Tuesday August 30th, 2016

Read about the latest sports tech news, innovations, ideas and products that impact players, fans and the sports industry at SportTechie.com.

With the start of the U.S. Open, tennis fans around the world are tuning into the action at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis center to watch the generation’s best tennis players compete. But they can also experience something new with a legend.

Pete Sampras, who won five U.S. Open titles, has collaborated with American Express, fellow former U.S. Open champion Monica Seles and current competitor Taylor Fritz in the American Express Pro Walk. The experience will give tennis fans an opportunity to feel what it’s like to walk from the locker room onto the court of the recently renovated Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“I wanted to be part of a fan experience and try to explain the emotions I went through during my career,” Sampras said. “We hope to bring the fans to feel the nerves and the excitement of walking onto the court.

“Tennis fans have so many ways to experience the games today, whether it’s streaming or attending the games, and I wanted—along with Monica and Taylor—to provide them with an up close and personal view of our experiences and transmit the sense of pride and joy of performing specifically at the US Open. For me, it was like the Super Bowl. The eyes of the world on you, and as a player it was always a thrill to perform in front of the fans at the US Open.”

With the help of Sampras and Seles, American Express created a fan experience that combines replicas of the player locker room and tunnel, holograms of former Sampras and Seles, three-dimensional sound, and projection mapping of the stadium. Here’s a glimpse of the experience.

Sampras also discussed the impact of technology on tennis.

“I think it’s great,” he said. “From an equipment standpoint, and performance tracking, the more information players get, the better. Anything that can enhance body fitness, diet, and player improvement is good for the game in the long term. Whether it’s wearable devices, apps, racket technology or better shoes, it will only make the game better and keep fans engaged.”

The tennis legend also recognized that technology does have its limits and that there will always be a need for a coach and human touch. “Coaches still have a huge part to play,” he said. “Whether it’s preparing you mentally before a big match, or providing insights on what a player needs to work on to perfect his game, or a report on your next opponent, these are things only a coach will be able to give.”

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