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

Karolina Pliskova, Zhengzhou Open

World number 2 Karolina Pliskova didn’t drop a set all week, defeating Polona Hercog, Sofia Kenin, Ajla Tomljanovic and Petra Martic to win the inaugural edition of the Zhengzhou Open. She had lost to Martic in four of their previous five matches, but this time, she powered past the Croatian 6-3 6-2.

“My goal was to win this tournament…this is the best start to the Asian swing, I don’t think I could have done any better [this week],” said Pliskova.

The victory gives the Czech her tour-leading fourth title of the season (Brisbane, Rome, Eastbourne), her 15th overall. She also secures a fourth consecutive singles qualification at the WTA Finals, the longest active streak.

Read more:
Brisbane 2019: Karolina Pliskova outlasts Lesia Tsurenko

Martina Navratilova and Conchita Martinez

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Conchita Martinez‘s victory at Wimbledon. Back then she was an underrated champion. She is now a respected and successful commentator and coach. Let’s go back in time…

By Diane Pucin, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
POSTED: November 06, 1994

Conchita Martinez seems such a lonely champion. She will walk around the streets of Philadelphia this week, and no one will stop. No one will point. No one will ask for an autograph or try to snap a surreptitious picture.

Martinez will earn polite applause on the tennis court, perhaps. Her game is efficient, but not spectacular, and the crowd will give its emotions to Jennifer Capriati and the start of her public comeback, or to the extroverted Mary Pierce, whose life has been filled with trauma and family misery, or to Gabriela Sabatini, the sweet, smiling woman who is the perpetual and beloved underdog.

The Virginia Slims of Philadelphia tennis tournament will start tomorrow at the Convention Center. Martinez will be the No. 1 seed and the defending champion. She will be the reigning Wimbledon champion. She will be anonymous.

This is always how it’s been for Martinez.

Once she was a frisky 5-year-old in Monzon, Spain, a town of 16,000 people, an hour and a half from Barcelona. Martinez saw her father and her brother play friendly games of tennis, so she asked for a racket, and she got one.

Martinez fell in love. She was talented, too, but there weren’t many people in Monzon who played tennis, so she hit the ball against a wall hour after hour, and the wall always cooperated: The wall always sent the ball back.

This was when tennis was perfect for Martinez, private and quiet. Except people saw Martinez, saw that her forehand was sharp and heavy, seemingly able to chop down trees. Martinez was tagged as promising and told she should go away to Barcelona all week, to a special school, away from her family, her two older brothers, and mother and father.

Martinez did this.

And she was lonely.

And she was determined.

Now she is a champion, a champion who treasures a few close friendships, her music, her motorcycle and her anonymity.

Martinez’s tennis coach is Eric van Harpen, a loud, exuberant man who discovered her when she was 15 years old and persuaded her to move to Switzerland. He prods her, pokes her, screams and yells, and will tell anybody who asks about Martinez’s failings. But van Harpen is also fiercely protective. He is insulted that Martinez isn’t always recognized for her talent and her accomplishments.

At home, in Spain, Martinez is always in the shadow of Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, who plays tennis with a smile and a giggle and who makes friends easily.

Away from home, Martinez is just ignored. She isn’t No. 1 like Steffi Graf, the imperious queen who never smiles, but who is a graceful, unbeatable athlete, so good that she can’t be ignored. Martinez isn’t the elder stateswoman like Martina Navratilova, and doesn’t have the troubles of Capriati or Pierce. Martinez is just the person who always seems to be in the semifinals.

“For sure, she is overlooked,” van Harpen said. “For sure, she doesn’t like this. Even in Spain. She is not the people’s darling. It is bad luck a little that Conchita is behind Arantxa, but Conchita should deserve more recognition for what she has accomplished.”

