Wimbledon 2023 Will See AI-Generated Tennis Commentary For The First Time

Will this transform tennis, or is this a computer-powered deuce?

Wimbledon 2023 Will See AI-Generated Tennis Commentary For The First Time

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll undoubtedly have heard of the AI revolution that’s taken the world by storm. From ChatGPT and Google’s Bard to AI-generated art and video, the possibilities of Artificial Intelligence appear limitless, serving aces of innovation across various fields. And now, in a match made in technological heaven, the All England Club has taken significant steps towards sweeping AI adoption at Wimbledon this year.

Founded in 1877, Wimbledon is steeped in tradition and is widely regarded as one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious tennis tournaments. Each year, the world’s best players arrive in London’s SW19 to play on Wimbledon’s legendary grass courts, all vying for a place in the final to lift the biggest prize in tennis.

And this year, Wimbledon is looking to change the game… Teaming up with tech giant IBM, Wimbledon has announced plans to introduce generative AI commentary to support its coverage of the 2023 Championship. The state-of-the-art technology will be available through the Wimbledon app and will be applied to all video highlights throughout the tournament.

In a statement made this week, IBM said it’s “bringing new layers of insight and engagement to the 2023 Championships through the use of innovative new tools.”

Whilst fans will surely welcome a deeper analytical layer to their viewing experience, some wonder whether the introduction of AI to a highly reactionary, emotive role, such as live commentary, might have an adverse effect on the excitement of the game.

“You can’t replace John McEnroe doing commentary.”

Kevin Farrar, IBM’s head of sports partnerships
Former Wimbledon champion John McEnroe is part of the BBC’s commentary team at Wimbledon. Image: Getty

IBM says there are no plans to replace the “human element” of live commentary with AI anytime soon, but instead will use the technology to support traditional coverage to enhance the fan’s matchday experience. It’s important to consider just how this technology will develop as adoption becomes more prevalent within sport – could we soon see the voices of legendary commentators such as John McEnroe and Boris Becker replicated for live matches?

It’s not the first time that tennis has embraced new technology to further advance the game. In recent years, AI has been deployed to generate video highlights, detecting tense and pivotal moments in the match by the facial expression of the players and noise generated by the crowd.

Not only AI but VR too – as tennis players are now able to implement virtual reality in their training regimes to practice for specific match moments and scenarios away from the court. It also allows injured players to practice serves, returns and volleys all within a virtual environment, alleviating the risk of aggravating an injury.

Advantage, our new robot overlords.