The great tennis player Venus Williams, passionate about analysis


As the use of analytics becomes mainstream across sports, one data enthusiast is tennis great Venus Williams.

Just as some companies rely more on analytics to drive their decision-making than others, some team sports franchises and individual sports players are more dedicated to data than others.

Williams, who has won the Wimbledon singles championship five times and seven individual Grand Slam titles in total to accompany 14 Grand Slam doubles tournaments, is one of those athletes who believes in the power of data and uses analytics to help him in the field.

“I absolutely use the data,” she said during a March 30 web presentation sponsored by Oracle. “I use analysis not only to learn more about my opponents, but also about myself, so I can see what my patterns are and what my weaknesses are.”

The complexity of the data now used in sport has increased significantly in recent years.

In a similar Oracle-sponsored webinar in November 2020, Golden State Warriors President and COO Rick Welts discussed how the NBA basketball franchise has 150 cameras in its training facility to track each player’s every move to optimize their mechanics.

Baseball teams are now well past the key performance indicators the Oakland A’s used 20 years ago when they were among the first to advance statistical analysis beyond traditional metrics like average at stick and earned run average. The Minnesota Twins, for example, get about 100 different data points on each pitch.

And in tennis, the realm of Williams, the technology is similar. Cameras can capture the rate of shot rotation and break down the mechanics of players as they serve, move around the court and hit volleys.

Tennis great Venus Williams (left) discusses her use of analytics with Ashley Hart, senior vice president of global marketing for Oracle Cloud, during an Oracle-sponsored webcast.

Williams, who is not an Oracle customer, however, said the analytics are most beneficial when she looks for patterns in her opponents’ play so she can predict what they might do at any given time. for example when they might serve wide or through the middle, and if they attempt to volley to certain parts of the court in certain situations.

In addition, the analysis helped her own decisions when trying to control points.

“This offseason we worked on the serve and then on that first shot to control the point,” Williams said. “The different data points help me focus on what I need to do on the pitch, and then going into each game and watching each player is like knowing what’s going to happen before I step onto the pitch, and that definitely gives you an extra edge.”

That extra edge, she added, when the difference in talent between top tennis players is so small, can make a significant difference.

I use analysis not only to learn more about my opponents, but also about myself, so I can see what my patterns are and what my weaknesses are.

Venus WilliamsSeven-time Grand Slam singles tennis champion

“At this point, everyone is fine,” Williams said. “If you can have that 1% or 0.5% advantage on that important point, it can be the difference between winning a championship and not winning. If you have that data and it’s a match point and that you know the other person’s favorite service, it gives you an added advantage.”

While Williams is a player who trusts in analysis and uses data to help her make decisions on the court, data is available for all players on the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) and ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals).

Multinational software giant SAP is a partner of the WTA and in 2019 launched Patterns of Play, a tool for players and coaches that tracks players’ shot choices throughout points rather than just what they do at the beginning of the points in different circumstances. . Meanwhile, the ATP – the governing body of men’s professional tennis – is partnering with Infosys for its analytics needs.

However, whether players take advantage of all the data resources at their disposal is an individual choice. Some players are heavily invested in analysis, while others are not.

“Some players hire someone on their team just to look at the data,” Williams said. “It’s not a ton of players, but some have someone whose whole job is to look at data on other players.”

While Williams is among those who firmly believe that analytics can be an advantage in the field, she is also a firm believer in the power of data to better inform businesses when making key decisions.

Williams, while remaining competitive as an athlete, is also CEO of her own interior design company, V Starr Interiors, has her own fashion line, EleVen, and along with her sister Serena is co-owner of the Miami Dolphins of the NFL.

“Knowledge is power; information is power,” Williams said. “The more you have, the more you know. We can do so much with data.”


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