Usage of the Hawk-Eye Challenge System and its Consequences
The hawk-eye challenge system used in tennis has caused controversy in the sport for many years. Tennis critics have gone back and forth a multitude of times about this topic. While one side fights for the system, the other side finds faults in it. Personally, I believe the hawk-eye challenge system in tennis takes away from the sanctity of the game. Originally players made their own calls or officials/referees would do that for them. Now, the hawk-eye challenge system has caused these old habits to dissipate due to players’ and officials’ heavy reliance on the system.
Almost every tennis fan, or follower, of the sport tennis, knows, or at least is aware of, the hawk-eye system. But for those that don’t, the hawk-eye system is a “tennis officiating system” (Hawk-Eye Innovations Ltd) that was made to serve the players and take the burden of missed or faulty line calls off of the officials and players. This line calling is said to be very precise with a “mean error of only 3.6mm” (Hawk-Eye Innovations Ltd). Although this system offers other high-tech resources, this one is the main issue and holds the most aforementioned “controversy”.
For starters, only professionals and high-level juniors have access to this challenge system. Even amongst these professionals and juniors, not all of them are equally given the opportunity to play with the assistance of this system. That being said, it’s a good thing that not many players have been dependent on this. In the past when this technology wasn’t available, amateurs and most professional players were forced to make their own line calls. When the competitive nature got out of hand because of these line calls, assistance from officials would be called on. The more elite professionals had access to full-time, on court officials, who made the line calls for them. In both cases though, humans made line calls.
With the hawk-eye challenge system, time, attention, and focus is taken away from the game when the decision to challenge a call has to be made. “Players have unlimited opportunity to challenge, but once three incorrect challenges are made in a set, they cannot challenge again until the next set.” (Barnett) In other words, as long as correct challenges are being made, there can be multiple breaks within a game solely due to line call challenges. As a fan and participant of the sport, I know that challenges don’t occur as frequently as the word “unlimited” seems to imply, but nonetheless, the challenges have become a greater part of the game now that one can replay the shot with this system.
The image above, taken from the official website for Technology at the Australian Open, shows the statistics for challenges made in singles play throughout the Australian Open tournament this year, 2014. As can be seen, the number of total challenges is extremely high. Since there’s no actual average time recording how long each challenge takes, we must approximate. As a tennis player, a conservative estimate for the time taken for each challenge is 30 seconds. With this in mind, accounting for women’s challenges alone, approximately 190 minutes, a little over 3 hours, of match time was wasted in this tournament. This shows the system’s lack of efficiency or regard for time because time would’ve been cut down to 10 seconds if a call was just made by the player or official.
Another thing that illustrates the hawk-eye challenge system’s effects or setbacks to the game is the effort and strategizing that is placed behind decisions to challenge. Depending on how important the point is, players choose their decision to challenge accordingly. Since deciding when a point is important enough to challenge is very subjective, Tristan Barnett defined what an “important point” consists of. His definition stated that the importance of a point could be differentiated by “how much difference will result in the outcome of the match depending on whether a point is won or lost.” With this definition in mind, players are faced with making this decision every time they contemplate if challenging a call is the right move. The image above depicts specific statistics about the importance of points in different situations and parts of a match. Considering most players aren’t fully aware or do not know this data off the tops of their heads, especially not in matches which tend to be intense and competitive, they must weigh the pros and cons of their choice to challenge each and every time.
Players also have to ration their challenges since only three incorrect ones are given each set. If one runs out of challenges at a critical point in the match, the result of the match can be affected. This leads to a shift in focus during matches. One wrong decision, especially at a pivotal point in the match, can and will change the mindset of a player. This shift in focus forces players to take attention away from finding ways to win the match and placing it in less important things such as challenge making. Without the hawk-eye challenge system, this could be avoided. The main priority that should trump everything else, winning the match, would be deemed critical once again. Distractions or deviations, from line calls and choosing to challenge a call, wouldn’t exist to the degree that they do with the system.
Granted, all aspects of the hawk-eye system aren’t defective. One that argues for the system can make a valid point that the system reduces the chance of human error. As aforementioned, the mean error for the system’s line calling is a mere 3.6mm. In contrast, players and officials tend to miss many line calls, whether done on accident or done so purposefully. The system does get the closest to avoiding this problem. With this being said, the challenge system can only help avoid human error when the player chooses to use it. If a faulty call is made by a player or the official and isn’t challenged, the system’s presence serves no purpose.
A huge role model and well-known tennis player, Roger Federer, has similar views about the hawk-eye system. Never a proponent of the system, he stated “ …People today don’t lose any energy over arguing with umpires any more, which back in the day we used to. I think also their mental strength came into play more often. Now you just move from point to point to point so you don’t see that much character any more.” (Cronin) In other words, the lengths players used to go to to win a match, like arguing over line calls with officials, are no longer apparent, at least not to the extent they used to be. In accordance with Federer’s statements, the previous argument made about misplaced focus is evident when compared to pre-hawk-eye times.
The hawk-eye system retracts from the main reason the game is played, to win at all costs. Although officials have always been there, players are expected to find ways to win on their own or only with their team. The sport is meant to push athletes to various mental heights, as well as physical ones, during the match. The hawk-eye system works to lessen a player and official’s job or responsibility during competition. Yes, this can be beneficial, but more importantly, it causes the sport to be a bit easier. Players can rely on the system to help them compete. Originally considered an individual sport, the hawk-eye challenge system directs the player’s concentration to an issue other than winning the match, challenging line calls.
Works Cited Page
“Challenge Stats.” Challenge Stats. Tennis Australia, 1996-2014. Web. 26 Nov. 2014.
Cronin, Matt. “Federer: Hawk-Eye Detracts from Sport.” Federer: Hawk-Eye Detracts from Sport. Tennis.com, 2014. Web. 26 Nov. 2014.
“Tennis.”; Hawk-Eye. Hawk-Eye Innovations Ltd, 2007-2014. Web. 26 Nov. 2014.
“The Impact of the Hawk-Eye System in Tennis.” Trainingwithjames. N.p., 2012. Web. 26 Nov. 2014.