For the best part of the last 30 years I have been involved in the development and implementation of real-time technology to help improve the operation and efficiency of sporting events around the globe. And I still very clearly remember the defining moment when I saw a huge opportunity to do things better.
Ivan Lendl and the 1989 Australian Open
The year was 1989 and I was Broadcast & Technology Director at Tennis Australia, working at the Australian Open. I‘d recently joined the team and had inherited an information system that had been built when Flinders Park (later Melbourne Park) opened in 1988. I’d had no input into how the original information system was designed or delivered and what expectations the system had to achieve and it wasn’t until 12 months later that these expectations became crystal clear.
It was day 4 of the tournament in 1989, and I was watching an information screen at Tennis Australia reception, seeing Ivan Lendl was at match point on Court 1. Interestingly, at that very moment, Ivan Lendl walked past me – not only having completed his match, but also his on court interview, he’d stopped to sign autographs and was casually making his way to the men’s change-rooms… It was crystal clear to me that the information screens beaming updates around the stadium and the Aus Open precinct were at least 3-5 minutes behind real-time. At that moment I knew I needed to design and build a new information system that could deliver this information in real time
12 months later and we had the technology
By the 1990 Australian Open, we had a new system was in place, with new hardware, software and more reliable networking that enabled a real-time information system to deliver sub-second scoring information and statistics. From the first ball played on the outside courts at 11am until the end of play on Centre Court during the night session, fans, players and officials enjoyed real time updates from all 20 Australian Open match courts – a feature that was the first of its kind in Grand Slam tennis.
A desire to make more advances in more technologies across more sports
I often think back to that day in late January 1989, when Ivan Lendl casually walked past me in the underground hallways of Tennis Australia on his way to the change room – and wonder what he’d say if he knew what he inspired that day.
Since then I have built a business and a career in developing real time digital innovation across a range of different sporting codes, not just tennis. And to this day continue to push the boundaries of technology to bring exciting new advances to a range of sporting codes across the globe.