Monday, August 27, 2007

On hawk-eye and challenge system

When Hawk-Eye technology entered tennis, it was amazingly cool. At that time only TV stations used the technology in their broadcast. We could precisely see how close a ball was in or out. Whether the linesmen or the referee made a good call or not.

But when the rule was modified to allow players to challenge the call, tennis has become different.

Recently, hawk-eye technology was introduced in Wimbledon to allow for player's challenge - meaning only French Open has not introduced the challenge system out of the four grand slams.

At the final, though, I felt that the challenge rule did not entirely work.

A couple of challenges from Nadal really let Federer down (okay, I'm a Federer fan). In one play, the ball was totally out if observed with naked eyes. There was no way that particular ball would be called in. However, the hawk-eye reply showed, or concluded, that the ball was "in". It barely touched the line - if fact, most people probably couldn't see that the ball touched the line from the reply. Perhaps only millimeters in.

"How in the world was that ball in?" said Federer.

I've seen other sports using the challenge system. (American) football is one that I'm quite familiar, and I totally agree with its challenge system. Why, because the calls usually do not interfere with the play. The challenges could be whether a ball has crossed the line, fouls, or other things. But, again, usually they don't interfere with the play.

In tennis, however, these calls can pretty much interfere with the play. A player's judgment or decision to hit a ball depends on the linesman's call. A player may decide not to return the ball when she hears a foul call from the linesman. So when the the opponent challenges the call and hawk-eye shows that the ball is in, it's unfair to the first player if the opponent gets a point. At the least, the serve should be replayed.

However, it's different if it is the receiving player who makes the challenge. She may feel that the ball is out, although it's not called. It is her decision not to hit the ball.

In other words, it's only fair to use Hawk-Eye technology to challenge an "in" ball out. Or better yet, use the technology for all calls, and forget about the challenge system.

For this reason - not interfering the play, football (soccer) should adopt the same system. Scope of the challenge must be defined correctly and fairly. One thing for sure, it must help the officials to determine whether a ball has crossed the goal line.

Latest incident, last week, was David Healy's "goal" against Middlesbrough. A clear one, but missed but the officials.

Not that I'm a Fulham fan, but I had David Healy in my fantasy team. That was seven points missing from Healy...