( Photo credit: Art Seitz ©2009 )
""It's not a question of the technology. It's
about how smart you are about using the capabilities."
- Charles Lurio, space exploration historian
Paul Hawkins, the British inventor of the revolutionary Hawk-Eye
electronic line-calling technology, echoed those telling words
in The Times when he advised the ATP and WTA Tours: "You've
chosen this route, now just be careful how you use it."
Nearly 26 years after an electronic eye was introduced at Wimbledon
for service calls, Hawk-Eye made its eagerly awaited debut at
the Nasdaq-100 Open on March 22. Hawk-Eye's precision, reliability
and speed drew rave reviews.
One wonders why Pro Tennis waited so long: studies have confirmed
that the human eye cannot accurately and consistently tell whether
typical pro shots, let alone Andy Roddick's 155-mph-record serve
and Dmitry Tursunov's 114-mph forehand, land barely on or outside
That fact, which television viewers have witnessed with instant
replay for years, was confirmed again at Nasdaq when 33 percent
of the line calls (53 of 161) that were challenged by players
Unless technology comes to the officiating rescue, as it has
in so many other sports, pro tennis will tarnish its integrity
and lose its credibility. Thus the nearly unanimous consensus:
the devil may be in the details, but there is no turning back.
Those devilish details, though, stirred up a hornet's nest of
controversy during the Nasdaq-100.
"In my 20 years in professional tennis, this is one of
the most exciting things to happen for players, fans and television
viewers," enthused Andre Agassi.
Fiercely opposing the innovation, Marat Safin told the Orange
County Register: "I am totally against it. I think it will
destroy the game. It will slow it down, lose the momentum and
the motion of the game. Who was this genius who came up with this
stupid idea? Who approved it? They are looking for solutions on
how to save the game, and this is not it."
Most of the controversy, however, is not about the Hawk-Eye
system itself. Electronic line calls are to be used according
to a new set of rules, jointly proposed by the USTA, ATP and WTA,
and innocuously called the "player challenge system."
According to this system, Player Challenges to line calls would
need to follow six rules:
- Each player receives two challenges per set to review line
- If the player is correct with a challenge, then the player
retains the same number of challenges.
- If the player is incorrect with a challenge, then one of the
challenges is lost.
- During a tiebreaker game in any set, each player will receive
one additional challenge.
- Challenges may not be carried over from one set to another.
- Challenges can be made only on the last shot of a rally.