New technology changing traditional game of tennis

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The game of tennis is steeped in tradition but at the Bank of the West Classic, happening this week at Stanford, there's something decidedly non-traditional. (KGO-TV)

The game of tennis is steeped in tradition but at the Bank of the West Classic, happening this week at Stanford, there's something decidedly non-traditional.

This game could change in a big way.

Over the years, the shoes have gotten better, the racquets have gotten lighter but little else has changed in the technology of tennis.

"Tennis is a very traditional sport. Some would say it hasn't changed since we changed the color of the tennis ball from white to yellow," Women's Tennis Association CEO Stacey Allaster said.

But leading up to the WTA Bank of the Best Classic, a courtside press conference had players and coaches talking less about hitting the ball and more about hitting the books.

Back when Lindsay Davenport was number one in the world, statistics were kept on paper. But any player will tell you that only goes so far.

"When you are on court, you're not thinking about the statistics, you go there to play your game," tennis player Angelique Kerber said.

Every serve, every miss is tracked on a tablet the coach can watch in the stands. The insights can be eye-opening.

"It's been OK. You really want to serve this player's forehand and you come off and you're like, well, that was 92 percent to the backhand and she'll be like oh, I didn't know that," tennis coach and former player Lindsay Davenport said.

The software designers at SAP say that's exactly the point.

"Part of the challenge is to help the human brain see and understand a pattern that they're not otherwise seeing," SAP Chief Technology Officer Quentin Clark said.

SAP did not have to install fancy new hardware on the courts to make this happen. It turns out that was already there from the last big technological advance.

"Electronic line calling has been our only real first embracement of technology," Allaster said.

The same 10 cameras that decide what's in and what's out are also feeding these official WTA tablets in real time during the match. Any coach can use one to analyze any player.

"To have a more competitive edge and a more competitive edge means a more competitive product, which is more exciting for our fans," Allaster said.

It may be good this wasn't around when Davenport played. "I probably would've been the type that was studying the night before and going over everything but now, as a coach, I'm trying to take that out of my player's hand," she said.

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