March 06, 2006

U.S. Open to use instant replay for disputed calls: Another sport yields to the siren call of replay technology. Thoughts?

posted by smithers to tennis at 08:23 AM - 24 comments

Can anyone think of an overly controversial call? I'm not a big tennis person, so nothing comes to mind. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. What are they going to do, give the players red flags to throw?

posted by wingnut4life at 08:33 AM on March 06

Is somebody trying to sell us something? Agassi: "this is one of the most exciting things to happen for players, fans and television viewers" McEnroe: "I think it will make tennis more interesting." Kantarian: "This new breakthrough ... will improve line calls for players, while adding excitement and intrigue for fans and TV viewers." I'm not opposed to replay, but I really don't see how it's going to make the matches any more interesting. (Don't those NFL review sessions have you on the edge of your seat?) Sharapova makes the most reasonable argument: "As a player, I want to know that line calls are as accurate as technology will allow. In that sense, today's announcement is great news for all players."

posted by Amateur at 08:35 AM on March 06

Also, this is kind of odd: "A computerized model of the play will be shown on a review official's screen, as well as the stadium screen and on television." Is this the same technology as that animated ball-and-line graphic they've been using on TV for years? Interesting that they aren't using actual film. I suppose coverage of all the lines could be a problem; but does anybody know how this model works? Also, note that they're going to show the "replay" on the stadium screen while an official is making a decision. I know that they do this in other sports, but in this case there doesn't seem to be a lot of "expert knowledge" required to make a decision. The ball was in, or it wasn't. Maybe they should bypass the replay official altogether and just let the fans vote.

posted by Amateur at 08:42 AM on March 06

The technology is so good - and so fast in producing the computer 3D rendering - that this is only a good thing. It's not video replay in the NFL sense, so I can't see any meaningful arguement as to why we all wouldn't embrace this wholeheartedly.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 08:49 AM on March 06

This, no doubt, will take some of the drama out of the game. McEnroe-ish outburst will be minimized. But I see potential for abuse, such as a winded player asking for a closer look, breaking up extended volleys and such. It will be interesting so see how this plays out this season.

posted by kosmicdebris at 09:07 AM on March 06

"That ball was on the line! Pixels flew up!"

posted by JJ at 09:29 AM on March 06

"That ball was on the line! Pixels flew up!"
The same can apply to Baseball.... although Umpires would hate it! as they have with past attempts to computerize the K zone. I can see how some borderline calls could benefit from the aid: Hit balls hard to judge fair, foul, HR, etc. -Close plays at the bases, etc. --
The question: Is human error from the umpires side an intrinsic part of the game, or can we move into the next century now that we have the technology.... heck, all other aspects of sport are benefiting from high technology: -Better rackets, golf balls, clubs, bats, gloves, etc. So why not? - Specially now days, where there is so much money on the line, it just makes sense!

posted by zippinglou at 01:31 PM on March 06

If it's that laser ball-tracker thing, then that'd be fine by me, with one recommendation: let the ump see it first, and render a decision, before they show the rest of the stadium. Unlike most other sports, in tennis there usually isn't a "home "side and an "away" side, so there's no point in turning the audience against the umpires. That's counterproductive. Let the ump make a decision, and then show it on the screens. But there's no reason to not use it. This isn't baseball, where ump error is very definitely part of the fabric of the game. Tennis is much easier to incorporate this technology into than most other sports.

posted by chicobangs at 01:41 PM on March 06

I have to agree with zippinglou. Are you happy to accept the "human error" part of sports officiating in order to preserve tradition, or are you willing to trade in your right to bitch about referees by letting technology aid in the process? To a lot of people, it's a tough choice. To some, not a choice at all.

posted by The_Black_Hand at 02:15 PM on March 06

In my opinion tennis needs more of the old John McEnroe. Somebody with some personality or charisma, or someone that you just hate. Leave the judging to humans as it has been. That way there is some controversy for us to talk about on this site. In yesterdays final of the Tennis Channel Open, James Blake defeated Leyton Hewitt. In the last game(?) or set Blake benefited from a call that was shown to be out. They didn't have the computer model thing there, but TV replays showed it to be out. That being said, I think Blake still would have won with/without the call. I don't have anything against technology, but leaving the human element in the game just seems right to me. Maybe someday one of my favorites will be robbed of a win or a title by a blown call and my tune may change. For now I say keep it the same way.

posted by chuck'n'duck at 02:23 PM on March 06

I don't think the 'human error as part of sports thing' applies much in this case. The newer rackets and speed of the ball have made it just too difficult to be accurate while line calling in tennis. And were talking about very well-defined parameters of measure - this is not a strike zone, or a foul, or an infraction that needs analysis on top of the actual event itself. Just very clear technology that will tell you with extreme accuracy whether that muthafucking ball is in or out. It's a no brainer, don't you think? I mean, hasn't it been a bit crazy these past few years that the Magic Eye (or whatever IBM calls it) has only been used to show TV audiences the truth? Seems not like the best use of the tool to me. I've always thought the natural evolution would be to be used in the sport itself.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 02:25 PM on March 06

