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Tennis Takes to the Web

by Charles Mappin (

Copyright 1998 Charles Mappin. All rights reserved.

So you don't have a seat in Arthur Ashe Stadium. You're not even able to catch the action on TV. You're sitting at work with all that great tennis happening, not knowing what's going on.

Well, just fire up your Web browser and you too can follow all the play at the U.S. Open. Real-time scoring results make staying on top of the action easier than ever. A scoreboard of matches in progress refreshes every 60 seconds, allowing you to follow every point.

The site also offers a stand-alone Java Scoreboard to follow your favorite player's match, live NetCam images from Center Court, streaming audio and video of player interviews, and daily photos. And if you love to analyze the stats, the numbers are all there-1st serve percentages, winners, unforced errors, break point conversions and more-broken down by set and match. You also get all the latest news updated regularly from in and around the courts right through until the last match is played on September 13.

Patrick Rafter and Martina Hingis return to Flushing Meadows to defend their titles. But that won't be an easy task with all the world's top players scheduled to compete. Rafter is seeded third behind Pete Sampras and Marcelo Rios. The remainder of the top 10 seeds on the men's side are Patrick Rafter, Petr Korda, Richard Krajicek, Greg Rusedski, Alex Corretja, Andre Agassi, Karol Kucera, and Carlos Moya.

Hingis gets the top seed again on the women's side, followed by Lindsay Davenport, Jana Novotna, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Venus Williams, Monica Seles, Conchita Martinez, Steffi Graf, Irina Spirlea, and Nathalie Tauziat.

Purses total some $14 million at this year's U.S. Open, an increase of over $2 million from last year. The champions in the men's and women's singles events will take home $700,000 each for their two weeks of work. Runners-up make $400,000. Prize money for those who lose out in the opening round of the qualifying event earn $3,000 each.

The Interactive Open section of the U.S. Open site promises a lot of fun. The Interactive OpenCam allows any Web surfer to take control of it through their browser. Pan the stands or zoom in on the chair umpire. The camera goes wherever you point it.

Some features require browser plug-ins. A Virtual Tour of the USTA National Tennis Center requires the PanoramIX plug-in. Or play the Interactive Virtual Tennis Game online which needs the Shockwave plug-in. Okay, so it's not as much fun as the real thing, but you can play a quick set during your coffee break and not need a shower before heading back to work.

While the temperature rises on center court, plenty of hot tennis Web sites are waiting to be surfed. The other three Grand Slam events have similar Web sites: Wimbledon,The French Open, and The Australian Open. All four Grand Slam sites are powered by IBM technology. Many other tournaments now also set up sites for their events.

The men's and women's tours each have their own sites which are good sources for news on upcoming tournaments and for checking player stats. The men play on the ATP Tour and the women on the WTA Tour.

If you prefer the likes of John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg or Andres Gomez, follow the men's senior circuit on the Nuveen Tour. Visit the Wheelchair Tennis Web site to learn the rules of that game, read player profiles, follow the tournaments, and view the rankings.

For daily results from tournaments around the globe, the major sports news sites update their content throughout the day. CNN/Sports Illustrated and ESPN Sportszone are among the heavy hitters.

Online tennis magazines are also appearing, with familiar print magazines Tennis andTennis Week leading the pack.

The Tennis Server is an online tennis magazine covering strategies, training and practice regimens, and tips for juniors as they develop their game. Among the regular columns is Mental Equipment which explores the often underrated psychological side of the game.

Not sure how to play out a tie-breaker in doubles? Read up on the sport's Official Rules. Or when the rules fail you, it may be time to turn to the Code of Tennis. Sign up for a free subscription to the Tennis Server email newsletter to receive a monthly teaser pointing you to all the lead articles and columns.

Player Web Sites

Some players now even have their own official sites. Check out the Pete Sampras site or MaliVai Washington's site. An Andre Agassi site exists, but it returns a 403 Access Forbidden error, meaning it might not yet be ready for prime time.

And of course, adoring fans have created dozens of their own home page homages to their favorite players. Just open any search engine, type in a player's name, and you're bound to end up with a variety of sites. These include the Martina Hingis Shrine, the Steffi Graf FAQ, and the Unofficial Richard Krajicek Fan Page.

One personal site called Alt.Tennis bills itself as a "guide to frustrating your opponent with wacky shots, bizarre strategies and the coolest new inventions." The site's creator may be a better tennis player than Webmaster. He ranks his tennis game at 5.5 using the NTRP rating system, yet a number of broken images on his site scores him a 2.0 on the Webmaster scale.

Another interesting personal site is Joe's ATP Tour Statistics, where you will find some rarer statistics. Who comes back to win most often from being down two sets to none? How do right-handed and left-handed players fare against each other? Who are the luckiest and unluckiest players? The answers await you.

If all this tennis talk puts you in the mood to take in the action in person, you can order tickets directly from the tournament in question or book through one of many online tour operators including Championship Tennis Tours and Preferred Travel's Grand Slam Packages. But getting a seat at the U.S. Open is a pricey venture. Seats for the finals range from $65 up to $620 for the best box seats. Don't worry-the expensive seats sold out long ago. Entry to the grounds alone will cost you $20 the first week and $30 the second.

If your budget doesn't take you that far, perhaps you'd like to buy some tennis equipment on the Web. Visit the Tennis Warehouse for racquets, bags, shoes, grips, strings and more. Other tennis gear sites include 4Tennis, the Tennis Company and

Itching to play, but don't have an opponent? Check out the World Wide Tennis Ladder. It's free to join and within minutes you could be matched up with others in your area at the same skill level. The Ladder site maintains statistics at a global, local and personal level. Every match you enter in the database helps determine your local and worldwide rankings. When you travel, you can even use the ladder to find people to play who would give you a close match. Over 1600 players have joined so far. The results will become more meaningful as the numbers increase.

The Technology

The U.S. Open site is powered by the same system of IBM servers used for the Web coverage of the Nagano Winter Olympics, which the Guinness Book of Records called the most highly trafficked sporting event Web site in history.

The IBM network includes dozens of servers, PCs and notebooks for data entry and processing. Three farms of servers located at IBM sites in the U.S. serve worldwide Web users' requests. A highly redundant infrastructure makes it possible for the U.S. Open site to receive hits from millions of visitors each day.

The NetCam system captures live video images and delivers them to the Web. Video feeds from cameras set up on the courts send live video, which is piped into a PC with a video capture card. The NetCam application captures the images, converts them to .jpg format, creates thumbnail images and sends them to IBM's Web servers, allowing tennis fans worldwide to see live images. The IBM Technology Page can tell you precisely how all this works.

Still yearning to read even more about tennis? The New York Public Library offers Tennis: A Research Guide for anyone wanting to research the literature. And finally, to record all the glory for posterity, visit the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Tennis anyone?


Charles Mappin is a Montreal-based writer and Associate Webmaster of the Speedware Corporation Web site.


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