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ATP MEDIA CONFERENCE
March 6, 2006
CHRIS WIDMAIER: Good morning. I'd like to thank everyone for joining us for today's major announcement. I am Chris Widmaier of the USTA. Before we begin media questioning, I will provide a brief overview on today's program.
We have with us today three of the highest ranking executives in tennis who have come together to build a consistent platform for the introduction of instant replay technology to the sport of tennis.
We have Arlen Kantarian, the chief executive, professional tennis, USTA. Etienne de Villiers, chairman and president of the ATP. Of course, Larry Scott, chairman and CEO of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour.
Just so the media knows, we also have with us Angie Cunningham, the vice president of player relations and supervisors for the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. Gayle Bradshaw, administrator of rules and competition for the ATP. And Jim Curley, the USTA managing director of tournament operations and the US Open tournament director.
We're here today to announce that instant replay technology for line calls will now be part of the game. In addition, the new initiative will feature a player challenge system. I'm going to take just a minute to outline this player system.
Each player will receive two challenges per set to review line calls. If the player is correct with the challenge, then the player retains the same number of challenges. If a player is incorrect, then one of the player's challenges is lost. During a tiebreak game in any set, each player will receive one additional challenge. Challenges may not be carried over from one set to another.
Just for additional background purposes, Hawk-Eye officiating is the only technology that has been approved for use in professional tennis. The technology passed its independent testing in September of 2005.
The 2006 US Open will be the first Grand Slam to utilize instant replay technology and the player challenge system. The Nasdaq-100 Open, which begins on March 22nd, will be the first ATP and Sony Ericsson WTA Tour event to use the new system.
Before we begin our questioning, I'm going to ask the three principals to provide brief opening remarks. Without further ado, I'm going to hand it over to Arlen Kantarian.
ARLEN KANTARIAN: Thanks for joining us today. I think Chris covered it all. I just wanted to add that we all feel that today's announcement represents a major breakthrough for the sport. I think it's an opportunity for us to help officials and players while hopefully creating a bit more excitement and intrigue for all of our fans.
Importantly, we felt it critical that tennis show a united front with this initiative. We simply would not be in that position today without the help of the ATP, the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, headed up by Larry and Etienne. This was truly a combined effort from day one, the result of an enormous amount of work by a number of people at both tours.
Before getting started, I just wanted to thank our partners Etienne, Larry and their staff, certainly Gayle Bradshaw, Angie, Jim Curley, and the help of Dr. Stuart Miller at the ITF on the technology side.
From the beginning, I know we all shared a common goal to address our three most important constituencies with this initiative: the players, the officials and the fans. We're confident I think that today's announcement means more help for our officials, more recourse for our players and certainly more entertainment value for the fans.
Thanks, again, to our friends at both tours. I'll turn it over at this point to Etienne or Larry.
LARRY SCOTT: This is Larry Scott. Good day, everyone. Just want to add from our perspective, this is a very significant announcement from a sporting point of view as well as from a fan point of view. While tennis is at a very high level of officiating, there's no denying that through this technology players, fans can know that the right call was given.
That was irresistible from a sport point of view, something we felt we had to pursue. We all as followers of the sport have seen matches turn on questionable calls or calls that through television replay in the past have shown that the call may have been incorrect. With all that's on the line in tennis these days, we felt we had to pursue every means possible to utilize technology to make sure that calls were accurate without losing the human element of officials on the court.
Secondly, I think this is something that will significantly enhance the fan experience on-site and through television viewers, something that really was only possible through a collaborative effort working with the ATP and the USTA, as well as the ITF and other Grand Slams around the world. We had a task force that's worked on this for nearly a year, an amazing effort. I think this is another example of the type of progress the sport can make when there is a collaboration between the different governing bodies.
