Wimbledon judges line

Hawkeye has been a big part of the ATP/WTA Tours for more than a decade now. As a decision review system, the technology hasn’t been completely flawless. The graphic failed to display during a Federer challenge against Tomas Berdych in the 2018 Australian Open, as a recent example.

However, on the whole, Hawkeye is functioning well.  In 99% of cases, it produces a quick, accurate response when a player challenges a call. In fact, Hawkeye is helping to overturn a fairly significant number of incorrect decisions. Although this isn’t tracked officially, the best of the best tend to get around 30-40% of their calls correct. This amounts to a pretty large number of decisions overturned when you consider the number of professional matches in which the system is used.

This raises an interesting question. We know that line umpires aren’t right 100% of the time – this is why Hawkeye exists. So why don’t we replace them with robots entirely?

Proponents of this move would have a pretty strong case: in theory, it would be impossible for an incorrect line call to be made. Tennis is quite different to a lot of other sports, in that so many decisions could technically be made without human judgment. While a robot can’t call a foul in soccer or basketball, it can tell where a ball has bounced and call it in or out.

Here are a few reasons why the ITF won’t replace line umpires with robots – not yet at least.

The speed of the decision

While Hawkeye currently tracks every single movement of the ball on the court, it does not make a decision unless it is told to.

Implementing the technology as a replacement for line umpires would require that it could make a judgment about every single ball, and display the decision in real-time. Currently, the technology isn’t quick enough to do this.

Of course, we could just wait for the system to process the data, and get a call a couple of seconds late. However, this would be a nightmare for players. Imagining having to continue playing while thinking to yourself “I’m sure that was out – Hawkeye will call it in a few seconds”.

At present, only human line umpires can keep up with the speed of the game. There’s no reason that this won’t change within the next decade, though.

The accuracy of the decision

The truth is, no-one knows how accurate Hawkeye actually is.

The average error of the system is 3.6mm, according to Hawkeye. However, researchers from Cardiff University found that the system could potentially be much less accurate. Hawkeye disputes their findings, but will not release any further information about the mathematics behind the decision-making process.

Even assuming that Hawkeye is right about the average error, the lack of transparency about how it works could leave a sour taste for many tennis fans. If the system were to replace line umpires altogether, the tennis community would need to know more about how Hawkeye works, and how accurate it actually is.

Plus, the system still isn’t accurate on clay, making it unusable for about a third of the ATP/WTA Pro Tours.

What if it breaks?

As the Federer/Berdych example showed, Hawkeye is going to break down sometimes. Berdych was also involved in an incident at the Australian Open in 2009, but this time on the receiving end. Hawkeye didn’t work when he challenged a call, supposedly due to a shadow making its way across the court.

If Hawkeye were to completely break down, and there weren’t any line umpires on hand, what would happen?

Because the system isn’t perfect, there would need to be some backup officials available. But if they came in and then proceeded to make a questionable call that could not be challenged, the player is going to feel quite hard done by.

Cost

Currently, Hawkeye costs around $70,000 per court to install. When compared to the cost of hiring line umpires, this might seem pretty reasonable. However, it’s important to remember that these systems also need constant maintenance and calibration to ensure they’re working correctly.

The cost of setting up a Hawkeye system will come down over time. However, the cost to use them to completely replace line umpires doesn’t yet make sense.

The future

The answer to the question “could the ITF replace line umpires with robots?” at the moment is probably no. The technology isn’t good enough as of yet to completely replace line umpires.

However, Hawkeye is always evolving. Within the next few decades, the system may reach a point where it makes economic and logical sense to stop using line umpires, at least in major tournaments.

The one thing that won’t change though is the concern that relying exclusively on Hawkeye will make the game too sterile. For many, the system we have right now achieves a nice balance between keeping the human element in the game, while eliminating a decent amount of incorrect calls.

Thanks to https://liftyourgame.net/

Photo credit: Kate Tann

Lake Geneva

After Prague in 2017 and Chicago last year, the city of Geneva in Switzerland will host the third edition of the Laver Cup, from 20 to 22 September.
Check out our Geneva travel guide to know more about the city, and if you attend the event, please share your comments and stories:

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Rafa Nadal Open 2019

The second edition of the Rafa Nadal Open took place at the Rafa Nadal Academy last week.
20-year old Finn Emil Ruusuvuori dispatched Matteo Viola 6-0 6-1 in 50 minutes to claim his second Challenger title of the year. He didn’t drop a set all week, beating Yannick Maden, Pedro Martinez and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina en route to the final. Thanks to this victory, he’ll make his entry to the top 200.

But the talk of the week was Andy Murray, who, in search of match play, returned to the Challenger circuit for the first time since 2005.
The Rafa Nadal Open was Murray’s third tournament since his singles comeback in Cincinnati (loss to Gasquet). After wins over 17 year-old Imran Sibille and world number 115 Norbert Gambos, he fell to eventual runner-up Matteo Viola 6-3 4-6 6-7.
Next up for the 3-time Grand Slam champion: Zhuhai, Beijing and Antwerp.

Andy Murray and Matteo Viola

Photo credit: @rafanadalacademy

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Daniil Medvedev, 2019 US Open

Third time lucky for Daniil Medvedev: in his third final in as many weeks, he defeated David Goffin to capture the biggest title of his career so far. He lost to Nick Kyrgios in Washington and Rafael Nadal in Montreal, but this time he did not miss the opportunity to win his second trophy of the year, after Sofia in February.

“I have to say even if I wouldn’t have finished with the trophy, these weeks were amazing and the best in my life. But of course I think with the trophy is better. Especially if I would have lost three finals in a row, I would have not doubted myself but started asking myself how is it possible, three finals, lost all of them? What should I do differently in the final?
I don’t have to ask myself these questions because I won the final. It’s been the best weeks in my life. My serve was the best in my life. My tennis was really consistent. I didn’t have one bad match. I’m just extremely happy.”

He now leads the ATP Tour with 44 match wins this year (3 more than Nadal), 31 of them being on hard courts. He also makes his entry to the top 5, the first Russian to do so since Nikolay Davydenko in 2010.

And what will he do now?

“I need some days off. I’ve been playing tennis for so long in a row. I just need to stay in the bed for a few days watching the TV 24 hours a day. Hopefully I can regroup and get to the U.S. Open fresh.”

David Goffin who was bidding to become the first Belgian to claim a Masters 1000 event returns to the top 15. Roberto Bautista Agut, after 14 years on tour, makes his top 10 debut, while his opponent in the quarterfinals, Richard Gasquet jumps 22 places to 34. Andrey Rublev, who defeated Roger Federer in about an hour in the 4th round, is back to the top 50 (47).

Rafael Nadal US Open outfit

Rafael Nadal dispatched Daniil Medvedev 6-3 6-0 in 70 minutes to capture the Montreal title, its 5th Canadian Open crown and 83rd career title. It is also the first time he has retained a title on hard courts.
With that victory Nadal gained a lot of confidence for the upcoming US Open where he will vie for a fourth title.
He will hit the courts wearing his signature sleeveless shirt in two colorways: violet (for day sessions) and black (for night sessions), paired with white shorts for day sessions and black shorts for night sessions.

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Rogers Cup 2019: Rafael Nadal outfit
Wimbledon 2019: Rafael Nadal outfit and shoes
Roland Garros 2019: Rafael Nadal outfit