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

Tony Roche and Rod Laver, 1969 US Open

After his wins at the Australian Open, Roland Garros and Wimbledon, Rod Laver headed for New York, in search of a fourth major in a row. He was taken to five sets by Dennis Ralston in the fourth round 6-4 4-6 4-6 6-2 6-3, then defeated Roy Emerson 4-6 8-6 13-11 6-4 in the quarterfinals, and defending champion Arthur Ashe in the semifinals 8-6 6-3 14-12. He then faced Tony Roche in the final.

From Rod Laver’s autobiography A memoir:

The final was postponed for a day, until Monday 8 September, when the rain had eased a little. It now fell steadily instead of teeming. In the countdown, Tony and I sat side by side in the locker room, gear on and ready to play, both on edge, hoping for the sun to pierce the purple clouds above. Out in the grandstands 4000 hardly New Yorkers huddled under umbrellas. I was extra toey because Mary had been due to give birth on the 7th, the previous day, but as yet there was still no sign of our newborn’s imminent appearance. Believe me, as time ticked by I gave those leather racquet grips one helluva workout.

Even though he was bone-tired after beating Newk in 169 minutes two days before and I was daisy-fresh in comparison, having taken only a short time to finish off Arthur Ashe, Tony exuded calm confidence and he had every right to do so. That year, he had beaten me five times in our eight meetings.

It was mid-afternoon before Rochey and I were able to go onto the court, which was wet, slippery and slow. Since early morning, there had been a helicopter hovering over the court in a bid to dry it off, but all the chopper blades did was suck up more water to the surface and make it even soggier. An important match wouldn’t proceed under those conditions today. Yet I was confident that I’d handle the sludgy surface better than Tony because I had played on much worse surfaces time and again as a pro – mudheaps and waterlogged bullrings where to take a step would be to lift chunk from the surface – while Rochey was only a recent arrival in the pro ranks and had spent most of his career playing on pristine, perfectly maintained courts. As a precaution, however, before we hit up I fronted match referee Billy Talbert and said, ‘If I find myself sliding, can I wear spikes?’ He said, ‘Be my guest. This is the last match of the tournament so it doesn’t matter if you tear up the court.’
The spikes were three-eighths of an inch (9.5 millimetres) long but, unlike sharp running shoe spikes, the ends had been cut off and were blunt, so if it became necessary to wear them they would definitely churn up the court. I started the match wearing my normal shoes, thinking I’d wait to see how I went in the mud.

I should have won the first set, but deserved to lose it. And lose it I did. After sliding all over the court, I was serving for the set at 5-3. Tony broke me with a magnificent backhand return, which I couldn’t reach on the slippery surface. I asked the referee ‘Can I put on my spikes?’ Seeing that the conditions were hampering my game, Talbert gave his approval. Tony chose not to don spikes because he had strained his thigh muscle in the semifinal against Newk and worried that he might exacerbate the injury and cramp up with the quick and juddering stops you make when you’ve got spikes on. Although, because of the spikes, I was moving around the court well, it was so drenched and torn up that my feet were still going in directions I didn’t want them to. Rochey won that first 9-7. I had served five double faults, and I’d not been guilty of serving that badly for a long, long time. At that stage, Tony was looking invincible.

With spikes, I’d learned, you have to lift your feet higher than usual as you move around the court, because if you try to slide to reach a ball they do their job and dig in, which can bring you crashing down. In the end, it wasn’t too much of an adjustment to make, and for that, as for so many things, I had Harry Hopman to thank. Back in the early Davis Cup days, he had made us all train in them, lifting our feet high, just in case we ever had to wear them in an important match.

I have a distinct memory of a Davis Cup tie at Kooyong in the rain and before it Harry, one of whose many credos was ‘be prepared’, telling us, ‘Get your spikes on, grab your oldest racquet and come with me to the back courts, we’re going to get wet’.

Tony began the second set as he’d finished the first. On fire. He held his serve in the first game. Then he led me 30-40 on my serve in the second game and found himself in an excellent position to go on and win the set, which would put him in the box seat for the match. As I readied to serve again, Tony stalled to set himself to return. I settled myself too. I had to hold serve. The entire match, and the Grand Slam, which I confess was now top of my mind, could hinge on it. Usually, I try to serve at medium pace with spin, making sure the ball goes in and putting the onus on my opponent to handle it. This time I did the opposite, the unexpected, and I belted down a boomer, slicing it wide to Tony’s forehand. He scarcely got his racquet on it. He had blown his chance to break me. Such chances are rare, and I made sure he didn’t get another. The match did turn on that point. I won that game, and as I became more sure of my balance, I began to hit the ball as hard as I have ever hit it. Tony couldn’t handle the pressure I was able to exert. I won the second set 6-1.

A half-hour rain delay held up the third set. When play resumed, I won it 6-2. I felt in total control. In the corresponding US final in 1962 against Roy Emerson, I got the flutters for a bit and recovered. It was a mark of how being a pro had toughened me that I never took my foot off Tony’s throat in the fourth, and what proved to be the final, set.
Hop and Charlie would have approved. My spikes had allowed me to set myself for effective lobs and I lobbed beautifully that day, whereas Tony was hampered by sneakers that offered him little stability on the slippery grass and in the mud and so he struggled to counteract my shots. There was a tiny blip when I was serving for the set and match at 5-2; I made the old mistake of trying to smash away for a winner a sitter of a forehand volley return from Tony when a workmanlike, no-risk response would have done the trick, and I blew it. My second serve was slower and placed perfectly and Rochey’s forehand return went long. I had won the US Open final 7-9 6-1 6-2 6-2 in 113 minutes.

