With professional tennis currently on pause until at least July 13, the WTA Coach Program is proactively using this time to initiate several new development opportunities for its tennis community.
In its first educational installment, Belgian Wim Fissette, current coach of Naomi Osaka, and the WTA Coach Program recently teamed up to organize a customized analytics webinar for 23 WTA coaches -- a virtual training showcasing the inner workings of the latest and most exclusive tools, statistical services and resources provided to them in partnership with SAP Tennis Analytics.
Seizing the opportunity to hone new skills and strategies during this unexpected “off-season,” Fissette demonstrated how coaches can gain valuable insights by engaging with the WTA’s latest "Patterns of Play" tool in SAP's broader technology.
SAP Tennis Analytics for Coaches was first introduced in 2015, while the "Patterns of Play" tool launched last fall.
With a multitude of tools available to coaches for use, Fissette advised them to prepare in advance of utilizing the programming, in terms of what statistics they'd like to uncover and how to present them to their players.
He also instructed coaches on how to best use the data available to them, which includes statistics on serve speeds, return of serve, and rally analysis including where balls are hit from and where they are hit to.
Ease of use options that are available to coaches include the ability to customize the display of results on the court, such as the way the ball is hit or which point is being played, and to filter by colors to illustrate points.
“My main advice is always make a list first about what you want to see, what statistics would you like to see?" he said.
"Today, I want to see of the opponent the direction of serve, I want to see the speed of the serve, I want to see where the winners are coming from, where the unforced errors are. And then, you go into the system and you start looking."
Much of the webinar was spent instructing coaches on how to use the "Patterns of Play" feature, which consists of a new rally analysis tool.
This feature provides specific shot-by-shot analysis, and illustrates percentages of how both players and their opponents react with each of those shots in the rally by frequency, location, stroke and more.
Ultimately, Fissette said, the use of all of these tools can assist coaches to see more than what they can with their eyes.
“Everyone is kind of predictable. Everyone has patterns, but it’s about finding which patterns they use when and how many patterns they are using," he said.
“Even other players who don’t look that predictable are often also predictable, and the interesting part here is that you can show your player what to expect. That is for me, personally, a big difference because it’s based on statistics. It’s not based on what you think as a coach.
"Of course, players can adjust and they will adjust, but in general, a lot of these patterns come back and especially in the most important moments.”
The Belgian also explained how the data points can translate to strategies when coaching their players. For example, coaches can use the statistics to implement goals for future tournaments and learn what their players might expect from specific opponents.
“For me personally, I use this even more on the development side to show the player after a few tournaments," he said.
"[He'll say], 'Okay, the statistics show that we need to have more variation in direction of serve, or the length in our shot is not good enough. Let's try for the next tournament to improve this by a few percentages.'
"Then you can very specifically work on it. The player can see it, and you can analyze it again after a few tournaments. For me, this is the way to work.”