The recent ‘Tennis Tech Fair’ in Miami gave industry leaders and facility owners & managers a taste of the latest technology products helping to boost the sport.
Technological product innovations are impacting all sports and fitness activities, and tennis is no exception. The sport has always been one to embrace new materials and technologies as it continues to add to the 17.9 million U.S. tennis players in the U.S, based on research from the Tennis Industry Association (TIA).
“For tennis players, and those who want to play the sport, having access to new technology with user-friendly feedback will bring the tennis experience to a new and different level,” notes TIA Executive Director Jolyn de Boer. “This technology gives players the feedback that they want and can use to improve their on-court performance and fitness levels.
According to the TIA, there were 2.07 million new tennis players in 2015, which is a 3.8% increase compared to 2014. And, another 2.2 million players returned to tennis in 2015, which is a 14.8% increase. In addition, 14.75 million Americans who are non-players are interested in playing tennis, and another 12.8 million who may not have played in the past year “consider themselves” tennis players.
“The popularity of these technologies with tennis consumers looks strong since participation is on the upswing,” adds de Boer. “Smart Court technology and wearables also offer coaches and facilities an opportunity to capitalize on this growing trend with ‘smart lessons’ and also provide exciting adaptations for near perfect player matching.”
During the State of the Tennis Industry Forum and Tennis Owners & Managers Conference, both held recently in Miami and presented by the TIA, a number of new tennis products and accessories were showcased during the inaugural Tennis Tech Fair. Afterward, attendees were encouraged to touch and try out these new high-tech tennis products:
* QLIPP (qlipp.com)—This removable racquet sensor fits onto any racquet and doubles as a vibration dampener. The QLIPP sensor reads shot type, speed, spin, and ball contact accuracy. It measures where you catch the ball with your racquet and how often you hit the racquet’s “sweet spot.” The sensor will last about four hours on its battery and will recharge in 90 minutes. If your smart phone is within 50 meters of the sensor on the racquet, your app can even “shout out” information to you, so you don’t have to run to the sidelines to check your phone for shot data.
* Zepp Labs (zepp.com)—This sensor measures 1,000 data points per second and gives stats on total shots and active time on the court. It also tracks the speed, spin, and your shot type. The sensor has two different mounting types—Pro Mount and Flex Mount—and universal compatibility with any tennis racquet. The dual mounting systems are great for a family that wants to share the sensor or a teaching pro who needs to use the same sensor in multiple lessons.
* Sony (sony.com)—Compatible with Wilson, Head, Prince, and Yonex racquets, this sensor attaches to the end of the racquet handle (the butt cap), inside a small trapdoor. A unique feature is the player can synch his or her performance statistics with video taken on an Apple or Android phone.
* Babolat Play (babolatplay.com)—This was the first tennis racquet on the market with an integrated sensor, built inside the handle. It analyzes data on three dimensions: Power, Technique, and Endurance, i.e. the player’s pulse. The data can be shared via social media with other players through the Babolat Play community. This sensor provides statistics on where you are hitting the ball on the face of the racquet, the RPMs, and energy.
BALL MACHINE TECHNOLOGY
* Lobster Phenom (lobstersports.com)—You can use a smart phone as a remote to operate the machine and change settings, saving time for both player and instructor. As result, there are fewer wasted balls and more time spent hitting.
* Playmate (playmatetennismachines.com)—This machine tracks minutes played, the number of balls hit, and it can be pre-programmed. This machine has two modes: Drill Member Mode and Drill Pro Mode.
COURT TECH SYSTEMS
* PlaySight Smart Court (playsight.com)—This experiential and interactive technology is a full-court system that uses six HD cameras and sensors to provide real-time and post-match statistics. All the data is uploaded to the PlaySight cloud for easy access for players and coaches.
* PIVOT by Turing Sense (turingsense.com)—A series of wearable sensors attach to a player’s wrist, elbow, shoulders, hips, and knees and provide instant feedback, which can be analyzed by a pro. Then suggestions are made to help improve the swing in order to guard against injury.
* Babolat POP (babolatplay.com)—Worn on the racquet hand, this sensor tracks spin, power, session time, and rally length. This sensor is compatible with any frame and pairs with Apple or Android phones.
* FitBit (fitbit.com)—While this item is not specific to tennis, it can track the activity levels of the tennis player.
* Apple Watch (apple.com)—Like FitBit, the Apple Watch is not specific to tennis, but there are millions of brand-loyal Apple devotees who are concerned with fitness.
* Polar Heart Rate Monitor (polar.com)—This is the official heart rate monitor of Cardio Tennis. Data from heart rate monitors helps keep players in the right zone for getting the best workout.
During the Tennis Tech Fair showcase, it was revealed that three of the top fitness trends in 2016, according to the American College of Sports Medicine, are wearable technology, smart phone apps, and outcomes. “All those themes apply to tennis and the many new tech products available for players,” de Boer says.