Frenchman and former World No.6 Gilles Simon has unloaded on the state of umpiring and use of Hawkeye Live technology.
Frenchman and former world No.6 Gilles Simon has unloaded on the state of umpiring and use of Hawk-Eye Live technology following last night’s first-round loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas.
This year’s Australian Open tournament is the first Grand Slam to replace all linespeople with Hawk-Eye technology. Fans and players had a taste of the system at last year’s US Open, where only the two main show courts had line judges, while every other court adopted the Hawk-Eye technology.
The development – brought in as a COVID-safe measure to reduce the number of people on the court – means players can’t challenge decisions as remote-tracking cameras take over with automatic line calls in real-time.
Most players have been fairly quiet so far about the full-time use of the technology, but Simon questioned how accurate the calls really are.
The 36-year-old said players can’t push their “paranoia” and argued Hawk-Eye Live wasn’t accurate, with a number of markings on the court not reflecting the technology’s version of events.
“The main problem is that it’s not at all accurate, that’s the big, big problem,” Simon said, according to a translated version of an answer he gave in French in his press conference.
“Surprisingly, the players prefer a machine error to a chair umpire error, other (sic) we always have the idea that it’s personal – we’re paranoid and we always have the idea that the umpire is blaming us personally, and that’s why he’s making a mistake.
“But with the machine, you can’t push your paranoia quite that far. But it’s a problem because there are big differences – especially where you can see the marks really, really well. You can see that the call that’s been made is not where the mark is. So, it’s a problem.”
Simon also said that by taking away player challenges, matches are losing excitement, with players previously given three challenges per set to test close decisions made by line judges.
“In Cologne (ATP events last October) there were big officiating errors – it (Hawk-Eye Live) is impartial, it’s neutral… but there are (obviously) times when we’d like the calls to be correct,” Simon said.
“And surprisingly, I think we miss the challenge. I think people and the players actually like the challenge – it was a nice mix to able to resort to the video three times – something happened. Obviously (now) you can’t challenge a ball that’s been called out by the machine.”
But the big issue on Simon’s mind was just how much control the chair umpires now have as they rely more heavily on the technology.
The Frenchman argued that because chair umpires now have less to worry about, they’re openly looking to hand out more time violations for servers who go beyond the required 25-second time limit to start the next point.
“And mainly what I least like with Hawk-Eye Live is – and I know there’s a connection, and for a while, I’ve thought it’s getting worse – the level of umpiring has gone way down. I’m not sure if there’s a connection with Hawk-Eye Live… the umpires are maybe a little concentrated during points. And there are a lot of ‘let’ calls – and if it’s the machine they don’t see (hear?) it.
“Now I think they (umpires) are just obsessed about the time (between points)… I think I already talked about this at Roland Garros. I have the impression they only have one mission – to give you a warning the second you get to the 25th second. That’s all there is. That’s what you feel when you for your towel. This kind of permanent stress.
“I don’t know if it’s because (umpires are making) fewer announcements, are they more vigilant with what’s happening on the court or what’s happening off it? That’s all that’s left for them to do and they do it with zeal and, unfortunately, that’s not a good thing.
“Basically, there’s something that’s not working well on the court these days.”
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