Tennis instant replay warms up for U.S. Open debut

By Andrew Lippe
While tennis professional use the U.S. Open Summer tournaments to get into championship form the USTA is using it to get its new instant replay technology, provided by Hawk-Eye, into championship form.

“We have made a leap of faith and we continue not to stay complacent,”says Paul Hawkins, Hawk-Eye Innovations Managing director. “You can’t win a grand slam in the first week either. You have to stay committed.”

In other sports instant replay is open to interpretation. However with Hawk-Eye’s eight high-speed black and white cameras surrounding the court locate the tennis ball from all angles and zero in on the exact location. “This technology is reliable, it is fast and it keeps the natural flow of the game,” said, Chris Widmaier senior director of public relations at USTA.

The system builds a 3D model of the ball s location sending data from all eight cameras to a central IBM computer to compute a final model that determines whether the ball was in or out.

Hawkins says the use of black-and-white cameras is critical as it makes it easier to find the center of the ball. Images of the ball, he says, are about 10 pixels in size and the high-speed cameras can find the center of the ball to about one-fifteenth of a pixel.

This system originally started out as a broadcast enhancement, he says. That was the perfect training ground where we could get the systems to be accurate all of the time.

Widmaier says that although there were hardware issues at first but that those problems no longer exist. The replay rules allows each player two challenges per set to ask a chair umpire to review a line call. If a player is right he retains his number of challenges but if he is incorrect then one of the challenges is lost. Challenges are not carried over and an additional challenge is issued if there is a tiebreak.

“This has been a great addition to our sport,” says Widmaier. “Players are fully used to it now.”

All instant replay is shown live to all entities. Players, chair umpire and television crews and audiences view it at the same time. And it’s already changing TV coverage. ESPN has broadcast most of the summer tournaments and now divides the screen to show live player reactions so fans can feel the drama.
Hawkins says players have not been reluctant in challenging calls and some often challenge a call they normally would not for there is no harm in doing so. About 35 percent of the calls are reversed.
Instant replay debuts at the US Open Tournament at Arthur Ashe Stadium and Louis Armstrong Stadiums beginning August 28th through September 10th.
“This replay adds to the game, it has taken away controversy and taken the fans closer to the sport,” says Hawkins.