ETIENNE de VILLIERS: I think all of you have a copy of the press announcement. I think the points are made quite well. I just want to repeat that I view this as significant on a number of fronts. I view this primarily significant because of the wonderful cooperation between the USTA, the WTA and the ATP. I think this is the way I would like to see the sport progress, hand-in-hand, doing things together for the best of the sport.
I wanted to especially thank Jim Curley who did Herculean work in the research with players and television to arrive at the right protocol, which I think the limited challenge system achieves. It's not only a way of better officiating, it's also a great way to stimulate interest and to retain the sense of strategy and jeopardy in the sport.
To me it was always crazy that with modern GPS technology we could tell where a person is within to yard or a meter on planet earth, and yet we can't tell whether a tennis ball is in and out. So technology is going to help us do that.
But technology is also the ultimate double-edged sword. It is the great enabler, but it does make consumers and anyone that is aware of technology that much wiser and, therefore, the bar is set that much higher in expectations. So to me this is a very significant step for our sport, but it is also a significant step for the entertainment value of tennis. I want to thank Arlen and Jim and Larry specifically for us all being where we are today. Thank you.
CHRIS WIDMAIER: Thank you, gentlemen. Now I'm going to turn it back to the operator who can begin the question and answer session for the media.
Q. A question regarding the challenge system. Were all parties in agreement about the number of challenges and the frequency of the challenges allowed? Does it leave open the risk that if all challenges have been used up, the one key call in the match could come late on, and the technology actually can't be used?
ARLEN KANTARIAN: We'll hear Jim Curley first who was involved with the ATP and the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour and the players to come up with this consistent platform for the challenges.
JIM CURLEY: First of all, I think that from an overall perspective, from a player perspective, from a television perspective, it was clear that the preference was to go with a limited challenge system with regards to making sure that there was no potential for player abuse, but also at the same time to add a different dimension to the game, to add some potential drama and strategy in connection with the challenge system.
As far as the exact number of challenges was concerned, that was something that the ATP, the WTA Tour and the USTA all worked together to come up with these particular numbers of challenges. Is there the potential for someone to run out of challenges? The answer is yes, that could happen. But in order to do that, a player has to have challenged incorrectly twice in one set, three times in one set, in order for that to even become a possibility.
ETIENNE de VILLIERS: The experience we got, albeit limited, and not significant from the Hopman Cup, the average number of challenges in total from both players in one set was between three and four challenges, of which 50% were correct challenges.
If that trend was to be repeated under our system, there would need to be more than eight challenges in a set, leading to four incorrect challenges, before one got to that situation.
Finally, if you did get to what is I guess known as the Serena call, maybe that's the time that our sport goes on to the front pages of the newspaper rather than the back pages, which is not necessarily a bad thing. In truth, it allows us to go back to unlimited protocol, whereas to reverse an unlimited protocol into a limited protocol is a lot more difficult.
I think we started at the right place. The statistical likelihood of us achieving or reaching that outside limit is somewhat remote. Finally, it does allow us to change.
LARRY SCOTT: Let me follow on Etienne's comments with two points. This was a topic that was heavily debated. By no means was there unanimity within the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, nor the ATP for that matter, amongst players certainly. But for the reasons that were already articulated by Etienne and Jim, we've netted out there for now.
Two other considerations. One was concern in terms of rolling this out, in terms of keeping the flow of the match going. I know players had a concern that, without a limit, there could be the possibility of gamesmanship which would slow down the pace of the match or change the momentum in the match.
While the time to queue up the instant replay is incredibly short, it was still felt that by players that could become an issue, especially where there has been some commentary about things like toilet breaks, medical timeouts, things like that. Players felt this was a more prudent way to introduce it to limit that possibility.
Lastly, I know in the NFL example in the US, the protocols on the day instant replay started evolved over time. I imagine the same was true with cricket when instant replay started. There's no doubt that our sport will learn and iterate. This is a major technological integration into our sport. I don't think we know, sitting here today, where we'll necessarily wind up, but we felt this was the most prudent course in terms of its introduction.
