Australian Open: without line judges, is tennis taking a dangerous turn?

Established in Melbourne for the Australian Open, 100% automated arbitration does not leave players indifferent. Overall, they complain about robotic tennis. Still, this may be just a step to another world. It’s not impossible that the “out” voices are replaced by the name of sponsors.

You would have to be blind not to see anything and deaf not to hear. The Australian Open is the first Grand Slam tournament that takes place without linesmen and relies on a soulless metallic voice announcing foul balls. No chance, therefore, that Novak Djokovic is not disqualified as at the US Open where, in a bad reflex, a ball violently sent towards the tarpaulin had hit an official in the throat. The world number 1 is obviously not for nothing in this decision taken by Tennis Australia.

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Pandemic requires, the organizers wanted as few people as possible on the site and it was easier to decide in one category rather than another. It’s a fashion that started last fall in Cologne and then at the Masters in London. The Rolex Paris Masters had resisted by keeping teams small to assess the trajectories of the balls. Before evaluating the consequences on the game itself, Gilles Simon expresses doubts about the quality of the service offered.

“The main problem is that it is not precise, supports the Niçois. In Melbourne, we can see the traces. But surprisingly, the players prefer a machine error than a referee error because they have the impression that it is personal. With a machine, one cannot push the paranoid … “

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“Soon we will have bale machines instead of collectors”

Rather adept of this modernity, Alizé Cornet is reviewing its position. “At first, I thought it was great, it’s less energy spent, she said. But gradually, I find that it dehumanizes tennis. Soon we will have ball machines instead. collectors. There will no longer be a chair judge and we will be all alone. I am starting to miss this. This automatic voice, there is a small part of history that is going away with this robotization things. I remember talking to judges, they were work colleagues, that’s missing. “

An attentive observer of the evolution of the game, Gilles Simon finds that the game is becoming too sanitized. “The challenges (when the player could contest the decision, editor’s note) are lacking. People and players liked it. Something was happening. But, above all, I find that the level of arbitration has dropped a lot. ‘impression that they have only one obsession, it is to give you a warning the moment you arrive at the 25th second. You are in constant stress. There is something that does not work of course the terrain. It makes it a bit monotonous. We lose some intense moments. We have the impression that nothing more can happen. “

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“The referee is only used to count the points”

These closed doors last fall, and now this loneliness on the court, Pierre-Hugues Herbert also deplores it. “It’s part of the measures that make life on the circuit less warm, believes the Alsatian. Me, being refereed by a machine, that does not necessarily please me. There is a less show side. Even for the referee, we have the feeling that he is only counting the points. There are no more refereeing problems. But that’s all that has to do with Covid-19. The linesmen were people. passionate people, that means fewer jobs. “

We will watch the position of Roland-Garros. French leaders have always believed that the inspection of a trace was more judicious than the live hawk-eye. There were refereeing problems during the last French Open in October. But the FFT has always advocated an internationally recognized arbitration policy. Vocations are created. But France could find itself cornered. The Masters 1000 in Madrid, played on clay, will adopt automated arbitration in May with a competitor from hawk-eye, a Spanish company named Foxtenn.

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Tournament directors chase expenses: installing the technology on the courts is probably less expensive than paying linesmen. Especially since the ads could be monetized. In an interview with the Australian daily The Age, Ben Figueiredo, one of Hawk-eye’s thinking heads, considers replacing the voice with… the name of sponsors.

“Worth exploring,” he blurted out. Close your eyes and imagine the impact of “Justin Bridou” or “Rolex” repeatedly in your brain… “My God, are you kidding?” Responded Alizé Cornet. I don’t know if I would be able to live it well. let me digest this information. We are on business levels… We have to keep the soul of sport. ” Yes, but tennis is changing so fast. Too fast maybe …

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