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

Daniil Medvedev


18 Grand Slam titles vs 0, 83 career titles vs 5. This US Open final looks one-sided but nonetheless appetizing as Daniil Medvedev has been on fire lately reaching his fourth consecutive final. He’s also the player with most wins on hard courts this season. Will he be the first NextGen player to claim a Grand Slam?

Medvedev’s road to the final

Medvedev only faced one-seeded player en route to the final: Stan Wawrinka in the quarterfinals. But it was all but an easy road for the Russian:
– he overcame severe cramping late in his second round match against Dellien
– he was booed by the crowd at every opportunity after giving them the middle finger in his third round match against Feliciano Lopez
– he lost the opening set to qualifier Dominik Koepfer in the fourth round
– he was booed again in his match against Wawrinka

Round Opponent Score
R1 Prajnesh Gunneswaran 6-4 6-1 6-2
R2 Hugo Dellien 6-3 7-5 5-7 6-3
R3 Feliciano Lopez 7-6 4-6 7-6 6-4
R4 Dominik Koepfer 3-6 6-3 6-2 7-6
QF Stan Wawrinka [23] 7-6 6-3 3-6 6-1
SF Grigor Dimitrov 7-6 6-4 6-3
Nadal’s road to the final

Nadal only lost one set en route to his 27th Grand Slam final, to Marin Cilic in the fourth round, who at times looked like the player who triumphed here, back in 2014.

Round Opponent Score
R1 John Millman 6-3 6-2 6-2
R2 Thanasi Kokkinakis WO
R3 Hyeon Chung 6-3 6-4 6-2
R4 Marin Cilic [22] 6-3 3-6 6-1 6-2
QF Diego Schwartzman [20] 6-4 7-5 6-2
SF Matteo Berrettini [24] 7-6 6-4 6-1

Nadal will be the huge favorite to claim his fourth US Open title but everything can happen with the unpredictable Russian. He could follow the footsteps of Bianca Andreescu who stunned Serena Williams yesterday…

Rafael Nadal, 2010 US Open

Back in 2010, Nadal was the man to beat. After his victories in Roland Garros and Wimbledon, he defeated Novak Djokovic to claim his first US Open trophy and complete a Golden career Grand Slam.

From Rafa’s autobiography, Rafa:

The secret lies in being able to do what you know you can do when you most need it. Djokovic is a fantastic player, but in a Grand Slam final, decided over the best of five sets, nerves and stamina count as much as talent. Any doubts I might have had before the match began had been dispelled by my performance in the first two sets. As for the stress of a US Open final, I’d won eight Grand Slams to his one, and that gave me the confidence of knowing that I could take it on at least as well as he. Another thing going for me was that his track record showed that he flagged physically in longer matches. He had never beaten me in a best-of-five match. He was, it was true, a player who have dazzling moments, but I was playing steadily, the diesel engine was purring. I sensed that if I won the third set, he’d be left feeling as if he had a mountain to climb.

But he got right into his groove at the start of the third set, picking up where he had left off at the end of the second. The match could not have been more evenly balanced at this point, with the tide, if anything, shifting slightly his way. I shot a glance at my team and family, who were all sitting together in a clump to my left. Toni, Carlos, Titin, my father, and Tuts, and behind them my mother, my sister and Maria Francisca, who looked especially nervous. This was only the second time she’d come to watch me play a Grand Slam final. Usually she watches at home, alone, as she did during Wimbledon in 2008, or with her parents. If it all gets too much for her, she’s confessed to me, she changes channels for a while or leaves the room. This time, in New York, she said she had to resist the urge at times to get up and leave. Right now was the moment in the match where her resolve was most tested.

Maria Francisca has played tennis and understood as well as I did that the rain break had given Djokovic a boost. He showed it in the first point of the set, playing it impeccably, pulling me wide to the left and finishing it off with an electric backhand winner down the line to my right. He repeated the trick, with a deeper shot, after a longer rally on the second point. Too good.