I ran to the net to greet Tony as the crowd stood and cheered. Right then is when I broke another of my rules. In my euphoria I forgot my dignity and leapt over the net. Even before my feet hit the ground I felt a fool. I had never been a show-off, a gloater who rubs his disappointed opponent’s nose in the mud by celebrating like a lunatic, and this is exactly what I was doing. I remembered how I’d learned my lesson when, as a green and giddy 19-year-old excited by my first victory over a world class player, I hurdled the net when I beat Herbie Flam in Adelaide back in ’57 and caught my foot in it and tripped and sprawled ignominiously flat on my mush on the court. Fortunately this time I cleared the net, but I was ashamed by my showboating and what might have appeared to be a lack of respect for Tony. No, the right thing to do when you win a match, and especially, and especially a hard-fought match, is shake your rival’s hand and say, ‘Tough luck,’ or ‘It’s my shout!’

I had won a second Grand Slam. I was the only player to do so and I had won my Slams seven years apart after being exiled to the wilderness of the professional circuit.
At the post-match press conference I announced my decision to Mary and our new baby first from now on and phase myself out of minor tournaments.

I love tennis – it’s my life. But so is my family.

When the reporters put it to me that winning the US Open was a bigger challenge because of the Grand Slam pressure, Mary’s pregnancy, delays and rain interruptions, soggy courts, the umpire’s microphone breaking down – and not forgetting the calibre of my opponents – I conceded they had a point.

This was probably the toughest competition I’ve played in

Read more:
Rod Laver’s road to the 1969 US Open final

Strasbourg

From May 18 to May 25, the city of Strasbourg will host the 33rd edition of the Internationaux de Strasbourg, the only WTA-level event organized in France. The tournament serves as a warm-up to Roland Garros which is played a week later.
Strasbourg is the perfect city to combine sightseeing and tennis. Check out our Strasbourg travel guide, with infos about the city and the tournament.

And read our Paris and Lille travel guides:

If you have any question or suggestion, drop a comment below.

Nadal, Madrid 2014


The ITF announced last summer a very controversial reform of the Davis Cup. Here’s all you need to know about the new format of the competition and how to buy tickets.

The competition

18 teams will take part to the Davis Cup finals from 18 to 24 November:
– last year’s 4 semi-finalists: Croatia, France, Spain and USA
– 2 wild cards: Great Britain and Argentina
– 12 winners of the qualifiers held in February

The 18 teams will compete in a group stage of six groups of three teams. The six group winners plus the two second-best teams with the best records based on sets won or games won will qualify for the quarter-finals.

Group A: France, Serbia, Japan
Group B: Croatia, Spain, Russia
Group C: Argentina, Germany, Chile
Group D: Belgium, Australia, Colombia
Group E: Great Britain, Kazakhstan, Netherlands
Group F: USA, Italy, Canada

The draw for the quarter-finals was also made:
1. Winner Group A vs Runner-up 1 or 2
2. Winner Group D vs Winner Group F
3. Winner Group E vs Winner Group C
4. Winner Group B vs Runner-up 1 or 2

The two teams with the worst record after the group stage phase of the finals will be relegated to Zone Group action the following year. The 12 teams that finish in 5th to 16th position will compete in the qualifiers next year.

Ties contested at the finals will consist of two singles matches and one doubles match, all played on one day, in the best of three sets. Matches will be played on hard courts.

The venue

Madrid Open Center Court - Caja Magica with retractable roof

The finals will be held at the Caja Mágica, home of the Madrid Masters since 2009. Made completely from iron, wood and glass, it was designed by French architect Dominique Perrault. The name Caja Mágica (Magic box) is due to the resemblance of the sports center with actual boxes, which are dynamic and ever changing.
It houses three tennis clay courts with retractable roofs. The main court, called Manolo Santana, can host 12.500 viewers. Courts 2 – Arantxa Sanchez Vicario stadium – and 3 are equipped with 3.500 and 2.500 seats respectively.

The tickets

Tickets will be on sale from April 9 on daviscupfinals.com. Ticket Box at the venue will open on November 14.

When purchasing an individual ticket, spectators will be able to see one whole tie between two nations, on the chosen court (2 singles and one doubles).

Tickets for the Group stage, played from 18 to 21 November, vary between €25 and €60. Prices vary between €40 and €95 for the quarter-finals, €50 and €120 for the semi-finals and €60 and €150 for the final.

Children between the ages of 0 and 5 do not need to pay a ticket to access the venue, but will need to sit on their parent’s lap. Children between the ages of 6 and 8 will have a special price, as will children between the ages of 9 and 12.

Photo credit: davijeans, JC

France vs Spain Davis Cup semifinal recap

One year after the semi-final against Serbia, deprived of Djokovic, France hosts Spain … deprived of Nadal, injured. Nadal’s absence changes everything and the tie loses a lot of its interest. The French are now the clear favorites to reach the Davis Cup final for the second year in a row, the third time in five years. A feat that hides the catastrophic results of the French players in Grand Slams this year and somehow confirms the supporters of the Davis Cup reform.

Un an après la demie-finale contre la Serbie privée de Djokovic, la France reçoit l’Espagne … privée de Nadal, blessé au genou. Le numéro un mondial absent, cette rencontre perd beaucoup de son intérêt et les Français sont hyper favoris pour atteindre la finale pour la 2ème année consécutive, la 3ème fois en 5 ans. Un exploit qui masque les résultats catastrophiques des Français en Grand Chelem cette année et conforte les partisans de la réforme de la Coupe Davis.
Le fan club officiel de l’équipe de France a troqué samedi le maillot bleu pour un maillot noir, en signe de deuil et d’opposition au nouveau format. Qu’en pensez-vous? Etes vous pour ou contre ce changement?

Here’s the recap of my Davis Cup weekend: