The Australian Open has a technology problem, with players openly railing against perceived inaccuracies with the automatic line calling and net cord systems.
Nick Kyrgios was involved in several furious exchanges with chair umpire Marijana Veljovic in his epic five-set win over Ugo Humbert on Wednesday night, when service winners were repeatedly ruled out by what Kyrgios believed were false let signals.
American player Frances Tiafoe left the court furious after being defeated by world No.1 Novak Djokovic, believing that the Hawkeye line calling system – which has replaced human judges due to COVID-19 protocols – was malfunctioning.
“Sorry, for my language, it was f–king horrible. I hate it. I cannot stand it,” Tiafoe said.
“Like, I mean, there was a game today where I hit like – Novak was even laughing one time, he just served like well long, and I said, ‘Good joke’. He’s laughing.
“There was one body serve I hit big at him before the line and he misses it, and we come into a complicated game. Yeah, it’s a lot. I mean, it’s gonna take a while to get used to, I guess, if they keep carrying on with it. But I mean, I’m not a fan.”
Kyrgios elaborated on his running battle with the net cord system, which at one stage he knocked off the net with a ballistic serve, in his post-match media session.
“It’s tough because having technology like that, you sound like an idiot trying to argue against it,” Kyrgios said.
“But in saying that, even when he was serving, he (Humbert) served a ball that was like literally about this far (gestures) over the net and the net thing went off. I was like, there’s no chance this is accurate, in my opinion.
“The line calling , we can’t do anything about that because that’s for COVID reasons, so that’s fair enough. But the net machine, if you have a device that you can turn down the sensitivity and stuff, I just think there’s too many variables.
“She (Veljovic) was like, ‘Oh, I turned the sensitivity down’, yet it was still beeping when the serves were a good inch above the net. I don’t know, I don’t have a solution.
“I just think when we’re 1-0 in the fifth set, 30-all, and she’s trying to tell me, ‘I understand that it’s affecting the match’, I’m like, ‘I don’t think you do; there’s, like, plenty riding on this match’. It’s hard to just take that as an answer, like, ‘I understand’. You don’t understand.
“But I don’t know what you can do about it. Maybe they need to upgrade their technology because the remote thing looks whack.”
Tiafoe agreed that the net cord system was also a problem, on top of his misgivings about Hawkeye.
“It’s technology, right? It’s gonna make mistakes. That’s just a fact,” he said.
“How sometimes we hit the side of the net and they are saying ‘out’. I played my first round, it was like 2-all or … something. I hit a serve, I have a ball on top of the net. Out of nowhere, the electronic calling is screaming, stop.
“What is that? And then I end up losing the game. OK, that’s a problem. Sorry, malfunction? Well, thousands and thousands of dollars, malfunction?
“So things like that, I’m just not a fan for it. I don’t think I’ll ever be a fan. It is what it is. I think there will be misses. Things are happening so fast.
“I get technology is at a crazy high level. I’m just not a believer in it. That’s just kind of what it is. They’re gonna do what they’re gonna do. It doesn’t matter what I say. They’re not gonna change anything because Frances Tiafoe said it. I’m never gonna be for it.”
Respected veteran Gilles Simon also lashed out at the line calling system after losing his opening match to Stefanos Tsitsipas. Simon said that he believed it had also adversely impacted the standard of chair umpiring, causing nit-picking over other matters.
“The main problem is that it’s not at all accurate, that’s the big, big problem,” Simon said, according to a translated version of an answer in his French press conference.
“Surprisingly, the players prefer a machine error to a chair umpire error, other(wise) we always have the idea that it’s personal – we’re paranoid and we always have the idea that the umpire is blaming us personally, and that’s why he’s making a mistake.
“But with the machine, you can’t push your paranoia quite that far. But it’s a problem because there are big differences – especially where you can see the marks really, really well. You can see that the call that’s been made is not where the mark is. So, it’s a problem.
“And mainly what I least like with Hawkeye Live is – and I know there’s a connection, and for a while, I’ve thought it’s getting worse – the level of umpiring has gone way down. I’m not sure if there’s a connection with Hawkeye Live … the umpires are maybe a little concentrated during points. And there are a lot of ‘let’ calls and if it’s the machine, they don’t see it.
“Now I think they (umpires) are just obsessed about the time [between points]; I think I already talked about this at Roland Garros. I have the impression they only have one mission: to give you a warning the second you get to the 25th second. That’s all there is. That’s what you feel when you for your towel. This kind of permanent stress.
“I don’t know if it’s because [umpires are making] fewer announcements, are they more vigilant with what’s happening on the court or what’s happening off it. That’s all that’s left for them to do and they do it with zeal and unfortunately, that’s not a good thing.
“Basically, there’s something that’s not working well on the court these days.”
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— to wwos.nine.com.au