The beauty of the hawk-eye challenge system

About a decade ago, the International Tennis Federation deemed hawk-eye suitable for professional tennis use and we have seen this technology applied to other sports for e.g. cricket and association football. Not unexpectedly, this system does have its critics, most notably Roger Federer. For those that don’t remember, Federer famously asked umpire Carlos Ramos in the Wimbledon 2007 final to have the system turned off after a call that was deemed out was reversed upon Nadal’s challenge.

But hawk-eye does have many positives. Chair umpires have the support of such a system that would help justify the decisions they make on court and in turn, they have become better umpires. It does make me wonder how tennis would of been like if hawk-eye were around during the times of John McEnroe. The crowd reception has generally between positive to the hawk-eye challenge system, which helps them to engage and builds the widely felt suspense during a line call.

Over the years, we have seen many players use hawk-eye to their own advantage along with the occasional controversy. A match that springs to mind is the epic five setter Andy Roddick played against Fernando Gonzalez at the 2010 Australian Open.

© DEMURY

Gonzalez was leading two sets to one with the match clearly going his way until a crucial moment in the fourth set changed everything. The retired Chilean was down set point and stopped mid rally to a Roddick forehand that he judged to be out. Upon Roddick challenging, the ball was judged to be in and the American was awarded the set. Despite Gonzalez’s protests, the umpire made the right decision in that Gonzalez had stopped and then the line judge called out.

Hawk-eye has proven that it does work both ways and you don’t just have to challenge when a ball is called out that you judge to be in. Take for instance, Andy Roddick challenging to fault his serve.

© Firas Bayram

Roddick didn’t react after Monfils’ return and correctly challenged his serve to be out even though it was called in. Not something that the crowd would expect but its definitely a thrill. Talk has already turned as to whether lines people and umpires are even required with such a system in place. John McEnroe has certainly made it clear that he would like to see such a change as it would broaden tennis appeal. Unfortunately, it is still early days and such a move would be premature and damaging to the game. Umpires are there to restore law and order and to provide a personal view not a biased view as to whether a ball is in or out. I’m all for the status quo and a strong believer that tennis would not be where it is today without hawk-eye.

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