From Telenor to tennis: Technology giant Microsoft contributes to SevenSix’s million-pledged tennis technology.

By May 28, 2018Press

The idea of a digital tennis system for tennis players appeared during a flight to Roland Garros. One year later, Trond Kittelsen resigned as Regional Director in Telenor to commit as an entrepreneur of SevenSix.no, a new and groundbreaking platform for international tennis. “The goal is that Federer and Nadal will be a part of this when they retire,” says the Stavanger man who recently launched his initiative in Norway during this year’s Tennis Conference at the Oslo Tennis Arena under the direction of the Norwegian Tennis Association.

Imagine a digital platform that helps save resources and time by collecting all valuable data around a player in the same place. The team around the player now has access to development plans, trainings and match analyses in one safe place. It’s SevenSix, explains business developer and entrepreneur of SevenSix, Trond Kittelsen.

With SevenSix, we want to help players who want to improve all the time by providing them with machine intelligence and human intelligence in order for them to improve in a simple way.

A tech-giant has arrived.

Pen and paper are still heavily used to convey information in the sport, which means that documented information are not being used efficiently for both the player and the coach, Trond explains.

– Top players today have access to resources that can help them develop themselves, but this is often time-consuming and costly.

SevenSix is based upon these two needs and we’ve built a bridge between the use of technology for facts/information and work processes, as well as the irreplaceable human expertise that coaches in interaction with players usually creates.

Recently, the tech giant Microsoft chose to support the SevenSix project with $120 000.

Microsoft selects the most exciting projects in the world, of which entrepreneurs gets access 80 computer components such as storage, processing, machine learning and more. Capgemini, which has developed the SevenSix platform, has also made significant financial contributions.

In addition, the platform has been granted its application for commercialization support from Innovation Norway’s support scheme for start-ups, writes ICT industry news site digi.no in a recent discussion of SevenSix-software.

It really makes it possible to research and realise it.

Animated film SevenSix:

Mini Tour

Today is Nordic Tennis and SevenSix in South Amfi, specifically at Arendal Tennis club, court 4. I have just had the pleasure of playing a few games with Kittelsen. The occasion for the meeting is a mini-tour of Norway for SevenSix in Arendal and Kristiansand for Kittelsen to present the platform for clubs, coaches and players – and gather feedback from these.

A couple of weeks ago, Kittelsen encountered some of these during this year’s Training Conference under the auspices of the Norwegian Tennis Association at the Oslo Tennis Arena, which was 13-15 April. The dates marks the launch of the SevenSix entrepreneurial project in front of 130 club representatives, resource people in the Norwegian tennis community and tennis coaches.

– What do you think about being here?

– It’s absolutely top! The resort is amazing and I have been well received by the club. I’m glad that the trip has finally taken me to the South, says Kittelsen.

We sit on the bench on lane 4, takes a breath and a sip – preferably two – of water. In the background, the tennis school is in full swing. Children laughing, the sound rubber soles that brake quickly against the hardcourt and music in the distance.

Random Meeting

Kittelsen has years of background as a business developer in the IT company Evry Consulting. After that he was headhunted for the position as Regional Director in Southwest Norway for Telenor.

After a few years at work, he left the safety of a permanent position in favour of the entrepreneurial life. He started working full time with SevenSix.

The idea of the so-called web application was started by chance. The Kittelsen was on his way to Roland Garros in 2016. Beside him on the plane, Øivind Sørvald found himself. Sørvald is a trainer and analyst, and very well known in the tennis community, also internationally. He has worked with a number of top players, and has won two Grand Slam titles.

– He is the analyst who has analysed videos of pro players for decades. He gives the players and coaches what they need to win matches, Kittelsen has told in the interview with digi.no.

We had a great conversation, and Sørvald told me about the challenges and opportunities that exist within the sport. That people are not good at using the technology that exists. I also got to see how he worked with a top player.

