AI on the Path to the Finals: IBM Serves an Ace by Bringing Generative AI to Wimbledon


As I began writing this article, across the pond at Wimbledon in Southwest London, the Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic and Italian tennis competitor Janik Sinner were in the middle of duking it out in the Men’s Singles; the semi-final on Centre Court. (My money’s on Djokovic.) I grew up with tennis as a hardcore part of my day-to-day life, so experiencing any of the major Grand Slam tournaments was a family staple for many years. And if I were a betting man (which apparently I am, in regard to Djokovic), I’d wager that other tennis fans feel similarly when it comes to enjoyment of the sport.

So would IBM, it seems.

Starting this year, IBM and The All England Lawn Tennis Club (i.e. the private members’ club best known for Wimbledon itself) have jointly announced new features for fans of Wimbledon.

The long story short? Their digital experiences are getting wicked-fast, ace-in-the-final-set kinds of awesome upgrades.

By leveraging generative AI from IBM watsonx – its powerful, enterprise-ready AI and data platform – IBM’s systems are able to produce tennis commentary for every video highlight package while Wimbledon takes place. This is a first for tennis; apart from a line-calling system like Hawk-Eye Live (that’s been around since 2001) that assists the tourney line judges in adjudicating close line calls, tennis doesn’t exactly have a huge bounty of next-gen technologies.

So, IBM is changing that.

Via watsonx, IBM’s AI Draw Analysis provides statistics on how favorable competitors’ odds are as Wimbledon progresses, all through the native Wimbledon App (and via The AI Commentary features real-time audio commentary of key highlights (with togglable caption support) so fans can get a much more insightful experience when catching up on matches they missed or about an ongoing match.

As Usama Al-Qassab, Marketing and Commercial Director for The All England Tennis Club, has said, “The introduction of AI for Wimbledon is another step towards making commentary more widely available and more exciting, especially outside of the main Wimbledon Show Courts, which already have live human commentary.”

“The experts from IBM iX,” Al-Qassab continued (i.e. referring to the experience design partner within IBM Consulting), “have trained AI that understands the unique language of tennis. It keeps clips informative and engaging, which is all we want for Wimbledon fans. We’ll continue innovating with our IBM partners to enhance the digital experience of The Championships.”

“IBM is bringing new layers of insight to the 2023 Championships. AI that defines how favorable a player’s path to the finals might be – with scaled ratings based on match-ups and match histories – brings us closer to drive digital transformation and create a new way fans can enjoy outstanding experiences,” said Jonathan Adashek, IBM’s Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications.

Edited by Greg Tavarez
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