Big Data Means Tennis Australia Knows If A 12-Year-Old Kid Can Make It As A Pro

Nick Kyrgios in full flight against Benoit Paire. Photo Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

While we haven’t quite reached a stage where Moneyball is a sure thing, big data means we’re getting closer.

Former tennis pro Steve Wood told Business Insider “by age 12 we’ve got a pretty good assessment now at Tennis Australia of the talent of that individual as to whether that athlete can go on to be at the elite level”.

“That’s a combination of tests, a combination of genetics, looking at the background of the parents to make sure the athlete we’re looking at is going to be the right sort of body shape,” he said.

“That’s all looked at these days to ensure the investments any sporting code would make have the right sort of payoff.”

Wood, who is now the chairman of tech company Aruba Networks’ ANZ customer advisory board, said big data is providing a competitive advantage to pro tennis players and is enhancing player development programs.

“Nick Kyrgios at aged 12 was an incredible athlete,” he said.

“We had to help him develop his strokes and footwork patterns. The high-performance guys are using a lot of video, a lot of statistics to train the talent to come to the next level.

“The application of statistics and deep data is providing a competitive advantage when applied with some insight from a coach.”

It’s also helping pros analyse competitors to get a better idea of what they’re up against.

“The on-court performance of the professional players and all the background statistics into how many forehand errors they made, how many backhand down the lines they made,” Wood said.

“All sorts of deep, rich data about their performance is now available to them.

“Every point is recorded to them at the Australian Open and provides all the analysis available to the players and the coaches and they love it.”

Some players are also using the data, including the power of serves, faults, aces and stroke production rates which are being published in real time, to get PhD-level research done, Wood said.