Posted at 1:16 a.m., Friday, June 15, 2007
Let's go to the videotape: Wimbledon adds replay
By Howard Fendrich and Krystyna Rudzki
Obligatory curtsies are gone, a retractable roof is on its way, and men and women will earn equal prize money this year. Another update really could affect the outcome of matches: Yes, it's true, instant replay is coming to Wimbledon, video screens and all.
When action begins June 25 at the Grand Slam tournament, Centre Court and Court 1 will be equipped with technology for the "Hawk-Eye" challenge system, allowing for electronic reviews of close calls.
It could make official-baiting, McEnroe-esque cries of "You can't be serious!" a thing of the past. To some, such as 2003 U.S. Open champion and two-time Wimbledon runner-up Andy Roddick, that's quite all right.
"Everybody's kind of making a big deal over Wimbledon. Well, I hate to tell you: Wimbledon's getting a roof, Wimbledon's getting 'Hawk-Eye,"' Roddick said. "The tradition's always going to be there, with the whites and with kind of the old school feel around and stuff, but at the same time, if you feel you can improve your event, I think you have to do it."
The "Hawk-Eye" system made its Grand Slam debut at the U.S. Open last year, and the Australian Open followed suit in January. It's not likely to be tried at the other major, the French Open, because balls leave marks in the red clay that can be checked.
When a player questions a call, screens show a graphic rendering of the ball's flight, in slow motion, with a black spot indicating where the ball landed. That spot either touches a white line (the ball was in) or it doesn't (the ball was out).
At the U.S. Open and Australian Open, players were allowed two incorrect challenges per set if a call is overturned, the player keeps that challenge plus an extra one if a there's a tiebreaker. At Wimbledon, players will be given three per set, plus an extra one for a tiebreaker; in a fifth set for men or a third set for women, where there is no tiebreaker, the number of challenges will be reset if the game score reaches 6-6.
Part of the reason for the extra challenge at Wimbledon is that on the two courts that will have "Hawk-Eye," they're removing the Cyclops system that monitored the service lines and let out a "Beep!" on faults.
It might be odd not to hear those beeps. Even odder: Seeing replays on 16›-by-10-foot screens at Wimbledon, where some courts still use hand-operated scoreboards.
"We're all very keen on keeping tradition," All England Club Chief Executive Ian Ritchie said, "but we've always got to look to move forward."
That's part of a recent pattern at Wimbledon, where modernity has managed to creep in more and more during this millennium.
In 2003, it was decided players no longer would need to bow or curtsy to the Royal Box behind one of the Centre Court baselines. Instead, players only are required to pay homage if Queen Elizabeth II or Prince Charles is present and neither has stopped by to watch tennis at Wimbledon since the 1970s.
Also, construction has started on a roof for Centre Court, expected to be fully operational in 2009. That will consign to history, at least on Wimbledon's most hallowed court, one of the tournament's grandest traditions: rain delays.
And then there's the prize money. The All England Club announced in February it would give men and women the same amounts from the first round to the final for the first time since players began getting paid in 1968.
So replay fits in with a growing sense that this is no longer your grandfather's Wimbledon.
"I don't think tradition means you can't change anything, ever," Roddick said. "They renovate Fenway, they renovate Wrigley. They're moving Yankee Stadium. It can be done."