Instant replay debuts for US Open Series

July 17, 2006 05:42 PM
Paul Goldstein fields questions from the media after a demonstration of the instant replay system to be used throughout the US Open Series© Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- American Paul Goldstein hit a practice serve Monday at the RCA Championships that hugged the line. In or out?

Within seconds, two video boards showed that his shot was just out of bounds, thanks to the U.S. Open Series debut of instant replay.

"The technology is spot-on, so you have the confidence that when a call is made it's absolute,'' Goldstein said. "Before you might have held reservations with the chair for the next two or three points.''

The U.S. Open will be the first Grand Slam event to review disputed calls electronically.

Tennis officials consider the Hawk-Eye line calling technology the most significant innovation in tennis since the tiebreaker was introduced 36 years ago. Television announcers and viewers had access to replay technology, but not the players.

Jim Courier, a four-time Grand Slam winner in the 1990s, was on the committee that approved use of the system. He said he wishes it would have been available sooner.

"It's a great step forward for a sport that has been a little bit reticent to change tradition,'' he said.

Paul Hawkins, who invented the system, said he's glad it's available to everyone.

"If the person at home has a better view than the person in the chair ... That's got to be improved,'' he said.

The technology will be used at the 10 U.S. Open Series events leading up to the Grand Slam in August.

Each player gets two challenges per set to review line calls. A player only loses a challenge if the call stands. Players will receive an additional challenge during a tiebreaker, but can't carry over challenges from one set to another.

The system will be used on stadium courts, showing replays on video screens. The RCA event added two screens to its stadium court this year at a cost of $40,000.

The move toward instant replay gained momentum when an officiating error helped Jennifer Capriati beat Serena Williams in the quarterfinals of the 2004 U.S. Open.

At the U.S. Open Series events, 10 cameras will track the ball. The combined information will go into a computer that spits out a computerized simulation of the shot on the video screens.

ATP Tour players got their first chance to use instant replay at the Nasdaq-100 Open in March, a non-U.S. Open Series event. Players challenged 161 calls, and 53 (33 percent) were reversed.

Goldstein believes the system will make tennis a better spectator sport.

"It will enhance the fans' enjoyment of the experience,'' he said. "As a player, I want the fans to be digging it. I played at Nasdaq and fans were going 'challenge' and 'don't challenge.' They were into it, and that was exciting. We have the technology, why not use it?''

The technology could someday eliminate the need for line judges. Gayle Bradshaw, vice president for the ATP Tour, doesn't see that happening anytime soon.

"Controversy sometimes is good,'' he said. "If it becomes too sterile, it gets boring. We're trying to eliminate the blatant errors.''