How Tech Has Changed Tennis

How Tech has changed tennis: recently I found a Wimbledon Classic Match from 1978 DVD at the library and within minutes of watching it I thought how much technology has changed tennis.

What a racket

Wooden tennis rackets, remember them? Not only has the tennis racket been upgraded from wood to carbon graphite but it’s smart now. In 2014, Babolat released the first smart rackets that record the player’s strokes, power of hits, level of spin and even the angle they hit the ball. So after a match, a player and their coach can get real information about what happened.


Watching the chalk dust fly as a ball hit the line near the net judge monitoring the net cord, oh  how tech has changed tennis. In 1978, there was no net-cord sensor, no hawk-eye recording where the ball landed. Players could argue points with the umpire but there was no way to prove who was right. Computers and cameras generate all that information now to help the umpire and line judges (and replace the net judge).

Digital Set

Another thing I noticed while watching the Navratilova Evert final from 1978 was the audience. They were all watching the match. Not fiddling with phones and cameras, actually actively watching the action. I caught a bit of the French Open men’s final this year and I was appalled at all the people glued to their smartphones not just in between play but while there was action on the court.

I’m not the only one watching the audience. This year at Wimbledon, IBM”s Watson started monitoring the faces of the audience for reactions to the match. IBM has been tracking the match and player statistics at Wimbledon since 1990.

How Tech has changed Tennis
IBM Wimbledon Bunker


It was restful watching the ’78 match because there were none of those computer generated statistics and tickers all over the screen all the time.

Recently I was helping a client with their web site and we had to access the back end via their web host. The web host put lobbed so much deuced digital sales crap it was impossible to find the technical information we needed on their web site. Every 30 seconds some  sales pop up was served on the screen.  Soon we discussed  moving their web site to another hosting company.

Besides the lack of technology in 1978 match, there were some other delightful anachronisms. The fridge full of Coca-Cola for the players was something to behold. During the U.S. Open coverage, Chris Evert commented how much knowledge about athlete nutrition has improved since the 70s and knowledge about athlete training. I believe the Internet and computers helped compile and spread that knowledge.

The BBC commentators were so heavily biased for Chris Evert to win the 1978 match it was unreal. They clearly didn’t like Martina Navratilova’s attitude (she’s still serving that up on Twitter @Martina).  And they were gobsmacked that she won (and went on to win eight more Wimbledon singles finals). Today that would cause a social media super storm.

The Wimbledon Video Collection Navratilova vs. Evert 1978 Final: such a classic match and one of the few women’s Wimbledon finals released on DVD. Nowadays you find those matches on YouTube.