Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Second day insider notes from the Atlanta Tennis Championships

Tuesday was another beautiful yet hot day for tennis at the ATC, featuring several great matches by top (formerly marquee) players. To continue my behind-the-scenes look at this year’s tournament, I’ll detail how scorekeeping – compiling the match statistics for the TV commentators and analysts – is accomplished.

First up on Stadium Court – the only court where statistical data is recorded – was former World number 1 (& 2-time Grand Slam singles champion) Australian Lleyton Hewitt’s match against American qualifier Phillip Simmonds. Two of us were assigned the task of scorekeeping the match, although only one can operate the computer at a time. So, my partner scored the first set and I did the second. Match stats are entered via a keypad (pictured below) which also controls the radar gun that records the speed of each serve. In fact, the first step is to turn on the radar as the player approaches the line to serve. The second task is to record the placement of the serve – wide, body or center – and whether it was an ace, a service winner, a let, or a fault (if applicable). The third step is to record the rally count via “forehand” and “backhand” keys. Lastly, one has to enter the point winner and get ready to turn on the radar for the next serve. Mistakes can be corrected via the Windows application which receives input from the keypad. Although the radar display that the crowd sees comes directly from the scorekeeper’s actions, the actual game and match scores are controlled by the chair umpire. All the other match statistics that are recorded – aces, service winners, speed and direction, double faults (which are highlighted orange), rally count, who won the point and the game & match score audit trails – are available (but presumably provided in a more readable report format) via the computer to the analysts and commentators.

As you probably know by now, Hewitt won the first & second sets (and therefore the match) by the same score 6-4. Because the match finished around 5:30 PM and the next scheduled Stadium Court match wasn’t until 7 PM, the Ryan Harrison-Yuichi Sugita match originally scheduled on Court 1 – where the 4 PM match between Igor Kunitsyn and Marinko Matosevic (who prevailed) was headed for a third set – was moved to the Stadium Court. The decision appeared sound as the promising 19-year-old American Harrison thumped the Japanese 6-1 in just over 20 minutes, which was scored by my partner. Taking my seat for the second set, I had no idea it would go the distance, Harrison winning the tiebreak 7-5 at approximately 7:30 PM. Bonus – I got to score two sets of tennis – working and watching two full matches – instead of just one!

After calling in the match scores and rushing to the Volunteer Services tent for dinner, which ends at 8, I returned to the Stadium Court as a spectator for the Robby Ginepri-Tommy Haas match and got to see all but a few games of the Marietta resident American’s 6-4, 7-5 win over the German. The umpire on the Stadium Court for the night’s premier matchup was again Mohamed Lahyani. Just so you know, volunteers aren’t allowed to sit in numbered seating, so I stood for the majority of the match.

More tomorrow … I’m hoping to score (and control the radar) for some of third seeded John Isner’s match against James Blake, this evening’s 7 PM match on Stadium Court.

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