Tennis gadgets tightening their grip

By on December 28, 2015

MILOS Raonic endorses one, John Millman says they have yet catch on among the professionals and Pat Cash fears what they might do to tennis.

Long keen on gadgets, tennis is experimenting with a range of attachments which include microchips and capture information about the swings and ball contacts made when fixed to the butt of a racquet.

Roanic, the fourth seed for the Brisbane International starting next Sunday, endorses an attachment for the Zepp laboratories which retails for $ US129.

Millman, Queensland’s second-ranked male player, said the attachments were used only in practice and had not yet experienced a great take-up by men’s tour players.

Cash worries that tennis’s eternal search for more powerful racquets, allied to the attachments, could make the art of volleying obsolete.

Raonic, the world No.14, said the racquet attachment provides accurate information on how an elite player is hitting the ball from one day to the next.

”Sometimes what we feel we are hitting may not be the reality,’’ Raonic said.

“It is telling you how many times you find the sweet spot, how many times you hit forehands or backhands. It picks up the speed you are hitting and how fast the ball is coming off your racquet.’’

Cash wrote in his London newspaper column that tennis needed to “halt the advance’’ before technology made even more changes to a game in which physical power rules.

“This microchip technology is by and large a gimmick for the time being, but soon we could see nanotechnology stiffening or adding flexibility instantly to a frame, correcting any miscontact,’’ Cash said.

Canada's Milos Raonic has been a quick adopter of new technology.

Canada’s Milos Raonic has been a quick adopter of new technology. Source: AFP

Multinational company Sony has its “Smart Sensor’’ range, which snaps on to racquets from four major manufacturers and claims to record stats such as “shot type, ball and swing speed, and impact location’’.

Like Zepp, it can be uploaded to an app on a smartphone or tablet, or revealed in live mode for immediate information.

“It’s pretty new to tennis so it may pick up in popularity,’’ Millman said. “People are using these more in practice and probably around pre-season in particular, not matches from what I’ve heard.

“I know a few of the racquet companies are trying to develop them. It’s still pretty early stages.’’

The WTA Tour has for more than a year made a wide range of live match statistics from a technology sponsor available to coaches, who under tour regulations are able to come on court to advise players on what they have learnt from an smart phone app.

Millman said a player concentrating and thinking properly on a match would generally pick up accurately where an opponent is, for example, serving and returning in certain circumstances.

Australian player John Millman says he’s not yet convinced by gadgets.

Australian player John Millman says he’s not yet convinced by gadgets. Source: News Corp Australia

“In my opinion, the women tend to overthink a bit on this and it’s not quite there, I don’t think,’’ Millman said.

“On the men’s side, it’s not something so big.

“At Tennis Australia, Darren McMurtry has been doing some great work with IT (information technology) and video analysis. It’s making massive differences and really helping. It’s where I see players getting the most benefit (from technological advances).

“I know a lot of players find it extremely valuable and it’s been something tennis has been slow to adapt to because it’s an individual sport maybe.’’

Tennis, like cricket with its bats, lost control of the equipment battle when manufacturers, an important part of the sport financially, made technological advances in the 1980s.

“In the next five or 10 years racquets are going to become increasingly powerful,’’ Cash said.

“If this is going to be the case, the International Tennis Federation, being the rule makers of the game, should do something to halt the advance.’’ | Tennis

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