Based on what Sørvald told him, Kittelsen developed SevenSix – a digital ecosystem and software program for players, different types of coaches, guardians and any other key people that the user wishes to have access to the information uploaded to the profile. All data must be collected in one place and the need for pen and paper must disappear.

Sensor Technology

SevenSix technology targets ambitious tennis players who want to improve their tennis skills, being a hobby player, a young tennis talent or a professional elite player.

The central purpose of the platform is to connect players and coaches so that they have a common place where they can gather relevant information and collaborate.

The platform is open and people can use it in different ways. Some people follow the player’s development on training and in matches, others order feedback from their favourite coaches from around the world.

Kittelsen also recommends users of SevenSix to use sensor technology in tennis rackets that have been on the market for some years, such as Babolat’s Pop and Head’s Zepp.

By attaching these sensors to the wrist and inside the racket grip, the player can figure out quite a bit about his technique.

– The sensor can detect where you hit the tennis ball, how hard and even how much spin it is on the ball, Kittelsen explains.

In the end, you can identify quite a bit.

– You can get data on the number of hits with forehand, backhand, smash-er, top spin-stroke and how many times you have served. If you combine the video analysis from the SevenSix coach team with all that sensory, you can get quite far, explains the entrepreneur.

Among other things, you can analyse where on the court you lose or win the most points and what spin you have on the ball in the sets you win, Kittelsen emphasises.

Expert analysis

I am excited about the next step in the program. We are going to test an essential part of the SevenSix technology: Order a Coach. The world’s top players like Federer and Nadal have a team of coaches and analysts who help them to continue to develop. Such resources are available to players at an elite level, even though its very expensive.

For the first time, SevenSix makes it possible for ambitious players to have access to some of the same resources as the world’s best players, and for a cheaper price.

Need help getting more spin on the ball? Want to improve how to keep your racket? Get more power behind your efforts? Then you can book a session on sevensix.no and get online feedback for 299 kroner.

– 80 percent of the price goes back to the tennis clubs and coaches, says Kittelsen.

The platform also represents an opportunity for coaches to follow up players in a professional and structured manner, as well as having access to a new source of income.

– Do you need the desire to become an elite player to start using SevenSix?

– Certainly not. My personal ambition of using SevenSix is to live with tennis constantly.

As an entrepreneur, as a spectator, and as a player. I want to play tennis until I’m 80 years old – and gladly more than that – have fun on the court and become a little better by getting feedback from the training team. In addition, maybe I’ll take some coaching hours, but I don’t necessarily participate in tournaments.

In this regard, I wish to improve my serve – an everlasting project, where I never really feel I get the right technique.

-Do you want Øivind Sørvald or Jørgen Vestli to analyse your serve? Asks Kittelsen.

Øivind Sørvald is an internationally recognised trainer and video analyst who has worked with a number of top players like former Victorian Victoria Azarenka. Jørgen Vestli has worked as a national team coach at the Norwegian Tennis Association for the last 10 years and trains Norway’s elite players daily in tennis.

In other words, I can choose to get analysis help from the top shelf! With one touch of a button. As if I was the elite player myself.

– I’ll go for Vestli, I answer, as I was once lucky enough to have Øivind see my serve and give me feedback during my training at the tennis federation.

We enter sevensix.no, create a new user and choose that I am “Player” in the option between this and “Coach” simple and easy.

We send a request from my user to Vestli’s email address that I want him to analyse the video that I will upload in my user profile. Vestli will soon receive a notification by email that I have ordered online feedback. You will receive an email confirming that Jørgen has accepted your request, but we can already upload the video for analysis, Trond informs me.

The only equipment I need is my phone to film my serves with. I stand by the serve line and warm up with a handful of serves. I give a signal to Trond which starts filming.

I quietly pray that I do not throw the ball wrong, so Trond gets it on video. The most important thing is to perform the serve as I always do, so I get the most accurate feedback compared to how I usually serve.

I throw the ball up in the air, release it at eye level, transfer the weight to the foremost leg, bending my knees, throwing the racket up against the ball, kicking away with the back leg and letting the arm complete the swing with the racket. I do not know if the ball was inside or out of the server side.

What matters is to get my serve on video. I repeat the process and hit a second serve.

-Good, then we have it, instructs Trond.

He shows me how to easily upload the video from my phone to the platform. In addition, if I had data from a sensor inside the racket or on my wrist, I could have uploaded this to SevenSix as Jørgen could’ve provided a more complete analysis of the serve situation.

So now it’s just for me to wait for feedback from Vestli.

Usually, the user can expect to receive feedback from the coach within 1-2 days after the coach has confirmed the assignment and the data is uploaded in SevenSix. I can wait for feedback from Jørgen either as a video, text or whatever he prefers, Trond tells me. I’m looking forward, of course.

Passion for Tennis

To say that 43-year-old Trond Kittelsen from Stavanger is living the dream through SevenSix, is not entirely wrong. Tennis is a big passion for the entrepreneur and has been since he first picked up a tennis racket 30 years ago. Several times a week he is at Toppform Fitness Centre in Stavanger where he plays tennis and squash.

– My first meeting with tennis was when I was 12 years old. There was a handball court, where we set up two bikes at each end of what would be our net and fastened a rope as a net between the bikes. We could play tennis for hours! 30 years later I still play with one of my old mates – and its still very competitive, Kittelsen says with a smile.

The best feeling

It is good to know that it is not just hard work that characterises the entrepreneurial day of the Stavanger man. Even at the office, the business developer has tennis on the TV in the background which he listens to between meetings and tasks.

– The weeks where there are no tennis tournaments, there’s really something missing, Trond cheered.

– What makes you still play after so many years?

– Tennis is a fantastic sport where you are challenged both mentally, physically, tactically and technically. It is largely about finding the right level of excitement, entering the “zone” and finding the point of balance between not being too excited but not too relaxed.

– You know when you’re playing with a partner and it feels like everything is at stake …

You’re fighting for every single ball – and you win 7-6 – thats the best feeling in the world!

– Ah, I get it, SevenSix.

– Yes, the feeling of mastering, which we try to recreate through SevenSix. With a fairly saturated market of smart watches like Apple Watch and Fitbit, sensor technology in tennis rackets, on wrists and on the court – I wonder, can it become too much technology? Being too busy analysing numbers rather than responding to what’s happening on the court, in games, there and then, in the present?

Kittelsen says that there is still an unprecedented potential in tennis sports as to using technology in the development of players, and that tennis is actually one of the sports where the least technology is used.

– The reason for that might be that technology has been somewhat immature until now.

It seems like some of the solutions used today does not take into account the real needs that coaches and players experience, which often makes the technology seem like a barrier rather than a useful tool.

– I think it’s exciting that sensor technology has moved into a second generation with more accuracy, better data production which can deliver more value to the game of tennis. However, for that to happen I believe its important that coaches and players act openly and curiously in relation to new technology, as it will most likely will be normalised in tennis within a few years.

Ambition

Now that SevenSix is launched and open to all tennis enthusiasts, clubs and academies to create a user profile and use the platform, feedback from users is a significant next step on the entrepreneur’s agenda.

– I would like to invite tennis enthusiasts, whether you represent a club, an academy, a coach, player or parent with children playing tennis, to visit sevensix.no and create a user profile to test the solution. Have an open mind, be curious and please give me feedback about what you think about the platform.

At the same time, Trond serves the ball to commercial, national and international actors, who wish to contribute at different levels.

– We are now entering a phase that requires resources and capital. Some can be resolved with partnership, but we need people who can take us forward as technologists, digital nomads and ambassadors to go internationally.

– What does success looks like for SevenSix?

– The goal is to help players evolve and make everyday life easier for coaches and clubs. We believe in a digital ecosystem for both coaches and players, and we believe it is important to use sensors and technology to achieve this. For clubs and coaches, SevenSix adds to the possibility of having an additional source of income.

– In the long run, we want to get more people to play tennis for longer and find enjoyment and development from this amazing sport.