“Linespeople must not be replaced by Hawk-Eye Live, they’re part of the show”

In episode # 26 of Match Points host Josh Cohen asks our all-star panel about the adoption of electronic line-calling. Marion Bartoli, Ben Rothenberg and Simon Cambers provide their forthright responses on the topic

April 22, 2021

In recent months, tennis tournaments have rapidly adopted the live electronic line-calling system. While that may have come as a blessing for the players who prefer the accuracy of the electronic calls, it has also come with a downside – an increased cost for tournaments and the loss of jobs for linespersons on the tennis tour.

“People want to see players handling pressure, and to see them going crazy occasionally” – Rothenberg

In the latest episode of Match Points, journalist Ben Rothenberg claims that fans would miss the friction that comes with controversial line calls and cited John McEnroe’s frequent outbursts to illustrate his point.

“John McEnroe, years later, named his book – not “I’m a Wimbledon champion” – he named it after complaining at a chair umpire – “You Cannot Be Serious”. Those are iconic moments for the sport,” he says.

John McEnroe
John McEnroe

“I know it relaxes pressure on the players and makes them feel more relaxed, and at ease, and I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing for viewers. I think people want to see players handling pressure, and to see them suffer and going crazy occasionally. I think that’s a positive thing.”

Bartoli: “Sometimes, you feel like you have been robbed and it’s very difficult to bounce back from that”

As a former player, Bartoli says she knows how maddening the experience of a bad call by an official can be, especially on clay where a visible ball mark can only add to a player’s frustration when they think they have been hard done by.

“From a player point of view, of course, you love the live Hawk-Eye all the time and constantly, and specially on clay as well, because we had SO much debate,” she says. “And I’ve been on the court myself and the umpire coming down, and he’s trying to sort of draw the end of the mark and you don’t agree with him. You feel like you have been robbed or the point should be yours, and it’s very difficult to bounce back from that. Honestly, we have seen it with Viktor Troicki, very famously in Rome, taking the camera out of the cameraman and going in into the mark and filming it himself.”

Cambers: “The tournaments in general can’t afford it”

Cambers says moving to an all-electronic Tour would not be wise simply because all tournament cannot afford it despite the obvious benefits for the players.

“From a player’s point of view, I can totally understand why they love it, because you don’t have to stop ever for a point. If there’s a call you think it’s out, you just carry on playing, because you know it’s fine. But also, I think having Hawk-Eye Live takes a little bit of the friction out of the game, which people love – the arguing, even the current challenge system with three challenges per set is good for that. So. I think no, because the tournaments in general can’t afford it.”

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