As a teenager, Simon Albrecht might have chosen to pursue the bright lights of a professional tennis career. Once ranked in the top 40 of his age group and top 300 in Australia, he notably beat top Australian players Nick Kyrgios and Jordan Thompson in their junior days.
Instead, an unexpected career trajectory has landed the UTS engineering graduate and former junior tennis star behind the scenes at the Australian Open.
Albrecht opted to follow in his father’s footsteps and study engineering, a decision that recently landed him his dream job touring the professional tennis circuit with global sports technology firm, Hawk-Eye Innovations.
While Kyrgios and Thompson will both take to the court as competitors at this year’s Australian Open in Melbourne, Albrecht will be working behind the scenes as a tennis systems operator. He's responsible for installing and calibrating cameras that help make close line calls and complete player challenges, as well as the statistics needed for the broadcast and the big screen.
An example of a close line call: ELC Ultra-Motion - ATP World Tour Finals 2014 from Hawk-Eye Innovations on Vimeo.
“My work involves a lot of long hours on site and extensive troubleshooting under live pressure, but this is offset by being paid to travel around the world for over 230 days a year, being amongst the players and doing a job I love,” he says.
It seems that combining his passion for sport with engineering and innovation has been Albrecht’s ticket to success.
During his Bachelor of Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering and Diploma in Engineering Practice at UTS, Albrecht undertook a sports engineering internship with iOn Sport, installing a camera on Allianz Stadium for live data analysis for the coaches of NRL, soccer and AFL. He also pursued an undergraduate thesis on an innovative tennis net.
Besides winning gold medals in tennis at the Eastern University Games, Albrecht says a highlight of his time at UTS was participating in the Hatchery start-up program, which helped him develop the mindset of an entrepreneur. His team, which also included a junior Olympian, aimed to raise awareness of low-profile sports.
The combination of Hatchery and my work in the industry gave me such an edge when I was completing my masters
“Hatchery makes you think properly and work out why things are the way they are,” he says. “Once you understand that, you can keep building upwards.”
And upwards he went. With the helpful support of UTS Careers, Albrecht was selected to complete a Master of Science in Sports Engineering at the Centre of Sports Engineering Research in the UK. He then spent a few months calibrating the goal-line technology for FIFA at soccer stadiums around UK and Europe, followed by an internship at the International Tennis Federation approving all the tennis balls for the 2018 season.
“The combination of Hatchery and my work in the industry gave me such an edge when I was completing my masters with students from all around the world – it was evident that I was one of the most experienced, which gave me a lot of confidence.”
Now, after a “gruelling” interview process, Albrecht has been selected by Hawk-Eye Innovations as the only Australian tennis systems operator working on the professional circuit. His first gig was at the Brisbane International earlier in January, and after the Australian Open he will continue on to Doha for the Qatar Total Open tournament.
In the long term, Albrecht is hoping to continue to “work his way up the ladder” at Hawk-Eye, and utilise all the skills and experience he has accumulated during his working career.
And in the short term?
“I’m hoping to bump into Roger Federer at the Australian Open – he’s a class above the rest.”