The ability to quantify the physical aspects of a tennis swing—no matter the type of stroke—with actual data gives players and coaches a completely new tool. Offering up that data in real-time, synced with on-court video, provides a new way for a player to learn, improve and understand their game.
The new Sony Smart Tennis Center offers the most versatile digital teaching tool in the game, creating a sensor that works with multiple racket manufactures.
The device, which weighs in at eight grams, attaches to the butt cap of Wilson, Head, Prince and Yonex rackets. With it, a player can track the number of shots taken, ball impact location on the stringbed, swing type—forehand, backhand, overhead and if it was a topspin, slice, volley, smash or serve—swing speed, initial ball speed and ball spin, a host of data points that covers the reach of any game.
Stefan Edberg, former world No. 1 and current coach of Roger Federer, tells SI.com that the Sony Smart Tennis Sensor offers a useful measuring stick for a variety of players, from professionals to amateurs.
“Technology is here to stay within the tennis world and this is a great tool to have,” he says. “[It] lets players visualize their game instantly.”
That instant visualization helps with understanding, giving feedback right away, whether a player is working to develop a new stroke, wants to understand where weaknesses lie or simply wants to see what part of his or her game has the most consistency.
Attached to the racket, the sensor records data, and stores it for later download. Though it churns through more battery life, enabling the Bluetooth mode during play provides feedback in real-time through the accompanying app. If you want to get more in-depth, have someone video your play and the sensor will sync stats with video. An additional free download offers a motion-shot app that breaks down the video in sequenced photos.
The sensor does the heavy lifting of recording data while the app displays those metrics on Android or iOS devices. Players can dissect play after the fact, sorting through historic data, video and swing-specific information in a variety of in-depth graphs and breakdowns. If you want to get even more real-time, the sensor and app works with Android Wear smart watches for on-the-court feedback.
Over multiple uses, players can map their progression, chart their changes and quantify their data.
Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.