U.S. Open, WTA, ATP to use replay

When the call is close, the pro tennis tours want to take another look.

The ATP and WTA Tours have decided to use instant replay starting with the Nasdaq-100 Open in Key Biscayne, Fla., in two weeks, officials said Monday. This year's U.S. Open will be the first Grand Slam event to review disputed calls electronically.

Discussions are under way regarding the use of replay at other tournaments, including the summer hardcourt series leading up to the Open.

"In my 20 years in professional tennis, this is one of the most exciting things to happen for players, fans and television viewers," eight-time Grand Slam champion Andre Agassi said in a statement. "This new technology will add a whole new dimension to the game."

Because of the cost -- more than $100,000 at Key Biscayne -- instant replay will be used only on the stadium court there and on the two show courts at the U.S. Open.

Players will be permitted two challenges per set and a third if there's a tiebreak. Calls upheld will count against a player's allotment.

Video screens visible to players, umpires and fans will allow everyone to see the replay result at the same time. The process is expected to take less than 10 seconds, and officials believe replays may speed up matches because there will be fewer arguments.

"With the speed and power of today's game, the time has come for tennis to benefit from new technology," said Arlen Kantarian, chief executive for the U.S. Tennis Association. "It's an opportunity for us to help officials and players, while hopefully creating a bit more excitement and intrigue."

ESPN introduced the automatic line-calling technology to American television at the Tennis Masters Miami in March 2002 and to the Grand Slams in 2003, when it was used at the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon. The "ESPN Shot Spot" system uses multiple live cameras at various points around the court to triangulate precisely the path and landing point of the ball, which can then be automatically displayed using digital animation. ESPN won an Emmy Award for Innovation in Sports Television for "Shot Spot." Its introduction and expanded use caught the attention of players, coaches and tournament officials, who have become convinced of its accuracy over the past three years.

For such a traditional sport, replay is radical -- the most dramatic rules change since the tiebreak was adopted in 1970.

"If anyone's been listening to my commentary the past year, then they know I'm in favor of using replay," John McEnroe said. "I think it will make tennis more interesting."

Butch Buchholz, a former top player and the tournament director at Key Biscayne, said he likes instant replay and expects it to be popular with players. But the sort of tirades that helped make McEnroe and Jimmy Connors famous may become a thing of the past, he

"It's a little bit like baseball," Buchholz said. "A guy slides into second base and the umpire calls him out, and he says, 'I'm safe,' and he grabs the dirt and throws it on the umpire's
shoe -- you're not going to see that."

Tennis will use eight cameras for replay. Players are permitted to contest a point-ending call, but they may challenge a ruling in the midst of a rally only if they stop play. Umpires may order a replay on their own if the linesman's view of call is blocked and the chair is unable to make the ruling.

Replay won't be used at events played on clay, where the ball typically leaves a mark.

The International Tennis Federation approved the Hawk-Eye technology late last year. It was first tested at the Champions Tour's season-ending event at Royal Albert Hall in London.

In December, the Hopman Cup in Perth, Australia, became the first elite event to use Hawk-Eye. Some 45 percent of the challenged rulings were overturned.

"We all have seen matches turn on questionable calls," said Larry Scott, chief executive officer for the WTA Tour. "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."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.