ATP Hits A Winner With Generative NFT Drop

Martin Grasser

The sold-out collection has captivated tennis audiences and generative art fans alike, sidestepping the well-trodden path of sporting video highlights to pursue subtle abstract artworks.

Martin Grasser, a San Francisco-based artist whose work explores systems and forms of repetition, launched an avant-garde generative NFT collection at the end of 2022 utilizing sporting data for innovative artistic effect. 

In collaboration with the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Tour and Art Blocks Engine, Grasser’s LOVE Tennis Art Project centers around the 2022 Nitto ATP Finals – a prestigious end of season tournament which sees the top eight seeded players face off in a round-robin contest for ranking points and million-dollar prizes. 

This year's tournament was held in Turin, Italy across November 13-20, and saw Novak Djokovic defeat Norway’s Casper Ruud in straight sets 7–5, 6–3, while American and British players Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury came out victorious in the doubles. 

Grasser is a generative artist, meaning that his work is the result of a collaborative effort between himself and an autonomous system. 

In this case, the system is sporting data points, but other examples could include artificial intelligence softwares such as DALL-E, the popular new AI portrait app Lensa, or an algorithm which creates artistic images based upon a code inserted by the human such in the case of Tyler Hobbs’ Fidzena. 

Grasser's debut NFT project titled ‘Squares’ was released on Art Blocks in July this year, and depicts a series of overlapping coloured translucent squares in a style aptly described as “Bauhaus meets Blade Runner.” 

His second collection, LOVE, retains this simplicity of form and adherence to uniformity, but acquires profound cultural significance through its cultivation of sporting symbiosis. 

Pictured: LOVE #137 / Martin Grasser

LOVE Tennis

During the Nitto ATP Finals tournament matchplay, video technology known as Hawk-Eye tracked each time the tennis ball hit the surface of the court at the exact point of impact. 

This technology has been used in the sport for over a decade to conclusively deduce whether balls have landed in or outside of the lines, and therefore which player the point should be awarded to. 

And this very same technology was utilized to extract raw matchplay data for artistic purposes. 

In conversation with ONE37PM, Grasser revealed that “it was the ATP that reached out to Art Blocks with the idea of using tennis data to create art”, explaining that “there was then an open call to which a group of artists submitted proposals.” Grasser submitted his proposal, and was “lucky enough to be selected.” 

Grasser’s first assignment was to filter out the 300 most compelling shots of the tournament which would make up the art collection, a process which he explained was “a combination of data-based filter and human choice.” 

“We worked with Tennis Data Innovations to gather and sort data insights from the tournament. Our ATP contact, who attended the matches in person, was then able to weigh in with a human perspective”, he added. 

After deciding on the 300 shots, Grasser added shadowing effects onto the ball of each piece to showcase the exact location, speed and velocity of the shot from a total of 114 camera angles. Then, thirty background colour palettes were added to enhance the artistic composition and rarity of the collection. 

To date, the collection has facilitated 625 ETH volume, equivalent to $758,323 USD, and currently stands at a floor price of 1.77 ETH with a 58% ratio of unique owners across the 300-piece collection. 

art tenni
Pictured: LOVE #126 / Martin Grasser

N F Down the T

Metadata information on NFT marketplace OpenSea reveals more insights into the specific moment that the piece was captured such as the match, player, type of shot and significance of the shot. 

For example, LOVE #126 showcased above was a low forehand winner from Russian player Daniil Medvedev in his round robin match against Greek player Stefanos Tsitsipas. 

In this sense, with LOVE Tennis, the ATP went well beyond what the likes of NBA Top Shot, NFL All Day and FIFA + Collect achieved in converting historic video clips of goals, assists and celebrations into collectable NFT moments. 

Viewing a piece of digital art may not be as glamorous as replaying a famous LeBron dunk shot or a Carli Lloyd wonder-strike, but it is arguably as beautiful. 

Aleksandra Artamonovskaja, Partnerships lead at Web3 platform Joyn, shared her expert opinion on the intersection of tennis and generative art. 

“As someone who has played tennis for over 20 years, went viral on ATP, and actively collects and documents the evolution of generative art on the blockchain, the validation of an international organisation like ATP makes this collection especially significant.”

Referencing the wide range of data infographics assigned to each piece, such as the forty types of shot – backhand crosscourt wide for example – Artamonovskaja explained that isolating individual metrics opens up new audience demographics.

“Even though before you could collect photographs of your favourite players or signatures, the ‘real life’ data [in LOVE] captures a historical moment in time, and many more elements of the match than a typical collectible item.”

“Generative art opens room for experimentation, but also it helps to narrate the story”, she revealed as, “people can connect with whatever traits they feel most comfortable with, for example, being a Djokovic or Tsitsipas fan. I personally enjoyed looking at the traits the most, together with the aesthetics of the final piece.”

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