I like such advances only to the extent that they don't interfere with the flow of the game/match. If they can't use it immediately and make the call quickly (within seconds), then I will take the human error.

posted by bperk at 02:38 PM on March 06

Weedy hit the nail on the head when comparing this to using it in baseball. THe lines are static, game to game, set to set, match to match. A strike zone differs from player to player, heck possibly within the same at-bat, if the player has a different "natural stance" for full cuts and bunts. That being said, and even in light of the horrendous officiating in the NFL this past post-season, I am against this mechanization of officiating, in any sport, at any level. The game is meant to be played by humans, overseen and judged by humans. It is part of the human condition that no one, not even officials, are perfect, and an error in judgement is as much a part of the game as a bad bounce. It is the striving to eliminate the errors that makes the game compelling, by the competitors, and by the officials. The sports official strives for the 'perfect game' as much as any athlete. Just because a technology is available, does not mean is use is good, even if it were to eliminate controversy or doubt. As long as sports officials do their best, call a square game, and strive to improve, them let the games contnue.

posted by elovrich at 02:44 PM on March 06

It seems to me that in tennis the lines are absolutely static, painted on even, but in baseball its a lot more arbitrary. It makes sense in tennis, it sucks to see a tennis player get penalized because of a bad call by an official favoring the more popular player, serena and venus williams get this sort of favor all the time, i guess because the official just assumes that if it was one of them that hit the ball it stands to reason that it would be inbounds. Baseball is so much different. no one, pichers or batters would want a replay on a pitch, it just wouldn't suit the game. in tennis its a different story, all these tennis players are coming out in support of this thing. why not include it? I'm with weedy on this all the way, use the tecnology if you got it.

posted by everett at 03:06 PM on March 06

Did you just make that stuff up about Venus and Serena getting favorable calls? Do you mean calls like this?

posted by bperk at 03:47 PM on March 06

I can't wait to see someone try to "make a tennis move" in slow motion.

posted by DrJohnEvans at 03:52 PM on March 06

Can we get a machine to count the 1-1/2 steps NBA players are allowed to take without dribbling, or do we not have time to watch a 5 hour basketbal game?In all seriousness, I agree with many of posts above. Static areas should be fine for machine officiating and the rest should remain the status quo.

posted by wisportcheese at 05:21 PM on March 06

bperk, I was referring to all of the matches I have watched, and not to one specific call or another, but... Congrats on being the first one to point out an exception to my theory; its really impressive when someone refutes a general conclusion with one example that they can think of where the circumstances went differently... it's just really a fabulous form of discourse. Good Job!

posted by everett at 05:31 PM on March 06

It's Hawk-Eye. The transition from its original use in cricket (it'd be hard to imagine TV coverage without it these days) to tennis is a natural one. It's interesting, though, that while the ICC has resisted the introduction of Hawk-Eye for the 3rd umpire to adjudicate LBW decisions, even though it uses replay much more liberally, and employs Hawk-Eye to evaluate umpire performance, the ITF has leaped ahead and embraced it as a tool for umpires, albeit one that's invoked on limited occasions, at the players' request. I think that compromise is a good one, though, since it's going to be the blatant miscalls, outside the 3mm limit of Hawk-Eye's accuracy, that prompt challenges. And you can trust the cricket writers to talk about the 'romance' of dodgy decisions.

posted by etagloh at 05:23 AM on March 07

its really impressive when someone refutes a general conclusion with one example that they can think of where the circumstances went differently Easy there, everett. Your "general conclusion" didn't even offer one example. That's even more fabulous, don't you think?

posted by Amateur at 07:39 AM on March 07

Thanks for that link, etagloh. After reading a bit, I have to take back part of what I said above. If the system is used to provide some novel player and match statistics, then it just might add to my enjoyment of tennis. Then again, I'm geeky that way.

posted by Amateur at 07:42 AM on March 07

Amateur, I was talking about a relatively well known phenomenon in the world of tennis, the same way that one might say Kobe, or T-mac get an extra half step in the key. As a fan of Tennis, I am talking about a subject that is well enough known by other fans of tennis. I did not feel I had to defend it too aggressively. now... I was maybe a little cranky when I wrote my response, but I feel like people do have a tendency to make criticizms without a lot of basis sometimes, and it irritates me. So, sorry for the sharp tongue.

posted by everett at 06:17 PM on March 07

everett, sometimes things that "everybody knows" turn out to be unsupported by facts. I don't know enough about tennis to say anything about this particular case, but I don't think bperk was out of line to give a counterexample. Interestingly, this new system could actually provide some objective evidence (aka statistics) to support or debunk theories of this type. There will now be a record of calls given and overturned, so we will be able to see whether the human umpires are in fact biased for or against particular players.

posted by Amateur at 09:55 PM on March 07

True. either way I think that an increased level of objectivity on the things that are really static will only work to improve the game.

posted by everett at 12:07 AM on March 08

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