Jackson's replay challenge makes history

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. -- Jamea Jackson watched her groundstroke land close to the sideline, and when it was called out, she sensed a chance to make a little history.

So she requested a video replay review -- the first on the professional tennis tours -- even though she thought the ruling was correct.

"I just wanted to be first," Jackson said with a laugh. "That's what it really was all about."

Instant replay made its tour debut Wednesday at the Nasdaq-100 Open, and initial reviews were favorable. It was used only on the stadium court, which gave Jackson and opponent Ashley Harkleroad the first shot at video replays of their shots.

In a three-hour match won by Jackson, she and Harkleroad challenged two calls each, and only one ruling was reversed. But both players saw a positive impact from the biggest rule change in tennis since the introduction of the tiebreak 36 years ago.

"It takes a lot of pressure off," Jackson said. "You don't get so angry. If you think a call is incorrect, you don't spend extra games thinking about it."

"It's a little less stress," Harkleroad said. "If you think you're sure [about a call], you're in control of that, not somebody else."

Jackson overcame a match point and beat Harkleroad 7-5, 6-7 (3), 7-5.

Brenda Schultz McCarthy, seeking a comeback at 35 after six years of retirement, lost to Samantha Stosur. The reward for Stosur is a second-round matchup with top-seeded Amelie Mauresmo.

Winners on the men's side included American qualifier Mardy Fish and Belgian Christophe Rochus, who will next face six-time champion Andre Agassi.

Seeded players had a first-round bye, leaving the spotlight to the new electronic replay system. Tennis officials were pleased that the technology worked smoothly at the outset and that player feedback was positive.

"So far there's 100 percent support, which is not always the case with a rule change for a game that has been around for 100 years," said Arlen Kantarian, the U.S. Tennis Association's chief executive for professional tennis. "To be honest, we expected a little more controversy at first."

Instant replay will makes its Grand Slam debut at the U.S. Open, and it's likely to be used at other hardcourt tournaments in the United States this summer, Kantarian said.

Players are permitted at least two challenges per set, but Jackson and Harkleroad played 78 points before the first replay occurred an hour into their match. On the first point of the second set, Jackson swatted a forehand barely wide and then looked toward the stands at her coach, Rodrigo Nascimento, as she decided whether to request a replay.

"Before the match I was really excited about it," Jackson said. "He was like, 'Stay focused. If you really think one was good or out, then look at me and I'll tell you what I thought, and
then you can challenge.'

"So I looked at him and he was like, 'Whatever. Go for it.' And so I did," she said.

Coaching during a match is against the rules, but chair umpire Alison Lang didn't issue a warning to Jackson. Instead, Lang announced to the crowd, "Ms. Jackson has challenged the call."

The scoreboard promptly displayed a computer video replay showing the ball landing an inch or two wide of the sideline. "OUT," the screen read, meaning the call stood.

"It's really quick," Jackson said. "I remember people were complaining about maybe it throwing off the timing and rhythm of the match, but it didn't do anything like that at all."

The system later reversed a call that went against Harkleroad. A shot she hit was ruled long, but the replay showed the ball skidded off the baseline.

As expected, each review in the opening match took less than 10 seconds. WTA Tour executive Angie Cunningham said the ball landed within three centimeters of the line on each of the challenged rulings.

Harkleroad said the replay system had an impact on the linesmen beyond the one reversed call.

"They're probably going to be on their best behavior with that thing going on," she said. "Sometimes maybe they get a little lazy. They do call bad line calls. But they know that this thing's going on, and they don't want to mess up."