ARLEN KANTARIAN: We all agreed it was easier to start, as Larry mentioned, with a limited set of challenges, with the possibility of evolving to more as opposed to starting with an unlimited number and taking something away. I think we did all unanimously agree on that aspect.
ETIENNE de VILLIERS: Yes.
Q. What exactly is the amount of time that you expect? How exactly will the replay work? Is there a monitor right there on the court? How much time does it take? Was there any particular -- was it that the Serena/Capriati match that got you guys going on this? What is the reason for doing it? When did it start?
CHRIS WIDMAIER: Gayle, would you start with that, please.
GAYLE BRADSHAW: I'll take the first part.
There's going to be two video boards on the center court that will be visible by the players, the chair umpire and all the spectators. Once a challenge is made, then the review official that's with the technicians, once he determines that the correct impact has been identified, gives the order to release the video to the boards. Then everybody will see the result at the same time. The entire process will take less than 10 seconds.
Q. What prompted the discussion to go to instant replay?
LARRY SCOTT: Maybe I can at least speak to the women's tour.
There's no one match that sort of sparked this. There certainly have been notable matches, including Serena/Capriati, Australian Open final last year with Kim and Justine, you know, several times during the year over the last few years there have been notable, very visible matches where the outcome it was felt turned on a questionable call, sometimes maybe proven to be the wrong call, but at least a questionable call.
The idea that the doubt is left in a player's mind as to whether something was a right call or not is troubling in a time when you know that technology is available to tell you absolutely whether the ball was in and out. The stakes have gotten so high in professional sport, these days as leaders of the sport we felt it incumbent upon us to pursue technology to know definitively.
ARLEN KANTARIAN: Certainly what inspired this was the recent breakthrough in technology. We did not have the opportunity for an accurate and reliable system until this thing passed its testing in September of '05. Obviously what brought this on is the speed and power of today's game, as well.
With regard to the Serena call at the US Open we certainly feel that might have put us on a faster track. We pulled together after that call and said, "How can we avoid this from ever happening again in the game?" Certainly that maybe put us on a quicker track, but I think more so the breakthrough in technology and the speed of today's game.
Q. I'd like to know why the system used in Paris, which was under consideration, the umpire, if he has an appeal by the player, will go down and look at the mark, why would that not be a system instituted in terms of the umpire telling the player that they would come down and look at the mark or not, but at least the umpire is available to look?
GAYLE BRADSHAW: I couldn't really hear all of the question.
CHRIS WIDMAIER: If I got this correctly, it's why did we use a system that did not mimic clay court procedures?
GAYLE BRADSHAW: The clay procedures, actually we're using clay procedures when the chair umpire determines whether or not it's a valid challenge. The same principle, when you determine to go look at a mark, it has to be on a point-ending shot or a player has to stop play to make a request and he has to make it in a timely manner.
The only thing that's different between the video challenge and a clay court ball mark inspection is the limit. That's just the difference of an unlimited system we use on clay where it's all the judgment of the chair on whether proper procedure was followed, or in the case of the video review, putting a limit of two incorrect challenges per set.
Q. How many courts are we going to see this being used on?
GAYLE BRADSHAW: It's up to the individual event on how many we set up. For Miami it's just going to be on the Stadium Court.
Q. US Open?
ARLEN KANTARIAN: Arthur Ashe and Louis Armstrong, the two show courts.
GAYLE BRADSHAW: I also want to mention, being as I'm the doubles commissioner, this is in effect for doubles as well as singles. The technology can handle singles and doubles.
JIM CURLEY: Just a couple of other quick comments.
First of all, clay court tournaments will in all likelihood continue to follow their procedures and may not be utilizing this technology because they already have a procedure that works. One of the reasons it works well there and not at the US Open in North America is because the ball doesn't always leave a mark on a hard court like it does on a clay court.
