The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) made the decision to eliminate human line officials for all hard court Masters 1000 events that will take place this year and instead make use of the Hawk-Eye live systems technology. The Australian Open is the first big tournament that is featuring this technology and things have not gone smoothly.
The Hawk-Eye live systems utilizes 10 cameras to make instantaneous calls about balls that are long or wide. The decision to replace human officials with the technology was driven in part by Covid-19 protocols. However, not all players are happy with the technology with some calling foul over inaccuracies of the system.
During this match with Ugo Humbert, Nick Kyrgios had several heated exchanges with Marijana Veljovic, the chair umpire over service winners that were ruled out by the system that he believed were inaccurate calls.
After his defeat at the hands of world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, Frances Tiafoe the American tennis player expressed his anger at the hawk-eye line calling system which he says was malfunctioning.
"Sorry, for my language, it was f--king horrible. I hate it. I cannot stand it. Like, I mean, there was a game today where I hit like – Novak was even laughing one time, he just served like well long, and I said, 'Good joke'. He's laughing.” Tiafoe said. “There was one body serve I hit big at him before the line and he misses it, and we come into a complicated game. Yeah, it's a lot. I mean, it's gonna take a while to get used to, I guess, if they keep carrying on with it. But I mean, I'm not a fan."
Tiafoe further added, “I get technology is at a crazy high level. I'm just not a believer in it. That's just kind of what it is. They're gonna do what they're gonna do. It doesn't matter what I say. They're not gonna change anything because Frances Tiafoe said it. I'm never gonna be for it."
Kyrgios had bigger issues with the net cord system during his match and had the following to say about the line calling system, "The line calling , we can't do anything about that because that's for COVID reasons, so that's fair enough. But the net machine, if you have a device that you can turn down the sensitivity and stuff, I just think there's too many variables.”
Has the quality of umpiring in tennis gotten worse?
Veteran player Giles Simon has also expressed his frustration with the line calling system. He believes the system has had an adverse impact on the quality of umpiring and has led to umpires becoming hyper vigilant in other unnecessary areas, “Mainly what I least like with Hawkeye Live is – and I know there's a connection, and for a while, I've thought it's getting worse – the level of umpiring has gone way down. I'm not sure if there's a connection with Hawkeye Live … the umpires are maybe a little concentrated during points. And there are a lot of 'let' calls and if it's the machine, they don't see it.”
"Now I think they (umpires) are just obsessed about the time [between points]; I think I already talked about this at Roland Garros. I have the impression they only have one mission: to give you a warning the second you get to the 25th second. That's all there is. That's what you feel when you go for your towel. This kind of permanent stress.”
Significant tennis player supports the Hawk-eye live system
On the other side of the argument, world No. 1 Djokovic has spoken out in favour of the technology saying, “"I think it's good to have the automatic line call system, I understand that we have a certain tradition in the history of the sport, having line judges. I understand that it's taking away, in a way, the experience and the jobs for many line umpires.”
"On the other hand, I think that's something that is inevitable for the future of tennis. I'm in favour of that particular thing. Of course, I would keep the ball kids. Line calls, I would support the technology."
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