Tennis Industry magazine


Why Player Challenges Are a Bad Call

By Paul Fein and Christopher Noble

Paul Hawkins, the British inventor of the revolutionary Hawk-Eye electronic line-calling technology, was speaking from his experience with other sports when he advised the ATP and WTA tours: “You’ve chosen this route, now just be careful how you use it.”

Hawk-Eye made its eagerly awaited debut at the Nasdaq-100 Open on March 22. While some fiercely opposed the innovation, Hawk-Eye’s precision, reliability, and speed generally drew rave reviews. Most of the controversy, however, is not about Hawk-Eye, but about a new set of rules for using Hawk-Eye, jointly proposed by the USTA, ATP, and WTA, and innocuously called the “player challenge system.” According to this system, player challenges must follow six rules:

  1. Each player receives two challenges per set to review line calls.
  2. If the player is correct with a challenge, then the player retains the same number of challenges.
  3. If the player is incorrect with a challenge, then one of the challenges is lost.
  4. During a tie-break game in any set, each player will receive one additional challenge.
  5. Challenges may not be carried over from one set to another.
  6. Challenges can be made only on the last shot of a rally.

How do these player challenges measure up?

Used smartly as a means for accurate line-calling, Hawk-Eye will improve our sport for players and fans alike. Don’t hold it hostage to a system of game-show player challenges.

About the authors

Award-winning tennis writer Paul Fein is the author of Tennis Confidential: Today’s Greatest Players, Matches, and Controversies ( and You can Quote Me on That: Greatest Tennis Quips, Insights, and Zingers (, which was published in February 2005 by Potomac Books Inc. Christopher Noble is a founder and the CEO of Ultimate Balance Inc. (, a technology company that is applying electronic motion sensing and audio feedback to athlete training in tennis and other sports.

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