Enough is Enough, We Need Hawkeye on Clay

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Ever since Hawkeye was introduced in tennis at Indian Wells back in 2006, it’s changed tennis for the better. From having to trust the views of linespeople and umpires on calls, players could now take matters into their own hands and ask for a verdict from an electronic system made up of eight different cameras tracking the ball around the stadium.

Ever since that event, Hawkeye has only grown. The US Open back in 2006 was the first Slam to introduce it while the Australian Open followed immediately in 2007. Wimbledon the same year signified the first time an official event not on an hard court had the system. Since then the system has only grown and become a vital part of our sport, with changes being made for a more refined experience, such as from each player having three incorrect challenges a set from two.

More or less every Tour-level event has the system implemented in 2018, from the smallest ATP events to the Grand Slams, which have it on several main courts. However, all these events I’m talking about are on hard or grass; we still find ourselves in a situation where the system isn’t implemented on clay.

That’s exactly where the issue begins. Today’s play in Rome just proved how big of a mistake it is not to use the system on the red surface. At 5-5 and deuce in the final set, sixth seed Karolina Pliskova hit a smash which landed well in yet was called out. The umpire came down to check the mark–and between herself and the line judge who called it out–they couldn’t find the mark. They therefore stuck with the original call, giving Maria Sakkari the point, only further inducing Pliskova’s anger. With it being break point instead of game point, the Czech was broken the very next point before losing the match in the very next game. Just look at the reactions from Pliskova herself, as well as her sister and coach following the match; whilst not classy, it’s totally understandable and justifiable given what just happened.

Meanwhile, on another court not very long after, similar scenes occurred in Kei Nishikori vs Grigor Dimitrov. Early in the first set tiebreak, Nishikori hit a ball wide. Umpire Carlos Bernardes came down, and like in Pliskova’s situation, could not find the mark and therefore deemed they should replay the point with Dimitrov heated and shouting in pure frustration. The Japanese man went on to win the point, therefore winning a point he should have lost minutes before.

Things only got worse in the final set with Dimitrov up a break and serving at 15-30. This time the Bulgarian hit a shot evidently long which wasn’t called out, and the umpire claiming it was in. Instead of being 15-40, Dimitrov went on to win the point when it was replayed. Thankfully, justice was done with Nishikori breaking back that very same game, regardless of that incredibly poor call and decision.

My point is, we’re in 2018. There’s no reason why issues like this still exist. What’s even worse is how many of these main stadiums on clay actually have Hawkeye implemented for TV purposes, yet refuse to use them for the challenging system. I’m not saying Hawkeye is perfect because it’s not; it cites an accuracy of 2mm, is costly to implement, and has sometimes even picked up the wrong bounce. Plus, we’ve seen famously several times the system fail–such as during the 2009 Australian Open match between Tomas Berdych and Roger Federer where the Czech was leading two sets to love and noticeably folded after he could not challenge a call due to the system being down, eventually losing the match.

But despite all that, if we were to use it on clay it would still lead to fairer and more reliable calls. Who would really be against that? Right now the umpire coming down and checking marks can often be a timely process in itself, with further issues being caused from time to time–as evident today with marks being lost due to the number of marks that show on a clay court alongside competitors raging at umpires. We often forget, but umpires and line judges are people just like us, and regardless of poor calls, don’t deserve to be abused and shouted at. But at the same time players shouldn’t be robbed of matches due to an incompetent call or verdict from those in control; we are long past those times with the technology now available in the sport. Everything that happened today could have been avoided with Hawkeye: a simple challenge from Pliskova would have won her the point, stopped her from losing her cool, and maybe even won her the match.

It’s time tennis changes implements Hawkeye on clay, that’s the bottom line.

1 COMMENT

  1. You fail to go into detail about why its not used on clay, it would have to be re-calibrated after every match, which isn’t feasible, especially during the larger tournaments with more matches and more courts.

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