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Bad Calls Prompt Replay Talk

September 09, 2004|Diane Pucin | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — Spurred by four questionable line calls that might have influenced the outcome of a marquee matchup a night earlier, instant replay was the topic of the day Wednesday among players at the U.S. Open.

Most players seemed to favor using the technology in some way, their opinions on the subject prompted by a series of controversial rulings during a quarterfinal match between Serena Williams and Jennifer Capriati on Tuesday.

All of the calls went against Williams, who lost. But sentiment on the topic was nearly unanimous.

"I'm for it, 100%," Capriati's father and coach, Stefano, said. "They use it in the NFL. Why not in tennis?"

The most egregious call came during the first game of the third set when Williams hit what should have been a winning backhand that landed an inch inside the line. The linesman called Williams' shot good, so as she stood to serve, Williams expected to hear chair umpire Mariana Alves say "advantage Williams." Instead, Alves announced, "advantage Capriati," and Williams began an animated and vocal protest. Alves, from across the court, had overruled the linesman.

Three more calls in the final game of the set also went against Williams, USA Network television replays showed.

The technology that USA Network uses to track shots, called Hawkeye, was developed by a British scientist to track missiles.

But Jim Curley, U.S. Open tournament director, says that while Hawkeye is nice for television audiences, it is not good enough to replace referees or even for use as a replay system similar to what the NFL employs.

"We're not convinced that it's 100% accurate," Curley said. "We understand there is an error factor on Hawkeye, possibly a couple centimeters."

Martina Navratilova said she wouldn't quibble over a couple of centimeters. "I'm all for replay. Please give it to me," she said. "Let me have that margin for error. I can live with the two centimeters. It's the ones that are out by a foot that kill you."

David Newman, managing director of marketing and communications for the United States Tennis Assn., said another computerized line-calling system was tested during the week of U.S. Open qualifying. Called Auto-Ref, the system uses high-speed cameras combined with computer software algorithms.

Newman said Auto-Ref could guarantee accuracy within one or two millimeters.

Andy Roddick, the defending Open champion, voiced support for replay in major tournaments.

"I don't see a lot of the down side in having maybe instant replay challenge," Roddick said. "It probably would be pretty easy to have a monitor at the side of the court or the referee's office right inside the tunnel.

"I don't think you can do it every time because it would get ridiculous, with people questioning calls. It would become a circus.

"But if you have two [challenges] over the span of a five-set match, that's not a whole lot of contention."

Patrick McEnroe, U.S. Davis Cup captain, said, "With the technology out there and available, it's a good system to have. If the chair umpire has it right there, the replay, even if it's 99.9% accurate, it's probably still more accurate than some of the calls we're seeing."

Ai Sugiyama, who lost to Capriati in the fourth round, says using instant replay "is a good idea."

After Lindsay Davenport had moved into the semifinals Wednesday night, she expressed less enthusiasm for instant replay. "Yeah, it looks great on center court," Davenport said, "but there's also 16 or 17 other courts going on. If you did it, it would have to be across the board to be fair."

What everyone did agree on was that the chair umpire had treated Williams unfairly Tuesday. "It was unconscionable," Navratilova said of Alves' overrule. "Her brain must have stopped working."

Arlen Kantarian, the USTA's chief executive of professional tennis, called Williams on Wednesday afternoon and apologized to her for the mistake. "I told her she was a class act and fully appreciated the way she handled the situation," Kantarian said.

*

McEnroe announced that Olympic silver medalist Mardy Fish will join Roddick to play singles against Belarus in the Davis Cup semifinals Sept. 24 to 26 in Charleston, S.C. Bob and Mike Bryan, the twins from Camarillo, will play doubles. Max Miryni and Vladimir Voltchkov will lead Belarus on the slow, outdoor hard court.

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