I took it well. Some players explode with anger when their opponent is dominating them. But there’s no point. It can only do you harm. You just have to think, “I can’t do anything about this, so why worry?” He was taking a lot of risks and they were paying off, for now, but I was managing to play at the level of intensity I wanted, hitting the ball hard and deep without taking risks, leaving myself more margin for error. “If I can’t come back on the next point, I will on the one after that.”
Not in this game, though. He won it, handing just the one point with a rather inexplicable double-fault – he seemed to want to go for a second-serve ace. OK. So it goes. Bad luck. He was ahead, and I’d have to play catch-up on my serve, maybe for a long time.

The next game was a critically important one for me to win. He’d won the previous three, if you included the last two of the second set, and I had to stop him in his tracks or risk being overrun. I played the first point intelligently, playing the ball high. If you hit it low or medium height to Djokovic, especially when his line of vision is as sharp as it was now, he strikes the ball perfectly. But if he receives the ball at shoulder height, you make him uncomfortable, you make him guess, put him off his stride. This was how I went 15-love up. Not by hitting a winner, but by bludgeoning him into making an un uncharacteristic mistake. That gave me confidence to up my game, take a risk, and win the next point with a deep forehand to the corner. He nodded, as if to say, “There was nothing I could do about that.” I don’t do that. I don’t do that. I don’t show my appreciation of an opponent’s better shots. Not because I am impolite but because it would be too dangerous a departure from my match script. But his attitude was the correct one: bow before the inevitable and move on.
I won the game without dropping a point and then, in an unexpected early bonus, broke his serve to go 2-1 up after playing one of my best shots of the match, a cross-court backhand on the run from two meters behind the base line. 

Feeling psychologically at my strongest in the match so far, I felt I was beginning to edge ahead in the mental battle. In our past encounters Djokovic had shown a tendency to grow frustrated as the game progressed when he saw he had to push himself to the limit on every point. He also tended to tire more quickly than I do. That’s what I had in the back of my mind. In the front, I was only thinking of the next point. (…)

He was battling to hold his serve; I was winning mine comfortably – as I did now, at love, to go 4-2 up. Another chance to break him and what felt like another thousand game points to me, but again I failed to make the decisive breakthrough. I was playing better, undoubtedly, and he was on the ropes – but holding on. We each held serve the next two games, and I found myself serving at 5-4 for the set. 
Now I became nervous. It is when victory appears to be in sight that I so often seem to suffer an attack of vertigo. If I won the game and I went two sets to one up, I’d be two thirds of the way to winning my fourth Grand Slam. Djokovic would then have to win the next two sets, and he could see that I wouldn’t be giving him an inch. Much as I tried to banish the thought entirely from my mind, there it lurked, inhibiting me. That was why it was important to keep playing safe, sticking more than ever to my natural defensive game, hoping his nerves would be more frayed than mine. 
We started out the game with two very long rallies, more than twenty shots each. I won the first one when he hit the ball long; he, the second, with a terrific forehand winner. It was fifteen all and I felt the tension rise, yet I remained just about composed enough to register that, satisfied as he might have been at having won the point so well, he also grasped he’d have to dig very deep to get the upper hand against me. 
I lost the next point with a reckless forehand but bounced back to 30-30 with a great serve high and wide. Typically, I would have played safe on the serve. I’d have concentrated on getting the first one in, sparing myself the prospect of handing him the possible gift of a hesitant second serve. But I’d never been more confident in my serve than in this tournament, and I felt the moment had come to go for broke. It was the correct decision. My next serve was an ace, which gave me set point, and the one after that was just as good – wide, hard, and unreturnable on his backhand side. I had won the set 6-4.

