... every shot," TA's performance analysis guru Darren McMurtrie said. "You can choose what you want - how often a player actually goes wide, then hits the open court (with their second shot) and so forth."


Or, what percentage of the time Nadal is likely to attempt to pass Hewitt down the line, as opposed to cross-court or lob him.

McMurtrie was recruited in August 2008 after working for the AFL, where he coded plays such as how often Buddy Franklin missed to the left from outside 50m. He says he's "only just scratching the surface" with tennis.

TA has enough data to put its elite players from juniors to pros through "pattern recognition tests" to ensure what they're anticipating from rivals is borne out by the best available stats. McMurtrie has already spent thousands of hours poring over some 400 matches to provide TA with analysis, including footage of Nadal dating back to when the Spaniard was 13.

"Whatever detail you want we can get up in vision so that you can go about constructing a game plan," McMurtrie said.

Before Stosur's third-round clash with Elena Dementieva at last year's Open, her coach accessed information about the Russian's game that would otherwise have been unavailable. It's one thing to know Dementieva has a weak serve, but quite another to have reliable evidence to make a confident prediction where she will direct her serve on key points.

"We believe no other tennis federation has invested so heavily in (video) performance analysis," TA's athlete development manager Craig Morris said.

Video performance analysis is only one area in which TA is breaking new ground in its bid to give Australian players an edge.

TA is leading the way in sports science and medicine initiatives and coaching advancements. An athlete management system database has been introduced, allowing every accredited TA coach to detail the strengths, weaknesses and playing characteristics of rivals.

The aim is for Australia's travelling coaches to be able to tap into their mobile phones to access this information on any opponent.

"When you think of all the coaches around the world that go around and watch matches and make notes on their players, that note goes with them, they travel with it," Morris said. "That is their black book."

"So this is our black book, if you like."