US Open – The USTA has turned to automatic linesmen

NEW YORK — Before a sold-out Arthur Ashe crowd of 23,000 people on Sunday night at the US Openworld number 1 Daniel Medvedev and Wimbledon finalist Nick Kyrgios Start a rally early in the first set.

“Let’s go Kyrgios, let’s go,” the crowd chanted in unison just before Medvedev, the defending champion of the US Open, started serving at a score of 2-3. A few shots into the rallies, Medvedev hits a backhand down the line. A voice yells “Raus” – a clear, piercing sound that drowns out the noise of the crowd.

The ball just missed the line. point, Kyrgios.

However, this voice is not the live voice of a linesman. It’s actually a recording of a former linesman. And it’s automated to make a call based on where the ball lands on the pitch.

But that’s not all: the volume of the voice varies depending on how close or far from the line the ball lands. millimeters away from notching the line? The voice is automated to rise several decibels – almost a scream – just to ensure players hear it above the crowd voices. When the ball is about to land far out, the voice is softer and less obnoxious. The players already know it, so there’s no need to hit them on the head with it.

When the USTA needed to find a way to minimize the number of people on the court in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, they realized the best way to do that was to ensure players weren’t by Crouching surrounded were people breathe on her from all corners of the yard. So it was decided to use Hawk-Eye, a system that had been in use since 2006 to complement line judges, for all line calls.

how did it work The USTA built a “bunker,” a space within the Flushing Meadows complex to be used as a classroom for ITF camps the rest of the year. The bunker includes 17 stations – one for each seat in the stadium – and each station has multiple monitors providing live footage from cameras on each seat. There are 12 cameras around each seat and another six cameras to specifically detect foot faults during serve, Sean Cary, USTA’s executive director of competition operations, told ESPN.

Two specialists – a verification officer and a technical operator – sit at each station to analyze the feed. All line calls, except for foot faults, are automated. If a player makes a foot fault, the review officer presses a button designed specifically for foot faults, and an automated voice announces “foot fault” on the pitch.

So humans man technology? Do mistakes happen?

It is accurate 99.9% of the time. The 0.1% – that’s human error.

“If for some reason the technical operator doesn’t select the correct service box – so you’re operating the left service box and he’s selected the right box, the system will call that out because the system thinks you’re on the wrong side of the court.” served,” Cary said.

In these cases, the reviewer presses another button to override that call. The chair umpire then reports to the review officer and the call is corrected.

To add a human element to this highly technical process, the USTA had line umpires record their voices for calls. They have some high notes, some baritone voices, some male voices and some female voices. This is especially handy when playing on neighboring courts: they use different voices to ensure players aren’t confused by the calls on the other court.

Although this change occurred in 2020, there were two courts that still employed human line arbiters: Arthur Ashe and Louis Armstrong. Why? Because at that point, Hawk-Eye wasn’t busy during a single tournament. And the USTA wanted to make sure that Ashe and Armstrong could keep the game going if the systems went down. But by the second week of the 2020 tournament, Cary said, players at both marquee sites began asking for Hawk-Eye.

“We’ve had players say they prefer to have the system they know will be correct all the time,” Cary said.

According to data collected by the USTA for the US Open, linesmen got it right 75% of the time, compared to the near-perfect average of the machines.

In 2021, with the pandemic still ongoing and recognizing players’ preference for automated line calls, the US Open decided to extend Hawk-Eye to Ashe and Armstrong. This year is the third year that the system will be used.

The change resulted in about 270 to 280 line umpires losing their jobs at the US Open. Traditionally, 400 line umpires were used in the first rounds of the US Open, Cary said. With the move, some of them (around 120) have been moved to other roles, such as match assistants, but the rest have not received their usual US Open contracts. (Linesmen, who are independent contractors, are still employed at about 120 professional tournaments in the US.)

Does the electronic line stay here?

“The players have accepted it and they expect it at the Australian Open and the US Open and it would be very difficult for us to go backwards from here,” Cary said.

Players may have accepted it, but it’s still a process for fans, many of whom at the height of their adrenaline-pumping experience are screaming, “That was out!” and angrily looking for the linesman who made the bad decision.

Then you see acceptance dawn on their faces as they realize Oh it can’t be outside, it’s actually the hawk’s eye calling it.

Or in some cases they still have a hard time accepting that fact, their eyes popping out as they process the information.

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