Q. Regarding the umpire and the challenges, if both players have used up their challenges, there is a close call, the umpire is uncertain, would the umpire, if they wanted to, refer to the technology even without a challenge?
GAYLE BRADSHAW: There's one situation where the chair umpire could call for a review on his own, and that's in the instance where the line umpire was unsighted on a point-ending shot and the chair umpire couldn't make a decision. He could on his own ask for a review.
In that case, that wouldn't be a challenge on either players' part since no decision has been made. That's the one case where the umpire could call for a review.
Q. Regarding the tiebreak situation, if players have not used their challenges, do they then have maximum three in the tiebreak?
GAYLE BRADSHAW: That's correct. But then also once the tiebreak ends or the set ends prior to a tiebreak, they're zeroed out. They each start fresh the next set with two.
JIM CURLEY: One other thing I'd like to add. The match is officiated like any other match. The chair umpire has the right to overrule a call. If there's a close call, even when there are no challenges left for a player, the chair umpire still has the ability to overrule.
Also, as far as challenges are concerned, the player cannot only challenge a particular ball mark, but he can also challenge a chair umpire's overrule.
Q. How many events are going to be using instant replay? How accurate is this system?
GAYLE BRADSHAW: If somebody wants to take the first one, I'll take the second one.
CHRIS WIDMAIER: Larry or Etienne.
LARRY SCOTT: On the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, right now we're using the Nasdaq-100 Open as the opportunity to showcase this technology to all our tournaments. We have all our tournaments from around the world that will be there that will see it and we'll be talking about it there. This has all moved very quickly in terms of implementation. At the moment, we've only committed to launch this at the Nasdaq-100 Open and then of course the US Open.
I can't predict for you now exactly what other tournaments will implement the system this year. We're in discussions about the summer with the USTA and the US Open Series tournaments. I think it's highly likely we will use the system at the Sony Ericsson WTA Championships in Madrid.
What we have done is some forward planning. Our goal for 2007 is to implement this at our biggest tournaments on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, our Tier I tournaments and Championships next year. Of course, the hard court and indoor tournaments only. The system would not be used, it goes without saying, on clay.
ETIENNE de VILLIERS: From our perspective, that's pretty much where we are, too. We are going to be talking to those tournaments that will be involved in the US Open Series. Hopefully we'll be able to get, again with the cooperation of the broadcasters and the USTA, an economic solution that would be agreeable to all of the tournaments in the series because it would be a good thing to have everyone in the US Open Series using the system.
We will be talking to our other tournaments to see when and how we can do other tournaments this year. As Larry points out, we do have a larger number of clay court tournaments which obviously -- where the technology is redundant. We will certainly give a lot of consideration to our major indoor tournaments and possibly even to our Championships in Shanghai, which would be great to have this technology there, too.
GAYLE BRADSHAW: During the testing process, what we required of a system was 100% accuracy on the in-or-out decision within a tolerance of five millimeters. Hawk-Eye was 100% accurate with their in-out decision without needing the tolerance to make it correct. Their average margin ended up being three millimeters.
ETIENNE de VILLIERS: Better than the human eye.
ARLEN KANTARIAN: Obviously, you know it will be part of the US Open this year. We are working hard, as Larry and Etienne said, to optimistically get it into each of the US Open Series events which we feel is important from a consistency standpoint, familiarity with the players prior to the Grand Slams. We're working hard to do that. Hopefully some news in the next month or two.
ETIENNE de VILLIERS: Hope so.
Q. Given the number of challenges and understanding the momentum swings in tennis, how concerned are you about players challenging for pure gamesmanship?
GAYLE BRADSHAW: I think that was a concern early on. But I think one of the things that we found after we actually used this system in Perth is that the speed of the technology to get the call, there really is no chance for the gamesmanship. In Perth, we were averaging around five seconds from challenge to display.
What we found in observing and also players recognize this, I was actually -- some conversations I had with Taylor Dent, he noticed that this technology actually speeded up play rather than slowed play down. There was less reason or no reason to argue with the chair umpire. The players, once they saw the call, just went back and played.