Here was crystal clear vindication of the philosophy of hard work that had guided me in my twenty years of tennis life. here was compelling cause-and-effect evidence that the will to in and the will to prepare are one and the same. I had worked long and hard before the US Open on my serve. And here it was, paying off when I most needed it, saving me at just the moment when my nerves threatened to undermine the rest of my game. I was on the brink of something truly great.
The fact that I got to this point was the culmination of long years of sacrifice and dedication, all based on the unbreakable premise that there are no shortcuts to sustained success. You can’t cheat in elite sports. Talent enough won’t get you through. That’s just the first building block, on top of which you must pile relentlessly repetitive work in the gym, work on the courts, work studying videos of yourself and your opponents in action, always striving to get fitter, better, cleverer. I made a choice to become a professional tennis player, and the result of that choice could only be unflagging discipline and a continual desire to improve. (…)

Novak Djokovic is one of the contemporary greats, no doubt about it, but, with darkness falling in New York, I was beating him two sets to one. It was nine fifteen when he served at the start of the fourth set. He was playing well, but I was playing very well. I knew he had to be feeling under a lot of strain, having been obliged to play from behind right from the start, at no point finding himself in the lead in the match. And now he was falling further behind. If I went ahead in this set, it was going to be very hard for him mentally. The pressure was on me too, but I had sufficient experience of Grand Slam finals to be confident my game would hold up.

At 1-1, on his serve, I smelled blood. The momentum had been with me since the beginning of the third set, and I was not going to let it go. My legs were fresh and I felt a surge of confidence. He, on the other hand, was tiring in both mind and body, and it showed in the first two points of the game, which he lost badly, with the lamest shots. his first serve kept working, throwing him a lifeline, but after I ripped a forehand winner past his defenses, he surrendered the game at thirty. I had my break and I served to go 3-1 up. (…)

I didn’t have to push myself as hard as I’d expected to break Djokovic’s serve a second time. He failed a forehand on the first point, hitting it long, and I hammered home the advantage by winning the next one with a forehand drive that caught him way out of position. Then he doubled faulted to go 0-40 down. I missed my first chance, looping a forehand long, but then surrendered the match, yelling in despair after he mishit a simple forehand into the net. I was winning 4-1 two sets to one up and about to serve. (…)

Serving for the match at 5-2, the nerves returned. They are always there. As difficult to conquer as your opponent across the net, and, like your opponent, sometimes they are up, sometimes they are down. Right now they were the biggest remaining obstacle between me and victory. I looked up at my corner, saw the old familiar faces, elated, shouting encouragement. Inside I wanted so much to win this for them, for all of us, but my face – a good face – betrayed nothing. 
The nerves were getting to everybody. Djokovic hit his return of serve long on the first point, and then the line judge declared one of his balls out that had clearly hit the line. We had to replay the point. Everything was life-and-death now, and this changed call was a blow. I had to put it out of my mind immediately and keep reminding myself to play steadily, nothing clever, give him plenty of room to make mistakes.
On the second point he went for another drop. This time I did tun for it, and made it. He reached the volley, and I, my nose almost touching the net, volleyed the ball right back to win the point, 30-0. The crowd, unable to stay quiet during this point, as in many previous points, went nuts – Toni more so than anyone. I looked up and saw him over to my left. He was on his feet, fists clenched, trying not to cry. I did cry. With the towel I wiped the tears away from my eyes. Through the blur, I saw it; I saw victory now. I knew I shouldn’t, but I did.
Not quite yet, though. He got a lucky net cord on the next point, and the ball dribbled over my side of the net. Inwardly, I cursed. I could have been 40-0 up and in a position to play the next point calmly, knowing it was all over. Instead, more stress. And then he made it to thirty all after I hurried my shot, missing an attempt at a forehand winner. My heart was racing, nerves battling with elation. Just two more points and I’d make it. I tried hard to stay focused, saying to myself, “Play easy, no risks, just keep the ball in.”
This time I followed my script. The rally was a long one, fifteen shots. We exchanged a dozen hard baseline punches, and then he came to the net behind a deep drive to my backhand corner. This time it was me who got a touch of luck. The ball skimmed the top of the net, and as he managed to stab it back over, I ran diagonally across the court and scooped up the forehand. He was expecting me to hit cross-court. Instead, I went down the line, and the ball, heavy with topspin, looped in. Djokovic couldn’t believe it. He issued a challenge; he was wrong. The screen showed the ball had gone in, by a millimeter, brushing the outside of the baseline. Djokovic crouched down and bowed his head, the image of defeat. Toni, Titin, and my father clenched their fists, screaming “Vamos!” Tuts, my mother and my sister applauded, laughing with joy. Maria Francisca had her hands on her head, as if not believing what seemed to be about to happen. 
Match point. Championship point. Everything point. I glanced up at my team, as if imploring them to give me courage, seeking from them some measure of calm. Fighting back tears again, I served. Wide to the backhand, as instructed. The rally lasted six shots. On the sixth he hit the ball wide, well wide, and out. My legs buckled and I fell to the ground before the ball had even landed and  I stayed there, facedown, sobbing, my body shaking.

