Hawk-Eye ushers in new era leaving opinions divided among top players
Wednesday 22 March 2006
Roger Federer is sceptical. Marat Safin thinks it will "destroy the game". Andy Roddick says it will "add drama and excitement". Andre Agassi describes it as "one of the most exciting things to happen" in his 20 years as a professional.
Opinions on the use of video replays to decide line calls are as hard to guess as a Federer forehand, but most agree that tennis will never be the same again after the technology is used at a senior event for the first time at the Nasdaq-100 Open, which begins here today. After successful trials at the Masters Seniors tournament at the Royal Albert Hall in December and the Hopman Cup in Perth in January, the sport is putting its faith in Hawk-Eye, the invention pioneered by Channel 4 five years ago for its cricket coverage.
The technology will be used only on the main court here, at a cost of around £60,000, but the US and Australian Opens have opted to follow the same route. The system uses eight cameras linked to a computer, which can decide the position of the ball within four millimetres. On-court screens will show the verdict to players and spectators within 10 seconds.
Players can challenge two line calls per set and one in a tie-break. The challenges cannot be carried over into subsequent sets and can be made only against a call on the final shot of a rally. If the protest is upheld the player will retain two challenges; if wrong they will lose one.
Three Britons feature at the Nasdaq-100, but it would be no surprise if Andy Murray quickly becomes the lone flag-bearer as Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski have tricky first-round draws, against Marat Safin and Mikhail Youzhny respectively. At No 56 in the world Henman is now the British No 3 and his nemesis, Lleyton Hewitt, awaits in the second round even if he beats Safin, who has made a promising return after six months off with injury.
Murray faces Stanislas Wawrinka, who beat the British No 1 in straight sets in Switzerland's Davis Cup victory on clay last September. Murray, however, has since climbed to No 41 in the world, 17 places above Wawrinka. The winner will meet Chile's Fernando Gonzalez, with Nicolas Kiefer and Rafael Nadal likely opponents beyond that.
Murray, Wawrinka and Marcos Baghdatis were on the shortlist for the best men's newcomer prize at the sport's annual awards ceremony here last night, but were beaten to the honour by France's Gaël Monfils. Federer and Kim Clijsters won the top men's and women's awards.
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