The two incorrect challenge limit kind of is a built-in safety net in case anybody tries to abuse the system. I think the concerns now for a player using it for gamesmanship is minimal.
Q. What are we talking about for the cost factor for tournaments, the official and the technology itself?
LARRY SCOTT: It would be different for the US Open, I would imagine. Arlen can answer that question.
For the Nasdaq-100, this is going to cost over $100,000 to implement. Those costs come from two things. One is the Hawk-Eye technology, which is going to involve eight cameras on the court. That's what it takes to get the level of accuracy that Gayle described before. The other significant cost is the bringing in of a video board. In tennis, where we have a lot of single-purpose stadia around the world, don't have permanent video boards. For fans to be able to see the instant replay, to add that to in-stadia fan entertainment, obviously critical to bring in a video board. There's some significant cost to make that happen.
That's going to have a significant positive impact I think for the sport down the road, to have more stadia where you have the video boards and can have a whole new level of fan entertainment.
ARLEN KANTARIAN: The answer to how much this will cost at the US Open, the answer is a lot. In this case, we don't think it's about the money, it's about getting the right call, it's about the integrity of the sport, and it's about adding the entertainment value that we discuss.
It will be on two courts, Louis Armstrong and Arthur Ashe Stadium, for two weeks. We do have video boards, as you probably know, already in Arthur Ashe Stadium. They will be added to Louis Armstrong Stadium, as well.
Q. Practically how will the challenge actually be made down there on the court? More from a commentator's point of view than of use to anybody else. Will there be some sort of announcement from the umpire or what?
GAYLE BRADSHAW: Once the player has clearly made his intention to the chair umpire known that he wishes to challenge, the chair umpire will make an announcement over the PA system that Mr./Ms. X wishes to challenge. He will also in the case if there's a problem with the PA system, he will have direct communication with the review official in the booth. Once that announcement is made, then the review official monitors the Hawk-Eye and determines the correct impact to be sent to the video. As soon as this is all established, then the result is sent to the video boards.
ETIENNE de VILLIERS: I think he's also asking at what stage in the point is the challenge made. Do you have to wait till the end of the point or at the time that the player feels the ball was in or out?
GAYLE BRADSHAW: There's two ways. This is what I was referring to earlier with the clay court procedures when asking for a ball mark and asking for a challenge are the same. The challenge can only come on a point-ending shot. Let's say, for example, with a serve, the serve is hit to the receiver. He has a chance to play the ball, but then he can go no farther. Reflexes are allowed if he wants to challenge the serve, but he can't continue to play and then go back later and challenge the serve. You can't go back earlier in a rally to a ball that you may have thought was called incorrectly. In that case, the player has the option, he can stop play immediately or it was a point-ending shot.
Q. Arlen, has the USTA sought out sponsorship to maybe offset the cost of this technology and eventually introduce it on other courts? For the rest of the panel, obviously there's no coaching allowed in tennis, but can a coach signal to a player, "You got screwed on that call, challenge the call"?
ARLEN KANTARIAN: We are currently talking with Larry and Etienne as to, A, should we consider a sponsor for official reviews. Our instinct at this point is we're not going to proceed in that direction initially. There are some sponsorship opportunities I think for both tours as well as The Open, from a statistical standpoint, possibly from a video standpoint.
At this point, subject to further discussion, at least at this point, we will not be considering a sponsor for the official review call.
GAYLE BRADSHAW: As far as the players getting signals from coaches, it's going to be very difficult to stop anybody in the crowd from an emotional response to a call if they disagree with it, whether it's a coach or other spectators. A prime example was in Perth. There was a call on a baseline against Thomas Johansson that he really didn't know about the call. There was a quite expensive box of fans on that line that were encouraging him to challenge. He did so at their request and was quite wrong. It made for a good laugh around the audience, and he had a good laugh about it.
