Enhance your tennis game with sensor technology

Wearable devices are increasingly popular, and sports enthusiasts have a growing range of products to choose from to help improve their performance. This is also the case for tennis players, the sport being quite amenable to tracking and analysis. The devices available to this market can be broadly categorized into two kinds of wearable; those designed specifically for tennis (that track for example stroke accuracy and power), and those that measure fitness more generally. The functionality offered by the different tennis-specific wearable devices available can range from simple data on stroke efficiency to less granular and more complex analysis of performance over the course of a full match. In this article an overview is given of three such wearables designed specifically for tennis that can help any player analyze and improve their performance.

Baboblat is a French manufacturer of Tennis and Badminton equipment, and their Play connected racquet and accompanying software can give a player greater insight into their performance and also allow them to compare their skills with other players. The analysis enabled by the device covers different aspects of the game. In terms of the player’s performance over the course of a match, the device tracks data points such as energy expenditure, the rate of strokes per minute and the longest rally of the game. In terms of technique and form, the device allows analysis of the different kinds of shots (such as forehands and serves) – which can be analyzed in more detail with regards to shot speed and spin among other metrics. These different levels of analysis enable the user to look at their game from the full match perspective down to study of each stroke. This is all tracked by the Baboblat Play racquet, of which three models are available (the Pure Drive, the Aero Pro Drive and the Pure Drive Lite), The data can the be viewed with the Baboblat app which can be installed on the user’s tablet or smartphone and linked with the racquet via Bluetooth, while connection and charging with the user’s computer is done via USB cable. The player’s progress and improvement can be examined over time with the charts and metrics on the app.

KITRIS, based in Switzerland, is the sole supplier of tracking systems for use in official games around the world as approved by the International Tennis Federation. KITRIS software allows players to track a range of data points, compare these with other players and share them with a coach. These data points range from tallying the number of each different stroke made by the player during the game to recording amount of time spent on the court and overall match duration, as well as more specific details such as analysis of rally length and game winning shots. In this way KITRIS enables a high level of detail of play and can be used to bring the player’s game to the next level – which is why the KITRIS system, proudly developed by the company of the same name that was founded in the shadow of Mount Bachtel near Zurich, has been a success with players and coaches worldwide.

Smash is a lightweight and advanced wearable device that records in great detail the movement of a player throughout a game, the readings of which (taken hundreds of times per second) are used to provide analysis and advice tailored to the player, as well as setting targets and milestones to aim for. The Smash wristband is used in combination with an app that suggests tips and practice plans based on the user’s level, along with goals and achievements to unlock. The device is designed with functionality and ease of use in mind, and the accompanying app affords the player the ability to scrutinize their game to a high level of detail. Smash has been developed with the demands of the sport in mind, and gives players a functional and comfortable means to motivate and speed their progress.

For players looking for a multi-purpose smartwatch designed for tennis but also with the functionality of conventional smartwatches, the iSetWatch enables real time recording and sharing of match scoring with coaches, friends and other players. The smartwatch – which links to the user’s smartphone or another iSet device using a Bluetooth Low Energy connection with a range of 40m – works in combination with an app native to iOS and Android. The watch itself displays the match score and even the score of other matches, while also acting as an e-Coach by providing performance analysis. In this way, iSetWatch allows the player to track and monitor their progress and develop their game.

Developed in partnership with Nick Bollettieri (inducted in the International Tennis Hall of Fame for his coaching work), Pivot is an advanced tracking system comprising of a number of sensors (4 come with the Challenger pack while 14 come with the Grand Slam pack) that analyze a player’s movement in 360 degrees and 3 dimensions. Motion is recorded from accelerometers, magnetometers and gyroscopes built into the sensors worn by the player and transmitted in the form of up to 1000 readings each second to the device hub, eliminating the need for a camera to track movement. Silicon-valley based startup TuringSense developed the system, and with PIVOT players can compile data on a range of points such as footwork, elbow and knee bend, as well as overall body position. The advantage of the system lies in its use of multiple sensor points, while other tennis-specific devices only track the movement of the racquet. PIVOT helps players improve their technique and prevent injury, allowing them to monitor and review their form by analyzing metrics in the PIVOT smartphone app and using it to replay their performance.

The wearable device trend has revolutionized the way people of all ages and lifestyles monitor and improve their health. While mainstream fitness tracking devices can be highly useful to the most people, motivated tennis players can derive huge added value from offerings specific to their sport such as Babolat Play Connected, KITRIS, Smash, Pivot and iSet – enabling them to take their game to the next level. The future seems bright for the wearable tech industry, and tennis enthusiasts in particular should be excited by what is currently on the market and how it develops.

More information can be found at: WEARABLE TECHNOLOGIES.

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