Federer calls debut of Hawk-Eye technology 'madness'

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The Independent Online

Roger Federer does not get many things wrong and the first evidence here yesterday of the use of video technology to decide contentious line calls appeared to support the world No 1's unequivocal verdict. "What is happening is madness," Federer had said of the decision to use the Hawk-Eye computer system on the show court for the Nasdaq-100 Open. "A pure waste of money."

For all the attention given to the technology, which cost more than $100,000 (£57,000) to install here at Crandon Park, it did not make a halfpenny's worth of difference to the outcome of the first match in which it was deployed, a women's singles in which Jamea Jackson beat her fellow American, Ashley Harkleroad, 7-5, 6-7, 7-5.

The match featured four challenges to calls (or lack of them) by line judges. Hawk-Eye's eight cameras and linked computer decided that the officials were correct on three of them. Harkleroad's challenge on the fourth, after her forehand had been called out, was upheld, but the 20-year-old American lost the point when it was subsequently replayed.

Critics of the technology have suggested that its use will interrupt the flow of matches and cause delays, but that argument was not borne out here. The match lasted three hours and nine minutes, but that was the result of two well-matched players slugging out a baseline contest, which was also held up by breaks because of the heat and Jackson's problems with cramp. All four Hawk-Eye verdicts, communicated to players, officials and spectators via large on-court video screens, were reached within the promised 10 seconds.

The system has been installed at the request of players and Jackson and Harkleroad approved. Both players are allowed two challenges per set plus one for a tie-break (they lose a challenge which is not upheld but can keep making them if they are correct).

Ian Wight, the director of the Stella Artois Championships, was here yesterday and said that he would be talking to the Association of Tennis Professionals about the possibility of using the technology at Queen's Club this summer.

He also revealed the strongest-ever line-up for this summer's tournament. Five of the current top 10 ­ Rafael Nadal, Andy Roddick, Ivan Ljubicic, Nikolay Davydenko and James Blake ­ will be joined by, among others, Lleyton Hewitt and the British trio of Andy Murray, Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski. All 48,000 tickets for the centre court have already been sold in record time.