Tennis is a very traditional sport. If you try to open the door of change you are invariably greeted by resistance. Yet there’s increasing need for the sports world to adopt digital technologies to meet the demands of twenty-first century audiences.

It’s important to strike the right balance of tradition and technology. SAP has very thoughtfully helped us to do that.

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Our first step together—out into what was truly new territory for women’s tennis—was an on-court coaching application that could be used by coaches and players right on the court, during the match. At the time, data analytics was something of a phantom concept for us, and it was certainly absent from in-match activities. But as we began to collaborate, we saw how beautifully analytics integrates into exchanges between coach and player. A few years later, SAP Tennis Analytics for Coaches has revolutionized our sport. We’ve even amended our rules to allow for its use on the court during matches.

SAP is the right technology partner for us, not just on paper, but in practice. We’ve become co-innovators, keeping our eyes on the horizon for new and exciting ways to engage tennis fans. Our collaboration isn’t a one-way street and we’ve benefited from honest perspectives and mutual trust.

I can say with all sincerity that they care as much about us as we care about them. It’s a lifestyle and a family, and the relationship has become a big part of my life in the three years I’ve been here. I expect it’s the same for our coaches and athletes.

For the WTA, SAP is the right technology partner, not just on paper, but in practice

One SAP colleague in particular, Jenni Lewis, has become a dear friend. She exudes passion for tennis, and we’ve traveled the world together. We even appeared on Al Jazeera together during a trip to the Middle East. Our partnership has never been about logo positioning and brand exposure. It’s about caring for people on both sides, and caring for the work we’re doing.

Going forward, I see a huge opportunity to leverage the Pandora’s box of data we’ve opened with SAP to improve people’s lives. Specifically, we want to put the WTA’s data sets in the right hands to positively impact women’s health. Studies show that 80 percent of women who have a heart attack for the first time don’t survive. For men, it’s only 20 percent. So we’re thinking of ways to take data from our 200 plus athletes, who stress their hearts on the court every day, and use it to advance women’s heart health research. We also have data that shows correlations between women’s apparel sizes and injuries. There’s an opportunity there for us to partner with apparel companies to mitigate sports injuries.

We’ve truly become part of SAP’s mission to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. The way we see it, we’re just getting started.

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Micky Lawler is president of the WTA