Martinez is a Wimbledon champion, for goodness’ sakes. That should guarantee a certain dollop of fame. But it was Martinez’s destiny to win her first Grand Slam tournament at the Wimbledon that will go down in history as belonging to Navratilova. Navratilova, a nine-time champion, made a fabulous run to the final. Thirty-eight years old and on the verge of retirement, she played three taut sets with Martinez. Then Navratilova lost and cried and plucked a piece of grass to keep forever, and Martinez was in the background again, just a prop with a big trophy.

“It would be nice at Wimbledon, I think, if the crowds had cheered maybe a little more for the winner and a little less for Navratilova,” van Harpen said.

Martinez wouldn’t say that. The people at Wimbledon treated her very well, Martinez said, and Wimbledon was very wonderful, even for that nervous moment when Martinez had to curtsy in front of Princess Di before the match.

Martinez beat Navratilova, and that wasn’t the popular result. This did not result in immediate fame or any more fortune: no endorsements, none. That’s what Martinez said, and she didn’t sound angry or disappointed. This is normal.

It bothers van Harpen. But about this, van Harpen can do nothing. About Martinez owning only this one Grand Slam title so far, even though she is 22 years old and a pro for almost seven years, about that, van Harpen would like to do something.

Van Harpen thinks Martinez could be the best, better than Graf or Sanchez, who are ranked Nos. 1 and 2. He posed this question:

“What would be easier, for Graf to get the topspin backhand that she needs, and has been working on forever, which Conchita has? Or for Arantxa to get the forehand like Conchita? Or for Conchita to get the legs that Steffi and Arantxa have?”

This is the answer van Harpen wants. He wants Martinez to get the legs. He means by this that he wants Martinez to get in shape. Van Harpen thinks Martinez could be much fitter, and that, if she got much fitter, she would be No. 1.

When van Harpen first saw Martinez as a kid, he took a breath of shock. He saw a little, untrained girl who could think out a match, play the angles, plan the points. He taught this little girl a one-handed backhand, and he helped the little girl keep pummeling the other little girls with the heavy forehand. Now he wants the little girl to grow up and be No. 1.

“Of course, I want it,” Martinez said. She sounded angry for a moment when asked if she, really, truly, wants to be No. 1. “Of course, I do,” she said. “I am working with a trainer. I want to be No. 1, but it’s not so easy.”

It is not easy. And even if she does become No. 1, will that make Martinez popular? Will she be on Letterman, like Arantxa and Steffi and Martina? Will she be on magazine covers or in television commercials or billboards?

These are questions to be asked, but it is too late. Martinez must go. She has talked enough, and the phone clicks before you can even say thank you.

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.

Belinda Bencic, Dubai 2019

Junior number one and Wimbledon junior champion in 2013, Belinda Bencic was seen by some as the next big thing in women’s tennis. And everything went as according to plan: she reached the top 50 and the quarterfinals of the 2014 US Open, aged 17. She then went on to claim her maiden title in Eastbourne, defeating Agnieszka Radwanska, and her first Premier 5 title in Toronto, defeating Serena Williams in the semifinals and Simona Halep in the championship match.
And then? Not much, despite an entry to the top 10 in 2016. Injuries followed injuries and her ranking subsequently dropped to number 199 in 2017. Her results slowly improved and this week, ranked 45, she captured her third title, her second Premier 5. On her way to victory, she defeated 4 top 10 players: number 9 Aryna Sabalenka (saving six match points), number 2 Simona Halep, number 6 and two-time defending champion Elina Svitolina, and number 4 Kvitova in the final.
Let’s hope for her she’s definitely back on track, after all she’s only 21.

Her opponent in the final, Petra Kvitova continues her impressive comeback, two years after the assault she suffered. Winner in Sydney, runner-up at the Australian Open, she defeated Katerina Siniakova, Jennifer Brady, Viktoria Kuzmova and Hsieh Su-wei en route to her third final of the year.

Petra Kvitova and Belinda Bencic, Dubai 2019

Photo credit: Marianne Bevis