Technology in sports is witnessing an increased usage. Tennis too is not different from that. How the technology has been impacting the game.
The Australian Open this year did not only see a lesser number of spectators in the stands, but also no line judges on the courts.
Line calls have been at the centre of many a tennis conflagration, from John McEnroe’s “You cannot be serious” rant at Wimbledon in 1981 to Martina Hingis’ meltdown in 1999 French Open final.
Novak Djokovic, the top men’s player in the sport, was sensationally disqualified from last year’s US Open when he struck a loose ball that accidentally hit a lineswoman in the throat.
But all these look to be history now.
The coronavirus pandemic has prompted major changes in work patterns all over the world with most offices working with a skeleton staff. The situation also saw greater dependence on technology and sports too has been engulfed by newer features.
The year’s first tennis Grand Slam event thus saw human judges being replaced by ball-tracking cameras to reduce the number of people on-site at Melbourne Park.
Cameras are set up along each line which automatically announces their decisions in real-time, with a recorded human voice calling “out”, “fault” and “foot fault”.
In a unique way, the electronic calls feature pre-recorded voices of Australia’s front-line workers in the country’s pandemic response such as firefighters and other emergency response personnel.
Interestingly the new system received thumbs up from a number of players contrary to those who argue about the negation of human elements in sports.
Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka were among the players to give their seal of approval to the electronic system.
“I’m loving it here, so… I just needed to adapt, and now I’m adapted to it. I think it’s for the best,” Serena said.
“I feel like, for me, it saves me the trouble of attempting to challenge our thinking, ‘Did they call it correctly or not,” said champion Osaka. “It actually gets me really focused. I don’t mind it at all.”
Men’s champion Djokovic too agreed.
“I don’t see a reason why we need the line umpires, to be honest if we have technology like this,” he said. “I would of course keep the ball kids, but line calls – I’m in favour of this technology.”
US Open champion Dominic Thiem was another supporter, saying he found it easier with no scope for human error.
“No offense at all, but there are just no mistakes happening, and that’s really good in my opinion because if the electronic call’s out, the ball is out, so there’s no room for mistakes at all,” Thiem said.
However, Canadian Milos Raonic felt it will deprive line judges of gaining big-match experience, which could impact grassroots tennis.
“You need that for lower levels of tennis, at junior events, not necessarily being line judges but people that can organise the events, that can supervise the events, make sure they’re going the right way,” he said.
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(Archie Little has been a sports journalist for over a decade now. He has worked with leading media houses of India like The Indian Express, Hindustan Times, and The Times of India. He has done talk shows on All India Radio and has travelled to different parts of the world on work assignments.)
(Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Autofintechs.com. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.)