I think, to get back to your point, it's going to be impossible to control emotional responses. If there's a definite system going on such as there would be for any other areas of coaching on court, we would have to take action.
Q. Major League Baseball now uses a system where they'll grade their own home plate umpires with video analysis. Do you ever see this being used to grade lines-people or chair umpires privately?
GAYLE BRADSHAW: Well, for sure. I mean, the Ques Tec system they use in baseball has been quite controversial amongst not only the umpires but also the pitchers. They hate pitching in a Ques Tec park.
The very first challenge made in Perth was an a chair umpire's overrule. His overrule was overturned. That's kind of a grade of the umpire right there. The umpires are going to have to adjust a little bit, and their adjustment is going to be "Forget about it, umpire as you would normally." This is just another tool to help in the officiating.
The major goal for all of us on the officiating side of it is to get the call right. That same umpire, a little bit later he embraced the technology, relaxed with it, loved having it to use as an officiating tool. That's the way we're taking the approach with the officiating, that this is another tool to help us get the call right.
Q. If the lines person is unsighted, the chair umpire could use it. A case in Australia where Kiefer throws the racquet, Grosjean complains. Would that have been reviewable if Grosjean was out of challenges, could the tournament referee have opted to look at the replay on that?
GAYLE BRADSHAW: This is something different. You're talking about actual television replay there versus a virtual. Hawk-Eye doesn't track racquets flying across the net. That case in Australia, that was a judgment call. Judgment calls can't be reviewed.
ARLEN KANTARIAN: For the US Open, the answer to that question is this technology will be used only for line calling.
Q. Were you saying that there is a 100% accuracy outside a margin of error of three millimeters?
GAYLE BRADSHAW: One of the criteria we had is that all of Hawk-Eye's decisions had to be correct with a tolerance plus or minus five millimeters. They were a hundred percent correct without needing the plus or minus five to correct a decision. Their average margin of error ended up being three millimeters.
ETIENNE de VILLIERS: So your answer is yes.
Q. Had you compiled any statistics with this technology on how many wrong calls are made in the average match?
GAYLE BRADSHAW: We have the statistics from Perth. You mean on Hawk-Eye?
Q. By whatever assessment you have done it. Do you have any sense with the human eye how often a wrong call is made?
CHRIS WIDMAIER: I believe he's referring to by the officials.
GAYLE BRADSHAW: That's kind of in the eye of the beholder.
LARRY SCOTT: He's asking how many times were the challenges correct?
GAYLE BRADSHAW: If we're talking about Perth, how many times the officials were overturned, there were 83 challenges made, and the players were correct on 45% of them.
Q. Because of cost, obviously you can only do it on center court or maybe two courts. Do you anticipate any kind of problem with players being upset then about who gets on center court because they have the benefit of the Hawk-Eye, that it's not going to be used across the board, only on a show court?
JIM CURLEY: As far as the US Open is concerned, we believe there's been a precedent set in connection with the use of Cyclops, which has only been used on four of the 16 match courts. We've discussed this with the players as well. They feel comfortable with the fact that the Hawk-Eye technology will only be used on a limited number of courts.
Q. I'm pretty sure that Roger Federer isn't in favor of the challenge system. Maybe you can confirm that with me. How do you feel about the fact that he probably isn't too strongly in favor of this system?
ETIENNE de VILLIERS: I met with Roger in Dubai. We talked at great length about all sorts of things. Roger believes where we've come out on the limited protocol is okay. I think he would prefer not to have it, but he understands that we need to make advances. He understands that rule changes need to be made. He kind of feels we've done enough now and would not like to see us do very much more. But she's very supportive of everything we're doing to date.
He thinks beyond his own needs and thinks about what's best for the game. I don't want to put words in his mouth, but he's not fighting us on this one.
CHRIS WIDMAIER: I want to thank you all for joining us on this major announcement today.
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