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The Tennis Business Discussion Forum Archive

[tennisbiz] Re: Line calls and pressure

From: Jeff Davies <>
Date: Fri 30 May 2003 11:28:32 -0400

Before everyone once again gets carried away with allegations of
cheating, let's consider the reality of making line calls.

In a high-level professional match where it is vital to avoid erors, it
takes a full crew of 9 line judges, 1 net judge and a chair umpire - all
perfectly placed around the court - to determine whether a ball remains
within the boundaries of the court.

The line judge does NOT watch the ball - he unfocusses his eyes and
sights along the line he is responsible for. The ball crossing the line
- and, therefore, the view of the line judge - leaves an impression on
the retina of his eye which allows the umpire to 'see' - when viewing
from a low angle - where, relative to the line, the ball is at the
bottom of its trajectory and, threfore, bounces 'in' or 'out'.

As anyone who has watched a televised match with precision lasers
monitoring the ball placement knows, even with a full officiating crew
and ideal conditions, mistakes are made.

In comparison, the individual player is in the worst possible position
to make a sound line call.

He is very rarely looking along a line watching a ball cross it - he is
usually in a position where the ball is coming directly towards him
(ready to hit the ball). That is the most difficult position to see
where the bottom of the ball's trajectory occurs.

He is even less likely to be watching the ball from a low angle -
usually he is above, or at a high relative angle, when the ball crosses
the line. This is particularly true when the ball crosses the baseline -
where the majority of 'questioned' line calls occur.

He is - or certainly should be - focussed intently on the ball. Any
professional line judge will tell you that it is impossible to follow
the ball and consistently see where it bounces relative to a line -
that's why theline judge 'watches' the line rather than the ball.

Lastly, the prime focus of the player is to get into a position to hit a
returned ball, with his feet correctly placed, his body coiled and his
racquet prepared to meet the ball at the correct angle and with the
correct trajectory. He is intently watching what the ball is doing and
where his opponent is moving, deciding the type of shot he will hit,
setting up the mechanics of the shot and preparing to execute.

Do I really need to ask what the chances are that a player will make
consistently accurate calls when the ball bounces very close to a

We all think we make 'good' calls - but, in reality, we are in no
physical or mental position to make such judgments.

And while it might be 'comforting' to blame a succession of adverse
calls on the poor judgement of the opponent - deliberate or innocent -
the chances are that he is simply doing as good - or as poor - a job of
making line calls as you are.

Jeff Davies

Received on Fri May 30 2003 - 14:24:00 CDT

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