French Open Line Calls

So, how many disputed line calls were there during the red clay French Open?  In today’s tech world, there are new (and old) ways to solve that problem.

Hawk Eye Technology

After a line call dispute, the TV networks usually show the Hawk Eye image of the mark and either confirm what the chair umpire has ruled – or show they have made a mistake.  So why doesn’t the tournament just use the available technology to make the call in the first place and avoid the arguments?  I think they should!

 According to commentator Jim Courier some of the disputes and differences come from “the fact” (according to him) that, when the ball hits the court, it spreads the clay and that can be what the on-court mark shows (different from what the Hawk Eye image shows).

Which Mark is It?

Another frequent dispute comes from players claiming the umpire is looking at the wrong mark.  So, here is a real easy solution to avoid most of these arguments ….

On every court change over, have the ball kids come onto the court and use their foot to rub out every mark that is close to the baseline, sidelines, and service lines.  Therefore, when the ball lands close to the line, it would create a new, stand-alone mark to review.

How about YOU, keep the tradition of coming from the chair to review marks or use new technology?

P.S. And how about the Polish teenager Iga and the incredible Spaniard on his home of red clay?!

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11 thoughts on “French Open Line Calls

  1. line calls seemed pretty fair and square to me at Roland Garros, and Bravo to both Iga and Rafa!!!….and I sure miss Larry T.

  2. I think they should use Hawkeye. Even if it is not as accurate on clay as the other surfaces, it is impartial and objective. It avoids the ill feeling of a player looking at the same mark as the umpire and reaching different conclusions. Of course, this would mean losing the option to have the umpire check the mark as often as wanted. Which raises the question, why should there be a limit on challenges with Hawkeye? Thoughts?

    Dan, as usual, the answer to your question about limits to challenges revolves around gamesmanship … players using a useless challenge to stall and buy time. thanks, george

  3. Hmm, brings to mind a player local to Naples who, after every change over (and sometimes between points) walks the service line and rubs out any close marks with his foot. He wins the majority of his matches, too………

    Mike, well, i fit the first part of that description, but not the second part! george

  4. Line calls are always going to have at least a small element of subjectivism – did the ball skid after landing , clay lines being inexact due to clay brushing and other marks as well as the chalk lines on grass being not always 100% from lining variables and court usage.
    I prefer the new technology now and it should improve over time. Having an instant, automatic call that rarely is an egregious error makes the game flow without the call discussion interruptions plus players are not distracted wondering if the call was wrong, should they use a challenge, etc. Am not sure how many people make a partial living calling lines that lose their employment but tournament directors not having to manage so many people has to be a benefit.
    There is a sectional this week (Southern Mens Clay Open West in Jackson MS) that I would like to have entered but going with the spirit of the USTA trying to limit national travel. I am sure that tournament will have players calling their own lines and that the calls will be made in the proper spirit. However, to me it will be an improvement when technology becomes available on the senior tour that takes away the wondering whether the serve is a little long or not. Like driverless cars, it will be here faster than we expect.

    Winder, so you think the technology will come down to our level in this lifetime?! thanks, george

  5. Not sure either are 100% accurate, and a combination of both might be good and if there is a question, player could ask for hawk eye result.

    Howie, right … if they are showing it on TV, why not show it to the players too? thanks, george

  6. Use Hawk Eye and avoid the disputes.
    And for me, the Florida Tournaments won’t be the same without Larry.

  7. I was Referee at the Volvo in North Conwy, NH, from 1975-84 and we used a procedure I had seen in Japan – on every changeover the ballkids used kitchen brooms to “clean” on both sides of every line, eliminating all close marks. This procedure almost eliminated disputed calls.
    Using Hawkeye would also cut down on disputes, but I question Hawkeye accuracy on clay. On clay, if there is no clay visible between the ballmark and the line, some small part of the ball must have brushed the line, but I suspect Hawkeye would show that ball as “Out.”

    Sean, but it seems the players at least accept the “call” from Hawk Eye. thanks, george

  8. I heard a commentator, sometime during the French Open, say that they’re going to Hawkeye next year…..

    John, great! thanks, george

  9. To me, clay-court events are the last hold outs against line calling because the balls leave behind marks that allow line calls to be verified without video. But like so much in our world, the French Open and other clay court tournaments are facing change. There’s always those critics or officials who say “that
    if there’s a way to make it better for our athletes, we should do it”. Some players, particularly young ones raised with the internet are favoring the automation. For the moment, the French Open audience, if not the tournament itself, has a foot in both the traditional and the electronic worlds. Implementing change is difficult, especially where technology is concerned. Look at the resistance tie-breaker guidelines caused, but later was adopted and accepted by players.
    I believe trials in more events will be evident by next year. Look for a Spanish line-calling system called FoxTenn to be studied alongside Hawk-Eye. FoxTenn was in negotiations with Roland Garros two years ago, but no agreement has been reached. Seems like technology is always on the march. We will see.

    Glenn, yes, “Times they are a changin'”. Thanks, george

  10. Recently, I made the following two calls during a match:

    In the 1st case, I called a ball out at the baseline – my call was immediate, I saw the “thinnest margin” between the tape and the mark – the kind that we often see on Hawkeye .

    There are two reasons why, in retrospect, “thinnest margin” means “too close to call”. First, the reasons cited (in an earlier comment to George Wachtel’s blog)) by Jim Courier about the movement of clay on impact that corrupts the mark, making it an approximation. Second, fractal theory shows that distance is impossible to measure perfectly (Examples: France and Portugal don’t agree on the length of their common border; a 75 mph Nadal topspin forehand is sure to have a violent impact on clay around its landing point .)

