A word of warning for line judges everywhere: dust off your CVs and get down your local job centres. The writing is on the wall.
A seniors tournament series in the United States – the Powershares Series – is doing away with its line judges altogether and relying instead on Hawk-Eye technology to adjudicate the line calls.
What’s even more bizarre is that these are events John McEnroe competes in. Oh yes… we can be serious.
The former legends playing in the Powershares Series – including Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Michael Chang, Jim Courier, Andy Roddick, as well as the aforementioned infamous line judge baiter – police their own line calls, turning to the umpire or Hawk-Eye to mediate over disagreements. Unlike in main tour events, players are permitted unlimited challenges.
So could this adjudication format work across the entire sport of tennis?
“I think this can be a ground-breaking game-changer for the sport,” enthused McEnroe. “If they had this on the main tour, the level of excitement with the sport would rise considerably. It would bring a feeling of mano a mano. It would bring an intensity to it that would be very interesting.”
Fellow player Mark Philippoussis is convinced that Hawkeye has sounded the death knell for professional line judges across the board.
“I definitely think it's only a matter of time," said the former Wimbledon and US Open finalist. "I see it as a natural progression. Sooner or later someone is going to have to take the leap."
What would it mean if all professional tennis adopted the new format?
Cheats may prosper
Just like in club tennis, if a player can lie about an opponent’s ball being out, there’s always a chance he’ll get away with it. The more convincing his lie, the less likely the opponent is to ask for Hawk-Eye’s scrutiny.
“I would’ve thought Connors is screwing me, and Lendl’s screwing me,” McEnroe said when asked what it would have been like if players had called their own lines in the old days. “And Lendl would have thought I was doing it to him. That would’ve been very intense and interesting.”
With so many serves clipping the lines at the edge of the service box, it could cause confusion at the start of every point. Imagine the possible delays if every close serve required Hawk-Eye intervention.
Saving on wages
Tournaments organisers will save expenses on paying for line judges. Ultimately that could mean more prize money for the players – provided of course the tournament can negotiate a decent rate with Hawk-Eye.
No more target practice
It’s always cruel but very funny when a line judge gets pegged by a massive serve. When Croatian big gun Ivo Karlovic is the culprit it’s even crueller and funnier. Especially when the line judge takes one for the team in his nether regions while we all watch him grit his teeth and hold back the tears.
Worry not. There will be plenty of line judges at the next Grand Slam on the calendar – the French Open. In the men’s draw Unibet have Rafa Nadal as favourite to win at 2.15, followed by Novak Djokovic at 2.38, Stan Wawrinka at 13.00 and Roger Federer at 16.00.
In the women’s draw Serena Williams is favourite at 3.75, followed by Simona Halep at 5.00, Maria Sharapova at 6.00 and Victoria Azarenka at 9.00.