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High-tech tennis

“It looks a lot like an ATM machine,” says Paul Mansfield, a member of the Tennis Club of Albuquerque.

The blue, crate-like device, with the built-in picture screen, sits courtside at TCA. Referred to as a kiosk, it stands about 5 feet tall and weighs approximately 250 pounds. It was made in Israel by designers using technology originally developed for the Israeli Air Force.

The manufacturer is PlaySight and TCA’s model is the only one in the Southwest. There are approximately 30 others in the U.S. and many more are expected, for Playsight is attracting a blizzard of media attention.

The court that the kiosk faces is called a SmartCourt. On the top of the front and back fences sit a total of six cameras. The cameras take video of action of every shot made by two or four players on the court, and feed that and other statistical information to the kiosk.

The result leaves the home camcorder or even GoPro, that high-def camera created by a surfer, in the dust.

PlaySight doesn’t just show on the screen two or four people playing a match or practicing. It indicates how many forehands a player hits and how many went into the court. It shows serve speed and how many of those serves went in or where they landed and a slew of facts unavailable anywhere else.

All this comes out in “real time” and all of it can be downloaded on your home computer.

Last spring, Alex Mansfield, senior assistant professional at TCA, went to Indian Wells, a California professional tournament. While there, he glimpsed a SmartCourt demonstration. Back home, he told Gui Dupont, “We gotta get one of those.”

Through donations and other sources, the club ordered one at a cost of $12,500, which included shipping, installation and on-site tutorials. It arrived at the club in late August.

How popular is the PlaySight system? Novak Djokovic bought one for a private court he used in New Jersey when he trained for this year’s U.S. Open. The purchase clearly paid off for him.

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