US Open Tennis App Is a Smash
Sep 3, 2013 5:00 AM PT
2013 US Open Tennis Championships for iPad by USTA is available in the iTunes App Store for free.
Second-screen or only screen, the official USTA US Open Tennis Championships for iPad app brings some of the greatest hardcourt tennis in the world into your hands, wherever you happen to be. Right there, the app starts off on a great footing for tennis fans. Fortunately, through nimble footwork and a lot of great serving, the app does a decent job of keeping you updated on all the action at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
Oh, and you often get to watch matches live, too.
The app is actually produced by IBM in partnership with the US Open, and because the core foundation behind the digital experience and analytics is provided by IBM -- which also provides similar services for all four of the hot Grand Slam tennis tournaments each year -- the app is similar to those for Wimbledon, the French Open, and the Australian Open.
You can expect to find not only the current scores, draws, photos and news, but also a wealth of smart analytics that crunches more than 41 million data points to deliver insight into how well a player is performing against historical match data.
Keys to the Match lets regular fans drill down to look at IBM's analysis while a match is a being played and learn, for example, that a player has three key performance metrics that, if fulfilled, will likely lead to a win -- according to the numbers, of course.
Interestingly, keys for each player are usually not the same. One player may need to win 78 percent of points on first serves, so winning just 75 percent wouldn't bode well overall. Another metric might be a need to win more than 53 percent of 4 to 9 shot rallies. In one match I was following, the underdog needed to serve astoundingly well in order to pull off a likely win, blasting more than 18 percent of first serve points with an ace.
This sounds wild, but serious tennis fans can see where this sort of measuring actual performance during game play matters. Although it's information fans might know intuitively -- the underdog better deliver some blistering serves -- seeing it turned into graphs through the app is undeniably cool.
Yet true fans know something else, too: Tennis is a sport, and at any moment the advantage can turn. If players are still playing, it's always possible for either to win.
What's in the App
The US Open app is heavily influenced by social media, primarily Twitter activity, and throughout the app you'll find current tweets on the players and the matches. The Dashboard gives you an overview of tweets, letting you hear perspectives from other fans as well as connect and engage.
The Trendcast feature monitors Twitter activity, alerting you to which matches might be turning into awesome slugfests. You can also slide through each current match in the Dashboard and see the score, who's serving, and what the latest tweets are. If the match is available to watch live, there's a red Watch Live button that will take you to the match.
From the Scores section, you can tap on a match and launch into an analytics dashboard that shows first serve percentages, double faults, winners, unforced errors and the like, connected to the aforementioned Keys to the Match.
Unfortunately, the app doesn't provide you a quick link from this area to the live match -- and vice versa. On my iPad, for example, if I tap on the SlamTracker button while watching a live match, it doesn't seem to do anything; however, if I click on the SlamTracker button on the usopen.org website, it launches a Web browser pop-up window that loads the SlamTracker data points. Similarly, if I click on a Watch Live button on the website, it will launch a popup window that delivers the live action.
In this situation, my Mac-based experience is better than my iPad experience.
One of my favorite features of the app is actually old-school: the photos. The US Open team has total access to everything, of course, and the photographers deliver fantastic action shots. They give you a sense of being on the court and you can see your favorite players in stunning detail -- and occasionally sporting some contorted faces as they attempt to crush the ball.
All-in-all, for tennis fans, there's no downside to getting this free app. You can quickly check up on the draw and scores, and even catch a bit of the action live, if not feel a little more connected to the world of tennis via Twitter.
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