Carl Maes, Academy Director at the Kim Clijsters Academy in Belgium, is a former Belgian Fed Cup Captain and Head of Tennis at the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA, UK), not to mention coach of the multiple Grand Slam champion Kim Clijsters. Working at her academy in Bree, Maes has overseen the installation and integration of “Energy Lab Tennis”.
Using HawkEye technology, Energy Lab’s unique system brings together the data gleaned through HawkEye to provide accurate and reliable on-court performance screening.
“We have made it into a coaching tool,” says Maes. When the HawkEye data (that’s the bulk of data quoted by ATP and WTA, like unforced errors, speed of serve and so on) is cross-referenced with video taken simultaneously from five different cameras, it enables a very detailed and sophisticated analysis of shot making.
“We can actually measure that specific stroke and really analyse it in a way that has never been done before,” explains Maes. This includes the ability to compare data collected over time, to enable individual player progress to be monitored.
“The art of the coach is to filter out from all that data what is useful to put into practice, be it tennis or fitness.”
This is why at KCA they have a dedicated person who tags all the data and a team of highly skilled coaches who can make this meaningful for a player. “How we are using that technology for biomechanics as well as fitness is an integral part of what we have to offer,” says Maes.
“We have also made a fitness test where rather than your anaerobic threshold, which you might measure on a treadmill or a bicycle, we can actually look at the technical break point by doing the test with the ball machine.” He explains that a ball machine fires balls out, changing speed every three minutes. “Because we can measure every stroke, where it is, where it lands, we can see when a player’s performance is starting to suffer.
“We see actually at what point the placement starts to drop or where a player starts to play higher loopy balls because they are tired. That is interesting not only for the tennis coach but also for the fitness coach. The fitness coach knows for his interval session exactly at what point the level of fitness has an effect on the tennis game.”
One of the unique offerings at the KCA is that all players can tap into this sophisticated technology, which took two weeks to install at the academy.
Full-time players have it included as part of the standard academy package. Because all players are also offered individual sessions, not just group sessions, the information can be shared, discussed and acted upon by coach and player. This is part of the personal approach that Maes and his team pride themselves on.
The technology and analysis is also available to players on a test basis, often coupled with a short stay at the academy.
In these cases, Maes explains: “We look at the background and the player and we try and co-operate with the local coaches. They get a report back when they come here for a week, two weeks or a month. They get a full report and we share all this data. So when they go back home the coach can continue to work on our recommendation.
“We believe the technology will help players. It will not create players, it is a tool to help coaches.”
Maes points to the fact that he expects to accompany five players to the 2016 Australian Open as proof that the academy, with its combination of technology, its holistic approach to the sport and a personal approach, is generating results.
Yanina Wickmayer has spent some time training at the academy with both Clisjters and Maes and is expected to play in the main draw. Elise Mertens, Seppe Cuypers, Lara Salden and Phillis Vanenburg should also be in Melbourne, competing in qualifying for the main draw or in the junior event.
They are all players benefiting from the services and state-of-the-art technology that is on offer at the Kim Clijsters Academy.
To find out more about Energylab click here