The Australian Open has appointed Indian technology consultancy Infosys as its new major technology partner for the tournament, one year after it parted ways with tech giant IBM.
The company colloquially known as the “Big Blue” had a 24-year long partnership with the tennis tournament and was a recognisable feature of the Open for fans, responsible for everything from its serve-speed monitors seen on court to player data analytics and website hosting.
Little was said from either side at the time about why the partnership ended, but it sparked a global search for a new digital innovation partner.
“When we looked at what we wanted for the fans, for our players and for people coming as patrons to the grounds we felt that … being partner with Infosys was a perfect alignment for us,” Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley said.
“We’re the Grand Slam of Asia Pacific and to be able to draw some partnerships and alignment from our region is also important to us.”
The three-year deal with Infosys has also resulted in the technology consultancy appointing tennis player Thanasi Kokkinakis as an ambassador.
Infosys would not go into detail on the specifics about what fans and players should expect from the Australian Open next year, but emphasised that it would aim to create a more personalised experience – something that IBM had also been striving to do for the past few years.
“From the point of view of the fans they should be looking forward to a much more immersive experience of the Australian Open, a very interactive way where they can personalise the way they’re getting information, what they’re viewing and the way they’re engaging with the Australian Open in various ways,” Infosys Australia and New Zealand regional head Andrew Groth said.
The company also pledged to use more augmented and virtual reality technologies, as well as artificial intelligence.
Following Serena Williams’ loss on Sunday (US time) to Naomi Osaka in controversial circumstances, the 2019 Australian Open will be the next Grand Slam tournament in which she can challenge Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam titles.
Asked about Ms Williams’ on-court behaviour (she has been fined $US17,000 for a coaching violation, verbal abuse and racquet abuse), as well as that of umpire Carlos Ramos, who has been accused of sexism following his reaction to Ms Williams’ verbal altercation, Mr Tiley said his experiences with Ms Williams had only ever been positive during Australian Opens.
“Our personal experiences with Serena have always been brilliant. She’s a great champion of the Australian Open and … I think the environment at the US Open was pressure-filled … she’s at the later stages of her career and you never know what will be around the corner,” he said.
“From us at the Australian Open we have not had any issues [of sexism] … but again, it was an environment in New York that was filled with pressure … and it’s a tough environment to be in.”
Mr Tiley said the on-court antics had all been driven by an issue around coaching in which some tournaments have been allowing coaching to be trialled during the qualifying rounds, but not in the later stages, and he believed this needed to be resolved.
“The sport has to get itself sorted out on what it does around coaching – are we going to have coaching, are we not going to have coaching, and what’s it going to look like.”