Are Line Callers Done?

Due to the virus, the Cincinnati Open (played in NY) and US Open don’t have any lines people; but are using mechanical (HawkEye) line calls.  Could that mean when the virus is over, that the sport will totally convert to using machines only?  And, the virus has already impacted planned Florida tournaments.

How It Works

In NY, all courts have the Hawkeye technology, with cameras on every line and the computer analyzing the in/out call.  If it is determined that the ball is out, the machine quickly calls “OUT” and play stops.

It appears that the on-court screens show the call (or only close calls?).  While the players do NOT have any official challenges allocated to them, they can ask to see the video, and the chair umpire CAN over-rule the machine call.

Faster or Slower?

This process takes away the players raising their hands to indicate they want to challenge the human line caller and see what the machine shows.  So that facet should speed up the game.

But since the chair umpire can over-rule the machine, won’t that bring us back to John McEnroe pleading with the chair when they DON’T overrule, “You can’t be serious!”???

So, which way is better… machines or people calling the lines?

Florida Tournament Updates:

Mark Taylor, USTA Florida, reports: the USTA Florida Adult State Championships which were scheduled for October @ Ballen Isles in Palm Beach Gardens have been cancelled.

And the popular, late November Longboat Key tournament director Tom Scovil says, “At the moment, it does not look good for us to hold the tournament.  Last year, with 340 players, we needed a good number of external courts.  These problems, along with the general virus rules and restrictions that would be hard to enforce, makes holding the tournament very difficult to imagine.  We are holding out hope but the possibilities are slim.”

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8 thoughts on “Are Line Callers Done?

  1. I prefer the imperfections of the machines calling the lines AND THE FOOTFAULTS over the errors human eyesight, judgement make.
    Would much rather have Serena threaten to demolish a machine then an intimidated official.

    Winder, yup, horse racing has been using the photo finish, rather than “I think horse #9 won” for years. Thanks. George

  2. One minor correction to your post. There will be line judges on Ashe and Armstrong for the US Open, with the “old” challenge system in force. That may explain why they are not playing on those courts this week. Maybe the fully-automated system is slightly different, and they didn’t want to install it for just one week on those courts. I think they might have done this in an effort to give career lines people a chance to work, but the reality is that they are no longer needed for tournaments that can afford Hawk Eye.

    My personal opinion is that having Hawk Eye on only the show courts was unfair to lower ranked players on other courts. I don’t know if bad calls affected the outcome of many matches, but it still didn’t seem right. That’s why I give Larry Ellison a huge amount of credit for installing the system on all courts at Indian Wells several years ago.

    I sure hope we are able to play the Naples tournaments. It’s the only time I get to play events like that.

    Jim. Thanks for the update. George

  3. I am immensely enjoying watching the W&S Open sans linespersons. The umpires are very capable of calling the lines and when, on close calls, the camera replay automatically kicks in for the players to see it’s done quickly. Linespeople are not needed! Nor are the towel servants! The ATP, WTA, and the Slams should make these changes permanently.

    Alan, i bet they do! thanks, george

  4. George, under the past system, players could challenge both a line judge’s call or umpire’s overrule. The ultimate authority has been the electronic camera to make the final decision. Since the electronic camera was already considered the final authority, it would seem reasonable to make it the initial line call mechanism. The downside is that it takes a more human element out of match play.

    Glenn, but watch the players start to challenge the machine’s call too! thanks, george

  5. When can we expect 2021 Florida tournament schedules?

    Glenn, i am guessing they will be like Longboat and take a “wait and see” position. I will share as soon as i learn anything. george

  6. I recently corresponded with Mark Vines and he indicated that the tournaments at World Tennis would still be on. Someone might double check and see if that’s correct. Not sure why, if it’s outdoors, it should be a problem. Oh, maybe if the wind stopped blowing for an hour – ha!
    I say let the machines take over and say good-bye to linespeople.

    Mike. Along with hundreds of other senior tennis players, i hope the series will be played. Thanks. George

  7. In a repsonse to George and Mike……

    I’m currently working on the 2021 SSGP schedule (I know its extremely late) but as you can imagine things change week to week seemingly. And next year the re-designation of the new Level 1-7 classification of tournaments is hindering things a bit as that’s not just me making that decision.

    I’m extremely positive though that the number of tournaments will be the same (still waiting on a couple of facilities to confirm). These are private clubs with membership bases that can vary as far as how much outside participation that are willing to have. It’s still just August and I’ll let George know as soon as I can when things are cemented.

    Hang in there with me…..always working hard for you guys. Afterall, I’m finally eligible in January to play these. The 55’s will get more draw filler next year 🙂

    Mark, we are all hoping! thanks, george

  8. I have always thought the object of having line umpires was to make the game fair by relieving the players of the responsibility of calling their lines. The widespread use of Hawkeye and the absence of lines umpires removes the ‘blue touch paper’ which many players have lit to produce fireworks!
    Personally, I never liked the challenge system whereby a player could ‘challenge’ the call if they though it incorrect. If a call was wrong them it should have been corrected.
    Too often have I seen players ‘robbed’ because they were out of challenges and this has to be wrong.
    Machines do fail, however. and we have all heard a net court device sound when the ball clearly did not touch the net, so it is important the Chair Umpire can overrule a machine call when obvious.
    As well as removing the argument about a line call, Hawkeye also introduces a check on footfaults, and again will remove arguments, which has to be good for the game.
    I noticed in the Cincinnati tournament, the umpire was only starting the service clock when the player put the towel down. The rule gives 25 seconds between the end of the previous point and putting the ball into play for the next point. In the light of the absence of line umpires, this timing rule needs to be revisited. Players too often use the going to the towel as a game delaying tactic. Have even seen seniors do this!

    Allan, i am with you on all points, including the “towel delay.” thanks, george

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