My new book, "Tennis Confidential II: More of Today's Greatest Players, Matches, and Controversies," contains 10 essays in a section called "The Great Debates."
I am enclosing the beginning of the essay about Player Challenges. I hope it intrigues you and provokes a debate on this important issue.
Essay Copyright 2007 by Paul Fein
IS THIS THE SPORT WE WANT?
“Sport is entertainment, of course. But it must be credible.” − Francesco Ricci Bitti, president of the International Tennis Federation
“Hey, Roger, while you’re down on the court making history, can you also call your own lines – even the ones 80 feet away?” ridiculed veteran TV analyst Mary Carillo, openly making fun of the Player Challenge system during the Federer-Gonzalez final at the 2007 Australian Open.
Patrick McEnroe, the U.S. Davis Cup captain (and also a TV analyst), disagrees completely. “Anyone who is against Player Challenges,” he declared, as fans cheered the Hawk-Eye technology adjudicating close line calls on the stadium video screen, “is out of their minds!”
Who’s right? And why?
Purpose of Officiating — The raison d’etre of sports officiating is fairness by means of the impartial application of the rules. For tennis line-calling, fairness means accuracy, getting it right. Bill Tilden, an imperious 1920s superstar, insisted that a linesperson’s error often decided a match as much as a player’s performance. He even worked as a linesman himself on occasion. One can easily imagine Tilden’s frustration in a sport where extremely close line calls abound. He was competing for prestigious titles in an amateur era when big-time tennis relied largely on untrained volunteers.
Happily, today Hawk-Eye’s 10 high-resolution cameras track the trajectory of the ball and exact location of the bounce to within 3 millimeters. That is near-perfect 99.9 percent accuracy! Replays can be shown from any angle within two seconds and can be sent to a monitor, handheld device, or mobile phone. In theory, players shouldn’t have to worry about a thing. And they certainly shouldn’t have to call their own lines or challenge questionable line calls made by others. Therefore, it’s nothing less than a tragic irony that Player Challenges, the system used to implement marvelous Hawk-Eye technology, frequently result in bad line calls.
The Limits of Human Vision — The 13 factors that make accurate line-calling difficult and sometimes virtually impossible for tennis players are as follows:
Amazon.com has listed "Tennis Confidential II," Tennis Confidential" and "You Can Quote Me On That" as the top three tennis books for the past three months. I hope you will check them out. I welcome your informed views.
P.S. You can also find more information at www.tennisconfidential.com