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Can clay and line calling technology finally start dating?

news Oct 02, 2020

By Val Febbo

Amidst all the trashy magazine talk about which high profile celebrities may or may not be dating or breaking up, the relationship tennis fans are concerned with is that of line calling technology and clay.

We don’t care if Brad and Jen have had 20 weddings in the last year, or if Lleyton and Bec have broken up for the 30th time, that’s all fake news created by gossip tabloids. They should really concern themselves with what is happening in Paris right now.

They never will, so we will do it for you, it’s the relationship that needs to happen to make the tennis world a better place. Yesterday’s debacle at Roland Garros has established yet again that all clay tournaments are behind the times.

World No.11 Denis Shapovalov was serving for the match in an epic five set thriller against Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain. It was the tenth game and the Canadian was a mere two points away from a stirring victory at 30-15 up.

Denis Shapovalov pleads his case with the umpire

The Spaniard hit his next shot out, or it was seemingly out, but never called. Shapovalov called the umpire from his chair to analyse the mark, thinking the correct call would be made before he too ruled the mark in. Broadcasters then displayed the Hawk-Eye ruling showing that indeed that the ball was out.

Shapovalov was in disbelief, as Carballes Baena reeled off four straight points to break back before the Canadian reciprocated but again failed to serve it out on the second occasion, eventually falling 7-5 6-7(5) 6-3 3-6 8-6 in a five hour marathon.

After the loss the 21-year-old took to social media to question the lack of Hawk-Eye on clay, before erupting about the Roland Garros scheduling dramas and the so called ‘Parisian Covid bubble’.

“Scheduling is absolutely awful. It’s just complete trash,” said Shapovalov after his loss.

“It’s disappointing. I mean you’re in a Grand Slam and I don’t want to sound spoiled, but you expect at least some help from the tournament to help you compete.

“How am I supposed to come out and play doubles now after a five-hour match? It’s a first round as well, they could have scheduled it way better, way easier, I mean it’s not acceptable.

“There is no bubble. You can leave the hotel, you can go to the city, there’s no problem, there’s nobody stopping you. New York was done way better.”

The lack of organisation at the French Open has been well and truly documented, but as a Grand Slam the tournament’s role is to be a pioneer for other clay court events.

Hawk-Eye has been a pillar in tennis for over a decade

Whether it be Hawk-Eye, which isn’t 100% accurate, or it’s main competitor FoxTenn which says it can eliminate the doubt from line calls. The technology must be implemented to bring clay court tennis to the modern age.

Shane Liyanage from Data Driven Sports Analytics says that FoxTenn could be the way to go in the future, and that line calling technology needs to be implemented on clay.

“I’m of the view that a system like FoxTenn, which is a non-optical tracking system which uses cameras and very fast replays, is a better option on clay than using an estimation optical tracking system like Hawk-Eye,” Liyanage said on The Tennis Menu’s Roland Garros Show.

“One of the things I studied at university is related to ball tracking spin and Hawk-Eye isn’t one hundred per cent accurate.

“I think a system like FoxTenn would be a better choice but we definitely need something.

“I don’t think we can rely on people looking at ball marks anymore.”

Introducing the technology on clay has been a long time coming, for such a dubious call to rattle a player’s momentum and cost them a result is genuinely disgraceful, as clay is the only surface where human error is as prevalent as ever.

This ball was not even close to the line, it’s not like it was a mere millimetre that separated the ball from the line, it was clear cut by the footage and replay.

In sport, we demand perfection from technology, and to see these mistakes in this day and age of 2020 is quite frankly ridiculous. It is a blight on the sport and it makes the sport look second rate and as terrible as the AFL’s score review system can look at times.

So when you think about which celebrities or high profile people are in what relationships, don’t think about people, think about the clay and line calling technology partnership that the tennis world so desperately needs.

Val Febbo is a tennis writer and host of Break Point Podcast

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