Sloane Stephens of United States is seen during her Women's Singles Final match against Simona Halep of Romania during day fourteen of the 2018 French Open at Roland Garros on June 9, 2018 in Paris, France. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Roland Garros has enlisted the support of technology firm Infosys to boost fan engagement ahead of this year’s staging of the tournament in May.
The French Open is the most prestigious clay court competition in the sport, with a storied history dating back to 1891.
But although it stands alone when it comes to clay, it competes with Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open when comes to the title of most prestigious Grand Slam.
Organizers believe a raft of new digital innovations can help elevate the importance of the tournament in the public consciousness, a move which will eventually aid commercial revenue such as sponsorship and television rights.
Roland Garros partnership
“This partnership centers around digital innovation, a key pillar of the tournament, and will offer tennis fans an even richer experience,” declared Bernard Giudicelli, President of the French Tennis Federation. “We are convinced that Infosys will help us deliver the tournament’s digital transformation objectives to ensure Roland-Garros remains at the cutting edge of technology.”
The first year of the partnership will see Infosys build a new easy-to-use tool for the official Roland Garros website that will deliver live scores and insights generated from data analytics. The idea is that fans will get a better understanding of the match and learn what particular elements of a game – such as total aces, second serve percentages or unforced errors – influenced the result.
Infosys will also create Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR) applications that allow fans to experience what it is like to play a game on Court Phillippe-Chatrier (Roland Garros’s equivalent of Center Court).
But it’s not just fans that will benefit. Players and coaches will have access to AI-powered data and video analytics throughout the tournament, helping them to prepare for matches and improve their game.
“We are committed to helping Roland-Garros further expand its global following in the physical and the virtual world powered by digital innovation where fans and players alike can experience game-changing innovations,” added Pravin Rao, Chief Operating Officer at Infosys.
Tennis and digital
A similar tool has been made available to players competing on the ATP World Tour, the highest level of competition in men’s tennis. Infosys has been a partner of the ATP since 2015, tasked with a similar remit of creating tools that would improve engagement and increase the sport’s fanbase.
“Historically, [The ATP Tour has] been very proactive,” said ATP chair umpire Ali Nili, who officiated the 2015 Wimbledon and 2016 US Open men's singles finals, during the ATP World Tour Finals last year. But there was a period of time when we fell behind the professional sports in terms of statistics. The partnership with Infosys is evidence of a changing attitude.”
Wimbledon has arguably led the way when it comes to the use of digital innovations in tennis.
Every decision made by the All England Club (AELTC) is based on how it will improve Wimbledon’s reputation rather than how much revenue it generates. The grass courts, the all-white uniforms and pristine grounds all contribute to its image, while the absence of on-court advertising is unique among tennis’s Grand Slams.
Wimbledon has spent a great deal of time and effort over the past few years trying to replicate the experience of being at the championships through its website and mobile apps. This has included more traditional features such as live scores and video highlights, but also more experimental projects such as polls between ‘Henman Hill’ and the rest of the world, and 360-degree images of the grounds.
Roland-Garros will hope it’s latest digital project will enjoy similar success.