When the call is close, the pro tennis tours want to take another look. The ATP and WTA Tours have decided to use instant replay starting with the Nasdaq-100 Open in Key Biscayne, Fla., in two weeks, officials said Monday. This year’s U.S. Open will be the first Grand Slam event to review disputed calls electronically. Discussions are under way regarding the use of replay at other tournaments, including the summer hardcourt series leading up to the Open.
“In my 20 years in professional tennis, this is one of the most exciting things to happen for players, fans and television viewers,” eight-time Grand Slam champion Andre Agassi said in a statement. “This new technology will add a whole new dimension to the game.”
Because of the cost — more than $100,000 at Key Biscayne — instant replay will be used only on the stadium court there, and on the two show courts at the U.S. Open. Players will be permitted two challenges per set, and a third if there’s a tiebreaker. Calls upheld will count against a player’s allotment. Video screens visible to players, umpire and fans will allow everyone to see the replay result at the same time. The process is expected to take less than 10 seconds, and officials believe replays may speed up matches because there will be fewer arguments.
“With the speed and power of today’s game, the time has come for tennis to benefit from new technology,” said Arlen Kantarian, chief executive for the U.S. Tennis Association. “It’s an opportunity for us to help officials and players, while hopefully creating a bit more excitement and intrigue.”
For such a tradition-sport, replay is radical — the most dramatic rules change since the tiebreaker was adopted in 1970. “If anyone’s been listening to my commentary the past year, then they know I’m in favor of using replay,” John McEnroe said. “I think it will make tennis more interesting.”
Butch Buchholz, a former top player and the tournament director at Key Biscayne, said he likes instant replay and expects it to be popular with players. But the sort of tirades that helped make McEnroe and Jimmy Connors famous may become a thing of the past, he said. “It’s a little bit like baseball,” Buchholz said. “A guy slides into second base and the umpire calls him out, and he says, ‘I’m safe,’ and he grabs the dirt and throws it on the umpire’s shoe — you’re not going to see that.”
Tennis will use eight cameras for replay. Players are permitted to contest a point-ending call, but they may challenge a ruling in the midst of a rally only if they stop play. Umpires may order a replay on their own if the linesman’s view of call is blocked and the chair is unable to make the ruling.
It’s hard to argue against replay in a sport that has long used an electronic eye on the lines to call balls in or out.
While understandable from a cost perspective, though, it is rather unsporting to use replay only in featured matches. The nature of sport is to have the same rules apply to all participants in an event equally. That won’t happen here.
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