Rogers Cup lets tennis players take a swing at Web-based rankings

While most of the audience’s attention at this month’s Rogers Cup in Toronto will be focused on stars like Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams, even new tennis players will be listed alongside the best on a new, Web-based national ranking system.

Dubbed the Rogers Rankings, the system’s debut is being promoted at the tournament by Tennis Canada, the sport’s governing body here. It will include the scores, statistics and outcomes of hundreds of events involving both professional players and amateurs.

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Computan, a Toronto software development firm that has created athletic club management systems for sports like squash, created the Rogers Rankings over a three-year period.

The goal was to create unified rankings out of the highly distributed systems that were scattered across Canada’s 10 provincial and single national organization, says Sajeel Qureshi, Computan’s vice-president of operations.

“It was a broken process,” he says. “Each organization had its own ranking system and unique competitive structure, even though they’re really in the same business. They’re trying to track future Wimbledon or Rogers Cup champs, but you could go from one province to the other and you could be ranked really high in Quebec but in Ontario you’d be unknown.”

The Rogers Rankings will create a more level playing field, Qureshi says, because it means whatever points a player earns in the provincial rankings will be used in the national rankings.

In other words, if the top player in the country comes from Ontario and the second comes from Quebec and the third from Ontario, the No. 3 national player will be the No. 2 player in the Ontario rankings.

Tennis Canada, which commissioned the Rogers Rankings, worked with Computan to sell the idea to the provincial organizations, a campaign which Qureshi says began in 2007. “We went to each of them presenting the opportunity of a unified association management system. They started coming on board one by one with the concept,” he says. “Some gave support right off the bat, some provinces wanted to wait to see if it would work for them or not.”

The software development took a long time as well, he adds. “The logic behind the system as thought through by a Ph.D. in mathematics from Quebec,” – and Computan’s challenge involved turning what he had written down on player into an electronic service within a 12-14 month period. “Now, in conjunction with the Cup going on, all the provinces have endorsed it,” he says.

It was important that the Rogers Rankings go by what Qureshi called the “chess method,” that takes into account the quality of the players rather than mere victories.

“In professional chess, it’s not so much how many games you win in the tournament, it’s who did you beat,” he says. “If you’re talking about ‘wood pushers,’ for lack of a better term, as opposed to chess masters, there’s a difference. If you beat a chess master, you’d get more points.”

The tennis data will be hosted by The Planet, a managed services firm with data centres in Houston, Tex. Urvish Vashi, the firm’s general manager of hosting services, says the Rogers Rankings presents IT issues similar in nature to those of other, more traditional enterprise environments.

“There are often a number of application needs but in each of those cases there is a need for high-speed access to databases and managed services,” he says. “Whether it’s the hospitality industry dealing with their point of sale system or a bunch of fans trying to figure out where their favourite player ranks or when he’s going to play again, there’s a fairly distributed group of users that want access to a system.”

Computan has built a robust application, Vashi adds, so the Planet is focused on looking for where the performance bottlenecks might be.

“A lot of times with multiple concurrent updates to the server, the bottleneck is on the storage,” he says. “We’ll put monitors on that and identify issues where the load works quadruple time.”

The Rogers Rankings, which run on a SQL database, will be updated on Thursday nights at 10:00 p.m. “We could halt the server if it’s not managed properly,” Qureshi says.

The Rogers Cup will run until Aug. 23.

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