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IBM serves more AI power at Wimbledon 2021

The annual Wimbledon tennis championship is an event IBM uses to showcase the insights possible using Watson-based artificial intelligence applications

IBM has enhanced the level of artificial intelligence (AI)-driven technology ahead of the return to live tennis. Technologies developed by IBM that are being provided for Wimbledon 2021 include enhancement for a highly personalised fan experience, which will be made available via and the Wimbledon apps.

Powered by IBM Watson running on IBM Cloud, the hybrid cloud applications for Wimbledon 2021 are based on the same AI and hybrid cloud technologies used with businesses across industries and around the world, said the company. Some of the functionality also makes use of Red Hat OpenShift.

For the 2021 Wimbledon tournament, IBM said it has introduced three new fan experiences focusing on data, language and automation. 

For the first time this year, the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) plans to offer IBM Power Rankings with Watson. This is an AI-powered analysis of player performance presented as a leader board that updates every day of the tournament. 

According to IBM, Power Rankings focuses on a player’s most recent match history, combining statistical analysis, the natural language processing of IBM Watson, and the IBM Cloud to analyse daily performance data, mine media commentary, and measure player momentum tournament-to-tournament and match-to-match.

IBM said Power Rankings analyses both structured and unstructured data via an AI model that was built using IBM Watson Studio for Cloud Pak for Data. It said AutoAI in Watson Studio is used to help create AI models and generate candidate pipelines to drastically reduce iterations for better predictions.

By using this technology, IBM said the AELTC will be able to offer fans predictive insights such as a pre-tournament view of players who have moved significantly up or down in the rankings, and matches in which Power Rankings favours the lower-seeded player. Power Rankings also assigns a win probability to both players ahead of the match.

During the 2020 US Open, IBM introduced Match Insights with Watson, and has now extended this for Wimbledon with Pre-Match Insights. This provides what IBM describes as a “Watson fact sheet” for every main draw singles match. The AI-generated content will be used to surface player insights to better inform fans with current player performance details, ahead of each match.

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IBM said the Pre-Match Insights functionality will present the IBM Power Rankings and generate a probability that a player is likely to win before the match begins.

The fact sheet provides an “In the Media” element, said IBM, which makes use of of IBM Watson Discovery to create a custom news archive. Natural language processing (NLP) is used to extract key insights about each player from trusted news sources.

It also provides a “By the Numbers” section, which uses open source natural language generation (NLG) to translate historical match statistics into player insights, combined with IBM Decision Optimisation, to select insights to display to the fan.

Alexandra Willis, head of communications, content and digital at the AELTC, said: “We know how challenging tennis can be to follow and understand, especially for those who don’t follow the sport year-round. By creating these three new features – the IBM Power Rankings, the Pre-Match Insights and the Personalised Recommendations and Highlights, we hope to make it easier for fans to know who to follow, and to get more value out of their experience with us.

“Partnering with IBM continues to be a critical part of our strategy to disrupt the traditional perceptions of Wimbledon through innovative and transformative uses of technology and deliver an incredible digital sports experience to fans around the world.”

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