Behind the Scenes: Creating a VR Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova HTC Vive VR Body Scan
You can play tennis against Maria Sharapova at this year’s U.S. Open using virtual reality, thanks to American Express

Tennis fans that always wanted to return a 100 mph serve from Maria Sharapova might finally be able to get their wish.

Fans attending the US Open, which begins August 31, will be able to play against the tennis star in virtual reality as part of a fan experience station on the grounds of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Sharapova posing for the camera with a HTC Vive headset

Sharapova posing for the camera with a HTC Vive headset

American Express put together the virtual reality fan experience (run off a HTC Vive) called “You vs. Sharapova” and commissioned the services of its newest spokesman to bring the whole thing to life.

Sharapova full body scan

Sharapova full body scan

“This is just so unique because you actually get to be a part of something that is so different, I am no actress, but you feel like your part of the Matrix in a way,” says Sharapova.


Sharapova, who is ranked second in the world, spent nine hours in a virtual reality studio, serving in a motion capture suit, lobbing against a green screen, and smiling for a 3D body scan. Every detail of her stroke, face, and body movement was captured throughout the day to make the final VR experience as accurate as possible to actually playing against Sharapova.

Sharapova 3D head scan

Sharapova 3D head scan

“I’ve never seen this type of technology before, it’s the first time I am part of such a surreal shoot, so much motion going on,” she sad. “It’s really about the fine details of your body movement.”

You vs. Sharapova is one of the first virtual reality experiences to feature live action (the user swinging a racket) combined with a cgi version of an athlete interacting with the user.

The four-minute VR experience will use the HTC Vive and most likely the updated wireless controllers. The HTC Vive, which is one of the first consumer VR devices scheduled to go on the market later this year, should create an optimal court experience and tracking of hand movement for virtual racket swings.

The video below approximates the VR experience, minus the user actually swinging and hitting the ball back, which you would see when actually playing on the court with virtual Sharapova.

The virtual reality experience is free for anyone with a ticket to the US Open throughout the two-week tournament. There will be three stations at the US Open for fans to pick up a racket.

Sharapova comments, “For the fans that don’t have a chance to play against me, this will be pretty close to real life. We have done an exceptional job at keeping it as real as possible.”

About the Scout

Jonathan Nafarrete

Jonathan Nafarrete is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of VRScout.

Leave a Comment

Send this to friend