Suspicions about the accuracy of the new Hawk-Eye Live and net chord systems at the Australian Open have been exposed by several players the first week.
Nick Kyrgios, French star Gilles Simon and others clashed with officials over calls made by technology they disagreed with and many of their frustrated peers backed them up without making so much noise.
Nick Kyrgios explodes on the net sensor
Still, Nine’s Sam Groth argues that only some of the player complaints are legitimate, with the commentator pointing out that the Hawk-Eye technology has been claimed by players and that they are just looking for something to talk about.
The introduction of technology to tennis refereeing began in the 1970s, with computerized line-calling devices using pressure sensors and infra-red laser beams brought in to give clearer calls, with flaws in the line. service causing a loud beep.
But the complete removal of linesmen at this year’s Australian Open has taken the influence of technology to games to the next level and players appear to have buyers remorse.
Hawk-Eye was tested and passed for professional use by the International Tennis Federation in 2005. But this Grand Slam is the first to put players in a position where they can no longer blame human error for their grievances. The Australian Open is the first to force them to blame technology for calls they say have pitted them against.
Simon, Kyrgios and Francis Tiafoe all expressed their displeasure with the new technology (Simon and Tiafoe both lost) while world No.1 Novak Djokovic had only good things to say, giving him his approval for a future use.
The mixed reaction is not new, players from several sports over the years have criticized the implementation of the technology. The Hawk-Eye Live system uses remote tracking cameras to relay automated line calls to the referee, eliminating the need for challenges for players.
The NRL Bunker, cricket’s DRS and football’s VAR have all sparked controversy since the introduction of virtual refereeing, with most sports taking advantage of the integration of sponsorship into automated technology.
In the case of tennis, arguing against final calls from a computer may not endear the players to fans, but according to Groth, they will continue to argue regardless of how decisions against them are made.
“Players have been clamoring for Hawk-Eye for ages, they love the technology and will have a fight with a referee if there is one on the pitch,” Groth told Wide World of Sports’ Morning service.
“I think sometimes with a player you’re looking for a withdrawal, you’re looking for a place to vent that frustration.
“I think the introduction of Hawk-Eye takes a lot of the uncertainty away. Everyone has been okay with the technology so far and with it calling every line who else are you going to blame? “
The most controversial aspect of the technology at this year’s Open seems to be the mesh cord system. It’s a sensor attached to the top of the net that detects vibrations, making a call safer in the eyes of officials. His sensitivity was questioned by Kyrgios after his victory in the first round against Ugo Humbert.
“It’s difficult because with such technology you look like an idiot trying to oppose it,” Kyrgios said.
Tiafoe wins epic 33-move rally
“But saying that even when he was serving he (Humbert) served a ball that literally looked like that distance (gestures) over the net and the net went off. I was like, he didn’t there is no way that is correct, in my opinion.
“The line calling, we can’t do nothing about it because it’s COVID reasons, so that’s fair enough. But the internet machine, if you have a device that you can turn down the sensitivity and stuff, I just think there are too many variables. “
Groth agreed with Kyrgios’ assessment, pointing out the concerns of several players over the flawed netting system which is riddled with problems.
“Let one has always been a bit of a controversial issue,” admitted Groth, who reached world No. 53 in singles.
“With the device over there, sometimes when you hit a pretty quick serve and you just miss the strip, I guess the breeze coming out of the ball can trigger the net a bit. We’ve seen them fly away in matches as well. “
Watching a net cordon was once considered a risky job, with net judges being encouraged to wear helmets in the past. Officials were expected to literally stick their necks in the line of fire before the new technology was introduced.
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