HomeSportsAt Wimbledon, the human eye keeps dropping the ball - UnlistedNews

At Wimbledon, the human eye keeps dropping the ball – UnlistedNews

Andy Murray was a victim.

Bianca Andreescu was too.

Jiri Lehecka had to play a fifth set and essentially win his third round match twice.

Hawk-Eye Live, an electronic line-call system, could have saved the players their set, even their match, but Wimbledon does not use it to its fullest, preferring a more traditional approach. The rest of the year on the professional tours, many tournaments are purely technology-based, allowing players to know with almost certainty if their ball lands in or out because the computer always makes the decision.

But when the players come to the All England Club for what is billed as the biggest tournament of the year, their fates are largely determined by the linesmen who trust their eyesight. Even more frustrating, because Wimbledon and its television partners have access to technology, which players can use to challenge a limited number of calls each match, everyone watching the broadcast sees in real time whether a ball is in or out. . The people for whom the information is most important (the players and the chair umpire, who oversees the match) must trust the linesman.

When the human eye is judging serves that travel around 120 mph and forehand rallies at over 80 mph, errors are likely to occur.

“When you make mistakes at important moments, obviously as a player you don’t want that,” said Murray, who could have won his second-round match against Stefanos Tsitsipas in the fourth set, if the computers had been drawing the line. calls Murray’s backhand return was disallowed, despite replays showing the ball was inside. He ended up losing in five sets.

No tennis tournament clings to its traditions like Wimbledon does. Tennis on grass court. Matches on Center Court start later than anywhere else, and after those in the Royal Box have had lunch. There are no lights for outdoor tennis. An hour long queue for last minute tickets.

Those traditions have no effect on the outcome of matches from one point to another. But keeping linesmen on the pitch, after technology proved more reliable, has been affecting, perhaps even changing, key matches seemingly every other day.

To understand why that happens, it’s important to understand how tennis ended up with different judging rules at its tournaments.

Before the early 2000s, tennis, like baseball, basketball, hockey and other sports, relied on human referees to make decisions, many of which were wrong, according to John McEnroe (and almost every other tennis player). ). McEnroe’s most infamous collapse occurred at Wimbledon in 1981, triggered by an incorrect line call.

“I would have loved to have Hawk-Eye,” said Mats Wilander, the seven-time Grand Slam singles champion and a star in the 1980s.

But then tennis started experimenting with the Hawk-Eye Live judging system. Cameras capture the bounce of each ball from multiple angles, and computers analyze the images to represent the ball’s trajectory and points of impact with just a microscopic margin of error. The linesmen remained as backup, but players were given three chances in each set to challenge a lines call, and an additional challenge when a set went to a tiebreak.

That forced players to try to figure out when to risk using a challenge they might need at a more crucial point later in the set.

“It’s too much,” Wilander said. “I can’t imagine doing that calculation, standing there, thinking if a shot felt right, how many challenges I have left, how late on set it is.”

Even Roger Federer, who was good at almost every aspect of tennis, was famous for his lousy performance in challenges.

Before long, tennis officials began to consider a fully electronic line calling system. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, tournaments were looking for ways to limit the number of people on the tennis court.

Craig Tiley, chief executive of Tennis Australia, said the adoption of electronic calls in 2021 was also part of the “culture of innovation” at the Australian Open. The players liked it. So did the fans, Tiley said, because the games moved faster.

Last year the US Open switched to fully electronic line calls. There is an ongoing debate as to whether the raised lines on clay courts would prevent the technology from providing the same accuracy as on grass and hard courts. At the French Open and other clay-court tournaments, the ball leaves a mark that referees often inspect.

In 2022, the men’s ATP Tour featured 21 all-electronic dial-in tournaments, including stops in Indian Wells, California; Gardens of Miami, Florida; Canada; and Washington, DC All of those sites also have women’s WTA tournaments. All ATP tournaments will use it from 2025.

“The question is not whether it’s 100 percent correct, but whether it’s better than a human, and it’s definitely better than a human,” said Mark Ein, owner of the Citi Open in Washington, DC.

An All England Club spokesman said on Sunday that Wimbledon has no plans to remove its linesmen.

“After the tournament we look at everything we do, but right now we have no plans to change the system,” Dominic Foster said.

On Saturday, Andreescu became the victim of human error. Andreescu, the 2019 Canadian US Open champion, has been delving deeper into Grand Slam tournaments after years of injuries.

With the end of his match against Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur in sight, Andreescu was reluctant to call for an electronic intervention on a crucial shot that the linesman had signaled. From the other side of the net, Jabeur, who had been close to the ball when he went down, advised Andreescu not to waste one of his three challenges for the set, saying the ball was effectively out. The match continued, though not before viewers saw the computerized replay showing the ball landing on the line.

“I trust Ons,” Andreescu said after Jabeur came back to beat her in three sets, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Andreescu explained that he was thinking of his previous match, a marathon three-setter decided by a final-set tiebreaker, during which he said he “wasted” several challenges.

Against Jabeur, he thought, I’m going to keep it, just in case.

Bad idea. Jabeur won that game, and the set, and then the match.

In Court No. 12, the challenge system was causing another type of confusion. Lehecka had a match point against Tommy Paul when he raised his hand to challenge a call after returning a shot from Paul that had landed on the line. His challenge request came just as Paul fired the next shot into the net.

The point was repeated. Paul won it, and then the set moments later, forcing a deciding set. Lehecka won, but had to race for another half hour. Venus Williams lost a match point in her first round match in another tricky sequence involving a challenge.

Leylah Fernandez, a two-time Grand Slam finalist from Canada, said she likes the linesman tradition at Wimbledon as the world gives in more to technology.

Then again, he added, if “it cost me a match, it probably would have been a different answer.”

That’s where Murray, the two-time Wimbledon champion, found himself after his loss on Friday afternoon. When he arrived at his press conference, he learned that his slow, sharply angled backhand that landed just yards from the umpire had cut the line.

The point would have given him two chances to break Tsitsipas’ serve and end the match. When they told him the shot had gone in, his eyes widened, then fell to the ground.

Murray now knew what everyone else had seen.

The ball had landed under the referee’s nose, who upheld the call, Murray said. He couldn’t imagine how anyone could have missed it. In fact, he likes having linesmen, he added. Maybe it was his fault for not using a dare.

“In the end,” she said, “the referee made a bad call that was right in front of her.”


Sara Marcus
Sara Marcus
Meet Sara Marcus, our newest addition to the Unlisted News team! Sara is a talented author and cultural critic, whose work has appeared in a variety of publications. Sara's writing style is characterized by its incisiveness and thought-provoking nature, and her insightful commentary on music, politics, and social justice is sure to captivate our readers. We are thrilled to have her join our team and look forward to sharing her work with our readers.


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