Lines Judges Face An Uncertain Future As Technology Aims To Takeover
The Wimbledon Championships is a tournament that prides itself on tradition. Ironically, it is during this year’s tournament where a motion to potentially replace lines judges with a computer system gets its first hearing.
In a recent article published by the New York Times, the governing body of men’s tennis is set to look into the introduction of Hawk-Eye Live in events. Currently, both the men’s and women’s tour use Hawk-Eye as a secondary system for officials. Players can challenge calls made using the system. Under the proposals, a more complexed version will take it to the next level.
Hawk-Eye Live was born in 2016 after the ATP investigated the possibility of having a system that would make live calls. It was first tested at the ATP Tour finals that year in what was described as a ‘blind test.’ Following on from that, they also held tests in Indian Wells and Miami.
“We then had our final test at Cincinnati where the system came together and after that test, the approval came from the ATP.” Hawk-Eye’s head of tennis, Sam Green, told Sportspro Media in November.
Green believes the introduction of Hawk-Eye Live would be a win-win for players. He claims that it will avoid arguments between players and officials over certain calls. Although, traditionalists might be concerned about this. John McEnroe’s famous ‘you cannot be serious’ outburst remains one of the best remembered incidents in tennis.
“I think from a players’ perspective, we think that we’re delivering a system which is going to help them because they’re getting the most accurate calls all the time.” Green claims.
“So rather than disagreeing with a line judge’s decision and then looking to challenge and therefore get the correct call, as per the technology, they’re getting that every time.
“It takes away the concern from the players as to whether or not they need to challenge, whether or not they should conserve challenges because they’re not sure, and allows them to concentrate on just playing the game.”
The Milan Test
The inaugural Next Gen Finals in Milan were the first to trial matches without linespeople. It was part of a series of new rules trailed by the ATP. Russia’s Daniil Medvedev was one of the first to give a cautious approval of the system.
“I really liked it,” Medvedev said of the electronic line calling. “It was very fun for me, and, it’s something new and fresh. Especially at the end of the season, when you are tired, for me it was really cool to play with these rules.”
Karen Khachanov was another player to support the concept, but believes the sounds should be recordings of the match umpire.
“I think it’s better that all umpires record their voices,” Khachanov said. “You hear the same voice, looks like he’s calling the outs. But this is definitely a good thing.”
For the foreseeable future lines judges will remain on the court in professional tennis, but with the growing popularity concerning technology. In ten years time they could disappear from the main stage of tennis.