    In the 2nd case, I saw the ball heading clearly out along the sideline, and called ‘out’; my opponent looked in my direction from his baseline, as if to question the call. There was wind that day.

    1st case: Using USTA Rules:
    In the 1st case, if I really could not call the ball ‘out’ with certainty, then using the USTA Code, I should have conceded the point to my opponent. The USTA Code is clear: if you are uncertain, favor your opponent.(USTA Code: Making Calls, Rules 6. 8).
    Note, too, that according to USTA Code (When to Contact an Official), a player has the right to call an official only if a player perceives there is a “pattern of bad calls”.

    1st case: Using ITF Rules
    Under ITF rules (The Singles Game, Appendix 6, Role of Court Officials), in a disputed call, “the original call or overrule will always stand if the line umpire and chair umpire cannot determine the location of the mark or if the mark is unreadable”.
    But what happens if there is “no call” by the opponent? Under ITF rules, players can call a referee to judge, including replaying the point: (The Singles Game, Appendix 6) “The referee is the final authority on all questions of tennis law and the referee’s decision is final.”
    In an ITF Grade 1 tournament, my opponent called a referee when he stated that he wasn’t in a position to see my shot land – I thought my shot was good; he called the referee, who had us replay the point.

    2nd case: Using USTA Rules
    In the 2nd case, my opponent – though he said nothing, his glance was asking, “Was my shot good?” My shot could have been directed by the wind to the line at the last moment.
    According to USTA rules, when doubt was established by my opponent ‘s questioning glance after my call, I should have invited his collaboration (the USTA presupposes cooperative joint decision-making as a principle) – especially since I didn’t even see the mark! And, as a result, I should have conceded the point – “favor your opponent”.

    2nd case: Using ITF Rules
    If there is no referee, and the point is disputed, the original call would stand. The ITF rule (The Singles Game, Ball Mark Inspection Procedures, 4.) states: “the original call or overrule will always stand if [either player ] cannot determine the location of the mark or if the mark is unreadable”. It is doubtful that either of us could have located or read the mark.
    If there is no dispute, the players could decide the fairest outcome, including replaying the point.
    Finally, if there is a referee and the call is disputed, ITF would allow either player to call a referee to make a judgment, including replaying the point.

    Summary:
    Under USTA rules, if you encounter a “razor thin margin” as described above – the kind that we often see on Hawkeye – call the ball in! You must favor the opponent!
    ITF rules would allow a line or chair umpire , if present, or , if absent, a referee to rule, including replay. And if no officials, then players could decide to replay.

    My Take:
    When it is”too close to call”, isn’t the fairest outcome to replay the point?

    Post facto:
    In the two points that I described at the start, my opponent was – is – the kind of person, who is fair and thus generous in his calls, collaborating and – favoring the opponent (as USTA mandates) .
    That is what prompted me to reflect on my two calls and to confess to him after the match that I “may have given your two bad calls”, that I regretted it, and asked his forgiveness.

    Though I thought that I had committed to fairness some years ago, – there is room for me to improve! When the goal is fairness, abstract away from the match – from isolation in (ignoble) victory – and take time to focus on fairness – on (eternal) solidarity.

    Lesson: Delay your call for a moment: like a tennis shot, don’t hurry it. And be prepared to reverse it, if need be!
    In both cases , I made my call instinctively – prematurely. It flickered through my mind right after I called “out” in the 1st case – that the margin between mark and line was “razor thin”, “too close to call” – there was uncertainty, doubt! In the 2nd case, I realized that I called a ball out – before it made its mark!

    I could have – should have – reversed both calls – but chose not to.

    References:
    USTA Code, Making Calls:
    Rule 6 – ” An official impartially resolves a problem involving a call, whereas a player is guided by the principle that any doubt must be resolved in favor of an opponent. ”
    Rule 8 – “If a ball cannot be called out with certainty, it is good. ”

    ITF
    The Singles Game: Appendix 6: The Role of Court Officials
    “The referee is the final authority on all questions of tennis law and the referee’s decision is final.
    “A line umpire who cannot make a call shall signal this immediately to the chair umpire who shall make a decision. If the line umpire can not make a call, or if there is no line umpire, and the chair umpire can not make a decision on a question of fact, the point shall be replayed.”
    The Singles Game, Ball Mark Inspection Procedures, 4:
    “The original call or overrule will always stand if [either player ] cannot determine the location of the mark or if the mark is unreadable”.

    Nick, my bottom lines from all the above … 1) on a close call, don’t make it until you look for/at the mark and 2) “if it is too close to call,” it is your opponent’s point. thanks, for all your research. george

  11. I think the overriding goal should be accuracy of calls. A secondary goal should be a line-calling process that players have confidence in. The best technology-based system I’ve seen is the one that produces a close-up video of the ball’s impact. It is simply an extension of the traditional linesperson system, an improvement on their vision. A computer based system like Hawkeye is still producing calls that are inconsistent with ball marks even on hard courts, and that will leave players unsure of whether their shot was properly called.

    The “wrong mark” problem could be solved by the fact that on every shot, at least one linesperson has nothing to watch and could be assigned the task of locating the mark.

    If, on clay, there is a mark that both players agree is too close to call, given the Courier splatting impact theory, replaying the point seems like the best way to resolve the matter–unless you’re playing a jerk.

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