For all the passion and work I had invested for so long in trying to make myself as good a tennis player as I could be, this was truly something I had never imagined. As I held the US Open trophy and the cameras flashed and the crowd roared, I understood that I had made the impossible possible. I was, for that brief moment, on top of the world.

Bianca Andreescu, 2019 US Open

Turning back the clock … 20 years after her first US Open title, Serena is in final again. She’ll face 19-yr old Canadian Bianca Andreescu, who’s chasing her first Slam title. Let’s have a look at both players road to the final:

Bianca Andreescu’s road to the final

She finished 2018 ranked world number 178, and now it seems she can’t stop winning, as she will be make her entry to the top 10 on Monday. She had a breakout tournament at Indian Wells, defeating Muguruza, Svitolina and Kerber en route to her maiden WTA title. She then reached the fourth round in Miami, but missed most of the clay and grass court seasons due to a shoulder injury. She came back at the Canadian Open in Toronto, and became the first Canadian woman to win the event Faye Urban in 1969.

Round Opponent Score
R1 Katie Volynets 6-2 6-4
R2 Kirsten Flipkens 6-3 7-5
R3 Caroline Wozniacki 6-4 6-4
R4 Taylor Townsend 6-1 4-6 6-2
QF Elise Mertens 3-6 6-2 6-3
SF Belinda Bencic 7-6 7-5

Playing her first US Open, she’s had the best debut since Venus Williams in 1997.
Bianca cruised through the first three rounds without dropping a set, but had to work hard to get past Taylor Townsend and Elise Mertens in the next rounds. She saved a set point and rallied from two breaks down, winning five straight games to defeat Belinda Bencic in the semifinals.

“I’ve always dreamt of this moment ever since I was a little kid. But I don’t think many people would have actually thought that it would become a reality.”

Serena Williams’ road to the final

Serena has won no title so far this year: she reached the Wimbledon final but was dispatched by Simona Halep 2-6 2-6, and a month later, facing Bianca Andreescu in the final of the Canadian Open, she was forced to retire due to back spasms.

Round Opponent Score
R1 Maria Sharapova 6-1 6-1
R2 Caty McNally 5-7 6-3 6-1
R3 Karolina Muchova 6-3 6-2
R4 Petra Martic 6-3 6-4
QF Qiang Wang 6-1 6-0
SF Elina Svitolina 6-3 6-1

Serena only dropped a set – to 17 yr old McNally – en route to a record 10th Open final. She’s been particularly impressive in her last two rounds, as she dismantled Wang and Svitolina in the quarters and semifinals respectively.
Her victory over the Ukrainian was her 101st win here, tying Chris Evert.

“I think when I first started, you could win a lot of easy matches, then you’re in the quarterfinals, that’s when it starts to get a little more tough. Now, like, there’s no easy match. Everyone’s playing great. Everyone’s just doing a lot better.”

So, who do you think will win this clash of generations? Will it be a record-tying 24th Slam for Serena or a 1st for Bianca?

Read more:
1999 US Open: first Grand Slam title for Serena Williams
2001 US Open: Venus defeats sister Serena
2014 US Open: 18th Grand Slam title for Serena

Nadal 2019 US Open shoes

Rafa‘s shoe of choice at this year’s US Open is the NikeCourt Zoom Cage 3 in black and bright violet. Nadal’s shoes and outfit are available on nike.com.

Read more:
2019 US Open: Rafael Nadal outfit
Birthplace of dreams: Rafael Nadal