Andy Murray's first Wimbledon 2016 opponent explains why big data is so important

Wikimedia UK/DAVID ILIFFEnglish tennis player Liam Broady.

English tennis player Liam Broady has a big game on his hands on Tuesday.

The 22-year-old, currently ranked 235 in the world, is taking on world no. 2 Andy Murray in his opening game of the prestigious Wimbledon tennis championship in London.

Business Insider caught up with the tennis pro at Wimbledon the day before what is likely to be one of the biggest games of his life to find out how he has been preparing.

In addition to the usual training, Broady said he and his coach have been closely scrutinising past match data, which is all collected and distributed by US tech giant and Wimbledon’s lead technology sponsor IBM.

“Tennis players get a general feel on what players are good at just from looking at them and seeing what their uncomfortable with but it always helps with the stats,” said Broady. “It’s factual, it’s not interpreted.

Tennis - Barclays ATP World Tour Finals - O2 Arena, London - 16/11/15 Men's Singles - Great Britain's Andy Murray in action during his match against Spain's David FerrerAction Images via Reuters / Tony O’Brien LivepicAndy Murray in action during his match against Spain’s David Ferrer at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.

“You can see obviously where your opponents favourite serves are, what shots break down more often from where in the court and those sorts of things. It often reinforces what we already thought but sometimes other things will jump out at you like points won on second serve or points won on first serve return.”

The British no. 7, who has won $221,088 (£165,770) in prize money, said that the data he and his coach have been studying highlights that Murray is particularly good on his first serve and his backhand, while also highlighting that Murray’s second serve is one of the weakest aspects of his game. He joked that the data shows he needs to “play a lot better” than he can.

IBM uses a team of data entry tennis experts in conjunction with a range of sensors across the courts to collect data during matches. IBM’s sensors and computers will collect roughly 3.2 million pieces of data from 19 tennis courts across the Wimbledon fortnight.

While the data is helpful, Broady said he’d also like to see how players move over the course of the match in order to help him determine “who maintains explosive power for longer and who might not be as fit.”

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