US Open opts for Hawk-Eye line-calling technology on all tennis courts for first time

The US Open will use Hawk-Eye Live electronic line-calling on all match courts during this year’s tournament for the first time, the USTA said in a statement on Monday.

The technology is so advanced right now, there is absolutely no reason why you should keep line umpires on the court. Of course I understand technology is expensive, so it’s an economical issue and a question mark, but I feel like we are all moving towards that, and sooner or later there is no reason to keep line umpires. Novak Djokovic

Seven of the 9 US Open Series events leading into the year’s final major, including the Western & Southern Open and the National Bank Open, will also fully use the technology this summer.

The USTA used electronic line-calling for the Western & Southern Open and US Open on all courts except Arthur Ashe and Louis Armstrong Stadiums in 2020 when both events were played at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

According to the USTA, Hawk-Eye Live made around 314,000 calls during the two tournaments.

James Japhet, the Managing Director of Hawk-Eye North America, told The New York Times in September that just 14 of the 225,000 calls made during the first week of the 2020 US Open were erroneous, and those were the result of human error by operators in the control room.

The 2021 Australian Open was the first major to be played entirely without line judges.

Player reaction was mostly positive throughout the tournament, but there were a handful of instances in which it appeared during replays the technology got it wrong.

Novak Djokovic supports the end of line umpires, as he prefers the technology option.

“With all respect for the tradition and the culture we have in this sport, when it comes to people present on the court during a match, including line umpires,” said Djokovic.

“I really don’t see a reason why every single tournament in this world, in this technological advanced era, would not have what we had during Cincinnati/New York tournament.

“The technology is so advanced right now, there is absolutely no reason why you should keep line umpires on the court.

“Of course I understand technology is expensive, so it’s an economical issue and a question mark, but I feel like we are all moving towards that, and sooner or later there is no reason to keep line umpires.”


Tim Henman is skeptical about using Hawk-Eye Live in preference to line officials

© Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Not everyone, however, agrees, with 7-times Grand Slam champion Mats Wilander saying tennis is losing its intrigue and personality, and is in danger of becoming an esport.

“I like line umpires and I liked the challenge system where we had three challenges,” Wilander told Reuters. “I thought that added something in tennis that we have lost.

“We have so many unbelievable rallies among the best players in the world at times.”

Line calls are now being delivered in real time through remote tracking cameras, removing the challenge system that allowed players to contest calls made by the judges.

“I think it was some kind of intrigue where the player had to choose,” added Wilander.

“ ‘Okay, is this a big enough point where I need to challenge?’ I thought that was an interesting twist. It made the player think even more.

“Now we have no line calling. I think it just takes away some of the personality that’s on the court.”

Tim Henman, a member of the management committee at Wimbledon agrees, preferirng to avoid using technology to make line calls at The Championships.

“In an ideal world I would like to have the Hawkeye technology on the courts but with line judges,” Henman says. “I enjoy the human element, the interaction between players and line judges and players selecting when to challenge and sometimes if those challenges have been used up and they don’t have any more challenges left, I like that.

“I think that the line judges have been a part of the sport for a long time, I also think there is a community of line judges, umpires who are involved in the game of tennis at the highest level.

“If we were just to be using Hawkeye live, I think the interesting opportunity for people to be involved in that sphere declines and the incentive is not going to be there.

“If there is a scenario where we are trying to limit the number of people on site, then I’m sure Hawkeye live will be an opportunity.

“In my personal opinion, I would like to have Hawkeye with the umpires and the line judges.”





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