After three weeks, World TeamTennis came down to a single point on Sunday at the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia.
The New York Empire and the Chicago Smash were fighting for the championship in the last match after having a simultaneous point at 6-6.
After a massive play in the deciding women’s doubles tiebreaker, there were no line judges on the court to make a call.
Rather than being made by a human, the critical call was made electronically. Stephens, playing for the Chicago Smash, asked to see a reply of the virtual ball mark. The electronic call was only confirmed by the replay.
Stephens’ opponent, Vandewedghe’s, shot appeared to land on the back half of the baseline in the replay. Ultimately, the Empire had a 21-20 victory over the Chicago Smash – ending in a safe and distanced celebration.
Hawk-Eye Live was the automated system used by World TeamTennis at their tournament. The electronic system makes all the calls and even includes recorded voices that shout “out,” “fault,” and “foot fault.”
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This automated system eliminates the need for line judges and the criticism of calls made by the human eye. Oftentimes, the virtual replay is used to review calls, but by using an already electronic system – these calls are more accurate.
If a line call is especially close, Hawk-Eye Live will automatically trigger sounds of urgency with another voice recording. The system is compared to a GPS system, where nowadays, there are a lot of personalizations one can make to automated voices and navigation.
The system includes different voice options, including different languages. There are also female voices and male voices, which were both used during World TeamTennis.
James Japhet, the managing director of Hawk-Eye North America, emphasized how using real human voices in an automated system was of utmost importance. This was to ensure that the game experience remained as unchanged as possible for fans and athletes alike.
Although Hawk-Eye is doing its best to keep the game traditional, considering the circumstances, this will still be a huge change in the industry. Later this month, Hawk-Eye Live will be making its debut at a Grand Slam tournament.
Back in 2006, the U.S. Open was the first Grand Slam event to use an electrical system for line calls. In 2018, the U.S. Open became the first to make electronic line calling available on all courts.
This next phase for Hawk-Eye Live will be different than past years as the automated system will have the final word, not line judges.
World TeamTennis’ chief executive, Carlos Silva, said he is glad to see the U.S. Open is using a system like Hawk-Eye Live. He claims that although the system is not perfect, it is close to it and, without question, is better than humans.
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With that being said, human line judges’ jobs are at risk as automated systems could potentially be used in the long-run. This is a contributing reason as to why the system has not been the go-to in years past.
It is also a concern that there will be no clear way to determine a quality chair umpire as line judging is typically the pathway to such a position.
Although many sports fans and professionals do not want to lose the tradition of the game, which includes line judges, they know utilizing more technology to the game’s advantage is inevitable.
Silva understands that the automated systems’ lack of human error is what sets it apart from the traditional. He believes utilizing automated systems like Hawk-Eye Live in professional sports like tennis is long overdue considering the vast amounts of technological advancements seen in recent years.